Five Wyoming women artists are nominated for a chance to have their work shown in Washington D.C.
Every two years, an exhibit in Washington D.C. shows art from one woman from every state that nominated one. The 2024 upcoming Women to Watch exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts will be the first one to represent Wyoming. That’s because the Wyoming Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts formed and has nominated five artists. Wyoming Public Radio’s Kamila Kudelska spoke with Shari Brownfield, one of the committee’s members.
Kamila Kudelska: How did the curator Tammi Hanawalt go about picking the five nominated artists? There's so many amazing artists and especially women artists in Wyoming, it must have been really hard.
Shari Brownfield: She has been a curator in Wyoming for a long time. She's well connected with both traditional art and Wyoming as well as contemporary art. And she has a very large background of experience with Native American art of this region. So she really went at it, looking at all the possible artists we could find in this area. And the committee did also bring names forth just in order to say, ‘Hey, I know this person,’ because it is quite incredible how many artists there are out there. And the purpose of this show is not to create an exhibition for known women artists, but it is to raise the profile of underrepresented and emerging women artists. The curator spent weeks reviewing, talking, reading, studying about these women to come to her final selection, which I know she said was extremely difficult.
KK: I can only imagine. So if we can dive into these five artists, can you mention them and give a quick summary of what their work is?
SB: The five selected artists are artists who work in multimedia, various concepts, everything from installation, art, photography, mixed media, beadwork painting. So it's really exciting to see what Dr. Hanawalt has brought forth in these nominations. Jennifer Rife is an artist based in Cheyenne. And she does these impermanent installations within the landscape that she photographs and then leaves absolutely no trace. Her message is about a just and kind space in nature, at least that's how I read it. Bronwyn Minton is a mixed media artist. Her work ranges in media based on the concept of what she is working on, what her ideas are about. And they're mainly about the human interaction with the natural world. Sarah Ortegon is a Wind River artist, and she works in painting, beadwork and performance. And she really believes in using her work not just as a measure of fine art painting, but also having beadwork be part of hats, jackets, clothing items and incorporating art into our lives. Katy Ann Fox is a painter who is deeply inspired by the Wyoming landscape, specifically the calm, the peace of it, the isolation of it. And her work speaks of hope. And finally, Leah Hardy is in Laramie. And she's a metalsmith of basically anything that has to do with fire, flame and heat…she works in and her work talks about finding joy in the midst of pain.
KK: So what do you think these five women represent for Wyoming in their art?
SB: It's interesting, when the artists were all interviewed, they often spoke about the isolation of Wyoming, both being a very incredible thing influencing their art, but also something that can be difficult in being an artist. And that was a common theme and thread that we heard, which I found very interesting and obviously very unique to where we live. The other thing that I repeatedly heard from these women is that they've felt unheard in many ways as women artists. And it is sad but true only 13 percent of museum collections are women artists. So they see this not just as an opportunity to be heard, but to tell their stories, which is why they are artists in the first place.
KK: So now these five artists have been nominated. What are the next steps?
SB: The exhibition doesn't happen until 2024. So we want to use the following year, next year 2023 as a time for us to promote these women [and] raise their profiles across our state. That might include some speaker series, perhaps the promotion of the video that was created, and also exhibitions.