The Women's Lifesaving League, which sounds like a Wes Anderson title, was actually an organization formed by a group of about 15 New York women who wanted to empower female ocean goers around about the turn of the 20th century (before women had even obtained the right to vote in the U.S.). This was pretty revolutionary stuff.
The Women's Lifesaving League also happens to be the subject of artist Julie Goldstein's latest body of work, which was exhibited for the first time at Long Beach Island, N.J.'s Ann Coen Gallery on July 11.
"I have been researching women and the history of swimming and surfing," Goldstein says. "I came across stories about pioneer women from NYC who challenged societal norms by swimming very long distances in the Hudson River. They proved their athleticism and in 1908, created 'The Women's Lifesaving League,' where they taught young women to swim, rescue and row. This new body of work tells the stories of these amazing women. As in all of my work over the years, I study women and identity, and often portray women in the water as strong, empowering symbols, typically riding waves or swimming deep under the sea.
"I really wanted these new works to be shown along with my product line, [SWM]," she adds. "They are extensions of each other; SWM is about women for women. I created this [clothing] line with 100 percent organic fibers and all-vegetable dyes. I love the way each shirt is one of kind, just like a piece of art. I want women to feel their very true and natural selves when wearing my garments."
Goldstein's work, which is partly inspired by her love of surfing, is celebrated internationally. She has exhibited at the RoxyJam in Biarritz, the Greenroom Festival in Osaka and Festival Almasurf in Rio de Janeiro.
As a former resident of Long Beach Island (she now lives in California) and longtime friend of Ann Coen's, Goldstein was thrilled to debut this collection and launch SWM (Swim With Me) at Coen's gallery.
"We share a similar aesthetic and a deep love for our community, the ocean, travels, and the people that surround us," Goldstein said before the show. "I look forward to exhibiting in the space of someone I admire and respect at the Ann Coen Gallery."
The Ann Coen Gallery is owned by X Games contributor Jon Coen and his wife, Ann, who is a well-respected, New Jersey-based photographer. Her photographs have been featured in Spin, The Surfer's Path, Huck, Transworld Surf and Eastern Surf Magazine.
Beloved summertime tourist destination Long Beach Island (LBI) is the antithesis of the Jersey Shore façade, but the very heart of the Jersey Shore. It was also one of the most devastated shore communities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
Nearly two years later, Coen says, "I definitely think that LBI is coming back better than ever. There is more going on here than I can ever remember: Gallery openings, new boutiques are open, new festivals ... It's really amazing to see."
Sometimes, the fastest rebuild is the cookie-cutter kind, but on LBI, "there is an undercurrent of younger people -- a lot of them are surfers -- trying to retain some roots and aesthetic here," Coen explains. "We're hoping to do our part in that."