T-shirts, held by clothespins on lines hanging low across the room, displayed raw emotion, scrawled with permanent marker by victims of abuse and violence. The graphic nature of the personal feelings of pain and anger was countered by the simple, almost quiet attributes of the black-and-white prints in the main section of the museum, also made by women who have suffered. The depictions on the prints ranged from birds and people to words and other images, but each represented part of the journey that the artist went through while processing their pain.
The Woodbury Art Museum, in an effort to equalize the balance of representation between male and female artists, has transformed their gallery into an all-woman-artist feature, with Hidden Voices: Women in Printmaking, a show that will open Jan. 10. The permanent rotating collection has even been tweaked to go along with the theme, showing only work from the collection that was created by female artists.
Interim Curator and Director Melissa Hempel came up with the idea for the project, saying that it started out as an idea centered on urban arts, then later developed into working solely with underrepresented populations. Hempel and the museum have teamed up with the Center for Women and Children in Crisis for the project to find volunteer artists.
“They put a lot of themselves into their work,” Hempel said. “We’re really lucky.”
This isn’t the first time the Hempel has put the museum spotlight on these types of populations though. Last year the museum put on a “graffiti show,” which featured work mostly from teenage males. Hempel hopes to make exposing hidden voices an annual event, each year using a different medium to focus on a different group of artists.
Hempel chose printmaking as the medium for this group of artists because she thought maybe working with the hand tools involved with this type of artwork, carving metal sheets by hand, is not something these women have likely had the opportunity to do. Each printmaking artist posted their feelings about working with this medium in the museum for their viewers. According to the words of Carrie Espinoza, one of these artists, Hempel made the right choice:
“In printmaking every mark shows. I must stop my multitasking and concentrate on one cut at a time. It is a physically difficult process, yet the final result … is invigorating,” Espinoza wrote.
It may have been invigorating for the artists, but it is definitely emotionally invigorating to be a part of this exhibit as a viewer. The museum administrator Katherine Hall grew silent as she walked past the very personal works of art, pointing out the captions that give insight to the pieces.
“You’ll want to take the time just to read them, because they’re really powerful,” Hall said. “The first time I started reading them I was just about in tears.”
As usual, the Woodbury Art Museum displays their art in such a way as to engage the viewers on a physical, personal and emotional level. Some of the artwork can even be touched, gently, as it touches the viewers just the same. The opportunity to make prints using some of the sintra sheets carved by the featured artists will be available for museum patrons as well.
Hempel added that while touching emotions is good, one of the main goals of the show is to widen awareness and deepen understanding about underrepresented populations.
The show, lasting until March 3, allows viewers to make some of their own art, as well as be a part of the process of creation that the printmaking artists went through. For more information about Hidden Voices: Women in Printmaking, visit www.uvu.edu/museum. If you or someone you know needs help, please visit www.cwcic.edu or www.uvu.edu/turningpoint.
By Jeff Jacobsen – Online Content Manager
Photos by Gilbert Cisneros