As an artist living outside of a big city and major art center, you work and work and put yourself out there to get rejected over and over with some acceptances along the way, continuing to create what you envision, no matter if others like it, or get it, or not. Then occasionally fortunes go your way and big things happen!
Right after demolishing a wall in my basement studio to enlarge and reorganize the space, a big thing came my way in January of 2022. Curator Tammi Hanawalt contacted me to be one of five women from Wyoming to be nominated for consideration to be included in the 2024 Women to Watch exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.! This was unexpected and not something I even knew was a possibility, but my goal has always been to get my work out there enough to be in conversations for these kinds of opportunities. To have one come my way is a huge honor and validation that there’s something to my work.
The artists involved are women I admire greatly and am thrilled to be included alongside them. I cried with joy when I found out one of the other artists was my good friend of 40 years, Leah Hardy! She and I went to college together at the University of Kansas and shared space in the clay studio. We stayed in touch over the years when living in various places around the country, then we ended up in Wyoming living an hour away from each other. Who’d have thought Dr. Hanawalt would select us both? Life sometimes presents wonderful surprises!
There’s a committee of many dedicated women throughout Wyoming who are coordinating the project and supporting the artists. I’ve been interviewed on a podcast and recorded for a film (the photo above is a screenshot from the film, captured by a drone the videographer had follow me as I created an installation). Both took me outside of my comfort zone, but both were produced by pros who made me comfortable in the processes.
The committee held a panel discussion at the University of Wyoming on April 13, 2023 with all five artists and Dr. Hanawalt. It was the first time we’d been together and we all connected through serious discussion about our art and lots of laughter. I greatly valued hearing each artist talk about her work and talking about the challenges of being women artists. It was wonderful to meet and get to know the committee members in attendance along with Dr. Hanawalt, all of whom have worked so diligently to make the dream of this project come to fruition.
Though I was not the artist selected to exhibit at the museum in DC, I know that curating a meaningful show is quite challenging and not a competition among the nominated artists. (I coordinated and curated exhibits in my day job, it’s not easy and you have to leave out artists who create really good work.) Sarah Ortegon, the artist from Wyoming selected by the curators at the museum in D.C. to be in the exhibit, is a creative force and she is an excellent choice to represent Wyoming women artists! I respect her and her work so very much! While my work will not be exhibited, it’s pretty cool to know that the curators at the National Museum of Women in the Arts looked at what I do.
I hope the committee can continue on in the future, and that the museum values including work from a part of the country that doesn’t get much consideration when it comes to art. Hopefully this brings more attention to all artists in Wyoming, because there is meaningful work being created in this state.
I still occasionally pinch myself that I was included in this incredible project! Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined it, it’s been humbling and an honor.
Here are links to the film, podcast, and a story on Wyoming Public Radio. These are also on the main website wynmwa.org
Wyoming Humanities What’s Your Why? podcast