Perhaps it’s due to the pioneering spirit that seems to be woven into the fabric of the American West.
Or maybe it’s because of the area’s rich heritage of indigenous artwork. Or we could even attribute it all to Georgia O’Keeffe. But no matter the narrative, the Southwest has a rich heritage of inspiring and promoting female artists. In May, the Rowe Fine Art Gallery proudly celebrates this heritage with its first exhibition focusing solely on women in the arts. Femme Powered opens Friday, May 6 at 4 p.m. (just in time for Mother’s Day!) and continues throughout the month.
Participating artists include sculptors Shirley Eichten Albrecht and Kim Kori; painters Julie T. Chapman, Kim Diment, Jen Farnsworth and Amy Ringholz; and jeweler Jennifer Inge. We recently spoke with some of these artists about how being female has impacted their works.
“I don’t know if being a woman has had an impact on my art,” admits Eichten Albrecht. “I know as a woman there were times when I had to prove that I could compete in the business world, but I never felt that way about the art world. I was raised by a very strong-minded mother, and that carried me through my whole life. When I was graduating, I actually took classes that were typically men’s classes—welding, automotive, and woodworking—and I enjoyed everything I did and learned. I was the only woman in the classes. And it reminds me of a conversation I had with my mom where I told her that if she didn’t want me to be so independent, she shouldn’t have raised me that way.
Eichten Albrecht’s new mixed-media sculpture, Ancient Journey, will be part of the exhibition. The sculpture includes a canteen gourd, dyed rattan, red bone, terracotta beads, multicolored yarn and a spectacular geode.
Bronze sculptor Kim Kori had a slightly different experience, in part, she says, because foundries have traditionally been dominated by men. “I started sculpting in the early 1980s, and when I was treated as unimportant, I didn’t stop,” Kori explains. “In 2004, I participated in an exhibition of American Women Artists and my sculpture received a certificate of recognition. At first, I didn’t know why women had to be separated from men. Shouldn’t all good artists be treated with respect? But I stayed with American Women Artists and was invited to become a Master Signature Member in 2014. I learned from that organization, including the interesting fact that in America more than half of the artists working today today are women, but works of art created by women represent less than 5% of the art in museums.
During Femme Powered, Kori will unveil the pre-made version of Rapid Transit. If this name sounds familiar to you, you are undoubtedly a Kori collector. A smaller version of Rapid Transit was released in 2020. The sculpture depicts a frog taking a ride on the back of a snail shell. Kori is currently working on a larger version – approximately 24 inches wide by 18 inches high by 11 inches deep – of the same sculpture. The new version can be exhibited indoors or outdoors.
Painter Julie T. Chapman says she’s faced prejudice when it comes to presenting her work in shows, but she attributes this to allowing her to experience her medium in a way that artists men might not feel free to do.
“I think being female has had a profound influence on my work as an artist in the wildlife/western genre,” Chapman says. “I’ve wanted to be in some of the big, high-profile shows, but they’ve (historically) tended to favor the genre and the traditional techniques and subjects, which meant I had no chance of getting in. From a certain way, it freed me to be exploratory in my work, to follow where the muse leads. I first developed my voice in scratchboard, then that led to my disturbed realism paintings – and both works left me deeply satisfied. I am incredibly pleased and humbled by the reaction the Disturbed Realism pieces receive; I never expected to be in the position of refusing gallery representation. I only wish I could work faster.
Jen Farnsworth echoes Chapman’s experience of being able to experiment with technique and even color and medium. Farnsworth has recently moved away from oils to stretch by experimenting with mixed media; the new work will be exhibited during the fair.
“One of the great joys I have in doing art is being able to be fearless and push the boundaries of color and composition while trying to capture the essence of my subject,” says Farnsworth. “Beyond oil, I’ve been having a lot of fun lately experimenting with graphite, ink, alcohol, and tea. Not only can I continue to use the bright, bold, and expressive colors that I likes, but these materials themselves are so spontaneous that the art unfolds on its own.
Kim Diment thinks being a woman has helped her see her animal subjects in a different light. “I think as a woman, I see more of a personality in my animal subjects,” Diment explains. “I see humans and animals showing emotions. Many people think animals are purely instinctual, but I believe that animals, like people, have instincts as well as personalities that aren’t dictated by instincts. I think that belief comes through in my work.
Amy Ringholz says being a wife and a mother have had an equal influence on her paintings, but she doesn’t necessarily dwell on it — nor does she want her viewers. “I love being a female artist,” she says. “I sign my ‘Ringholz’ pieces mostly to make my dad proud – or annoyed because he once told me I stole his signature [laughs]. But by choosing not to put my first name on the piece, it allows the viewer to first love the work.
“As a woman and a mother, I feel like I’m directing the work like I would a child,” she continues. “Creatively, I live to make art. I create, fight for and protect the work as I would a child. I watch over it, plan its future, guide it and keep it on the right track. L he fulfillment that I feel from being a female artist has made me who I am. The challenges that I have faced to live from it have built my character and that is what I use as an example for my current children. Artistic creation is the story of my life.
Come see what these exemplary artists create throughout the month of May.
Rowe Fine Art Gallery represents traditional and contemporary artists from the Southwest. The gallery, located under the Patio de las Campanas bell tower in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Shopping Village, is open Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Friday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, call 928-282-8877, visit RoweGallery.com, or find us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.