Some wandered through the museum, chatting and even laughing with friends, both old and new. Others simply stood in silence, eyebrows furrowed as they shook their heads, as if they were trying to process the amount of pain being communicated through the artwork.
The Woodbury Art Museum held a reception for the opening of their latest show, Hidden Voices: Women in Printmaking, Tuesday evening at their gallery in University Mall. Among those in attendance were the artists themselves, six women who worked for weeks learning how to make the prints that will be featured at the museum until March 3.
As much of a pleasure as it was for the guests to mingle with the artists and discuss the art pieces with them, the highlight of the evening had to be the remarks of the people behind the show, along with the presentation of a few unexpected gifts.
Following the remarks of Interim Curator and Director Melissa Hempel, Nick Mendoza, who mentored the untrained artists, talked about monitoring their progress and making sure they completed every step of the process correctly.
“I wanted to make sure they could graphically express the things they wanted to,” Mendoza said, noting that he was pretty hard on them throughout the process.
Apparently he wasn’t as hard as he thought. Katie Johnson, one of the six artists who spoke for the group of them, said that nobody was as hard on them as they were on themselves. She talked about how Mendoza had helped them face things in a way that they couldn’t on their own. The permanence of the carving process in printmaking, Johnson explained, was engraving more than just art.
“There’s no eraser,” said Johnson. “As women, we’re fixers – and we just couldn’t do that.”
The artists then presented Mendoza with a print they had made together without his knowledge. After their surprise, they got a surprise themselves, as six small bags were brought to the podium.
Will Feller, the owner of the museum’s community partner Goldsmith Jewelers, heard about the artists from Katherine Hall, the museum administrator. Feller was so moved by the strength these women showed in sharing such intimate and painful parts of their lives that he wanted to give something as a token of appreciation.
Pearl necklaces were given to each artist, after Hall explained that Feller chose pearls because, like the clam that uses irritants to create something so beautiful, these women had used the pain from their lives to create such inspiring art.
“It’s so great to be a part of it,” Hall said. “They created art from so much pain.”
Amidst everything that was going on in the reception, a sense of reverence persisted in the museum. The feeling was hard to pinpoint, but at times felt almost palpable. J.C. Graham, who works with Student Health Services at UVU as the program coordinator for suicide prevention, recognized this feeling in the gallery. Graham described it as a manifestation of the respect that the patrons had for the artists and the process they had gone through.
“They have created a narrative through art of experiences and emotion that tells a powerful story,” Graham said. “The process of sharing is a healing process.”
Seeing the beaming smiles on the faces of the six artists as they talked with guests, it was clear that some sort of healing had occurred, indeed.
By Jeff Jacobsen–Online Content Manager