By Amy Matzke-Fawcett

A graphic design exhibition on display at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries highlights the tension between what's typically thought of as "good design" and "creating for the mass media."

"DesignHer," the exhibition on display through Nov. 12 at the galleries on Monarch Way, explores how women have challenged the concepts of design, said co-curator Kenneth FitzGerald.

"Design comes to you, like a gift being sent," said FitzGerald, a professor of graphic design in Old Dominion University's Department of Art. "I see women, often, being the challengers to design orthodoxy and being exemplars in the field. I see women exploring the tension between personal and private."

Because graphic design is usually meant to be consumed as mass media, it's often not thought of as personal work ­- and often, not considered art - but it can be just as much of an expression of the artist as what's traditionally deemed "art" and exhibited in galleries, he said.

The exhibition, co-curated with graphic designer Melissa Warp, was first shown at Hollins University's Eleanor D. Wilson Gallery during the fall 2021 semester. FitzGerald's daughter was a student at Hollins, and he wanted to give back to the university. He ran into Warp, a former student from his time teaching at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, and found out by chance that she had done her graduate studies at Hollins, further deepening the connection.

The two separately made lists of designers they hoped to feature in the show, which was originally scheduled for 2020 but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We wanted [the exhibition] to be as diverse in every way as it could be," FitzGerald said.

Although the ODU exhibition has the same pieces as the Hollins iteration, it was installed in a way meant to be "visually impactful and interesting" and work with the galleries space, said Stirling Goulart, assistant director of operations at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries.

"Overall, it is a large body of work that reflects the kinds of projects graphic designers often undertake, but there are elements of designers applying their skill to more conceptual pieces that are also on exhibit," Goulart said. "Having the exhibition respond and reflect that is important to how these works are displayed."

Artists in the exhibition include:

  • Marian Bantjes
  • Crystal Basaetz
  • Nancy Bernardo
  • Michelle Champagne
  • Johanna Drucker
  • Denise Gonzales Crisp
  • Colette Gaiter
  • Laura Rossi Garcia
  • Mieke Gerritzen
  • Aldrena J. Hicks
  • Lorena Howard-Sheridan
  • Leah Lester
  • Zuzana Licko
  • Maria Loor
  • Debbie Millman
  • Jennifer Moria
  • Kali Nikitas
  • Paula Sher
  • Jennifer Sterling

"DesignHer" is on display through Nov. 12 in the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries at 4509 Monarch Way in Norfolk. A closing reception will be held on Nov. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information about exhibitions, events, and gallery hours, visit

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