Women Portray the West: 1890 - 1940

March 14, 2004 - May 30, 2004

Georgia O’Keeffe Painting Highlights New Wildling Art Museum Exhibit

Los Olivos ~ Images of America’s West as seen through the eyes of Georgia O’Keeffe and other women artists was the focus of the exhibit at the Wildling Art Museum, Los Olivos. More than 30 works spanning the half-century from 1890 to 1940 were on display beginning on March 14, 2004.

In addition to the O’Keeffe work, the exhibition included paintings, watercolors, etchings, photographs and sculpture by other well-known artists such as Grace Carpenter Hudson, Anna Althea Hills and Marion Kavanagh Wachtel. “We are pleased to have these images,” said Marlene Miller, curator of the exhibit and a founding director of the Wildling. “Equally important, though, are the interesting pieces by women who are known only to true aficionados of Western art.”

Though not dwelling on this aspect of the subject, there is an equally compelling subtext that underlies the exhibition: women’s equality in the art world. “Until relatively recently, it was assumed that only male artists were qualified to portray the grandeur and ruggedness of the West”, said Miller. “What’s now being recognized is that even before 1900 women artists were producing some extremely powerful and sensitive depictions of the West. Some of the artists were encouraged to pursue their calling, some did so in spite of their surroundings, and some – like Elsie Palmer Payne, Julia Bracken Wendt and Wachtel – married successful artists with whom they could share their experiences.”

“This show is different from our previous ones,” said Penny Knowles, the museum’s executive director. “Our focus is art of the American wilderness, but this time we’ve chosen to explore the entire range of subject matter that women artists recorded. There certainly are some landscapes in the show, but we’re also very mindful of the sensitivity that women artists had towards the native population that inhabited the West before European whites arrived.”

In addition to O’Keeffe’s Kachina, which has just returned from an exhibition in Switzerland, Grace Hudson’s 1904 painting of a young Pomo Indian and Catharine Critcher’s oil, Indian Drummer, underscored the introspective approach that some women artists took in depicting their characterization of the West and its inhabitants. In dramatic contrast to this approach is the bold canvas – largest in the exhibit – of four Sioux warriors by Mormon artist Minerva Kohlhepp Teichert, whose grandmother emigrated to Utah with Brigham Young. To give viewers a more complete understanding of the show, the museum published a 20-page monograph to accompany the exhibition. Authored by Miller and fellow Museum director Louise Clarke, the brochure included brief biographies of the artists shown, as well as a discussion of the status of women artists since the earliest European settlements on the East Coast of America.

Women Portray the West: 1890-1940 was be open to the public through May 30, 2004. Its opening complemented the … [Los Olivos women artists’ show…], which was held on Sunday, March 22.