Celebrating biannual “Women in Art”

Diana Williams stands next to her first place painting “Plimoth Wife.” Williams found out the morning of the opening reception that she had won and was not sure she would make it in time to receive her award in person. Photo by C.Arida/Setonian.

“Women in Art” opened at the Seton Hill University Harlan Gallery on Oct. 26 and will run through Nov. 21. The biannual exhibition is curated, hung and juried by the SAR Women in Art course offered every other fall semester at SHU. This year’s exhibition features 57 works by 53 female artists from various backgrounds and techniques.

“As a class we were looking for pieces of art that had a good quality of artistic expression and pieces of art made with diverse mediums,” said Sarah Baker, senior art therapy major at SHU. “We ended up with sculptures, paintings, textiles, ceramics, drawings, photography and mixed media pieces.”

Baker, who is enrolled in the SAR course, played a role designing the setup of the exhibition. “The first room of the gallery has more modern or contemporary styles of art and as you move through the gallery, the last room contains more traditional mediums and subject matter such as crocheted yarn and paintings of flowers.”

“The exhibition was curated to tell a story,” said Georgie Shoop, who is also a student enrolled in the SAR course. “Throughout history, women were left behind in the art world and did not have the same resources that men had. Many art schools did not accept women. So they often would study nature or flowers because it was free and it was what they had access to.”

Shoop, a senior with a double major in art administration and art history, said that the experience of curating the exhibition was very rewarding. “I fell in love with the work as we juried it and that love only grew fonder as we worked further into the process. I got to learn more about the pieces and the women behind them. This experience allowed me to actually apply the information I’m learning in class,” she said.

Baker, Shoop and other students from the class judged the pieces for first, second and third place, as well as five honorable mentions. “This was extremely challenging considering there were 57 total works,” said Shoop. The winners, awarded a cash prize, were announced at the opening reception on Oct. 26.

“I am trying to finish out the year successfully, so this was like achieving that goal,” said Diana Williams, first place winner for her piece titled “Plimoth Wife.”

“Often people tell me that I have misspelled the title, but what many people do not know is that this was the original spelling,” said Williams. “My inspiration came from the woman in the painting herself, she was a role model for that era and I wanted to represent it correctly.”

Williams, who also won the first place prize in the exhibition a few years ago, has been a self-taught artist since 2000. To see her work as well as the rest of the exhibition, stop by the Harlan Gallery located in the SHU Arts Building, free and open to public Monday-Thursday from 1-8 p.m., Friday from 1-3 p.m. and Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

The SAR course has been offered at SHU for many years and allows students to apply real-life experience to the academic theory of art. The exhibition resulting from the course celebrates women in art who, like many professions, are still competing for an equal playing field.

“[Women artists] were afforded separate and unequal education with very little opportunity for exhibition and sales,” said Maureen Kochanek, assistant professor of art who teaches the SAR course. “It is imperative that we reach out to celebrate creative women in our region.”

“The range of this current show (in terms of media, and iconography) reiterates the diversity of women,” said Kochanek. “Feminism is not a singular, monotone message but rather a choir of many voices – our show is really a powerful testimony to diversity.”

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