According to a satirical poster by the Guerrilla Girls, the premier advantage of being a woman artist is “Working without the pressure of success.” Down their list a few places comes, “Being reassured that whatever kind of art you make it will be labeled feminine.” That second permission may be the more important to Krysta Dimick, a Salt Lake architect and community developer, who, having chosen children over buildings as her medium for now, paints precise miniature landscapes, abstract and architectural, to explore her thoughts about the environments communities and individuals might build for themselves. Keeping her values foremost by sharing her work space and materials with children comes full circle when she includes some of their collaborations in an exhibition. So she needn’t be disappointed should her work then be labeled “feminine.” And like the other ten sophisticated contributors to Call Forth, in the George S. & Delores Doré Eccles Art Gallery of the Salt Lake Community College’s South City Campus, she’s already a success.
There can be few things in life with more positive associations than the sunflower. Van Gogh’s achievement of painting a harmonious scene from three shades of yellow marked the official beginning of his emergence from failure to one of the most beloved artist of all time. Known for following the sun, sunflowers became symbols of loyalty and a spiritual vocation. Because, as Helen Keller said, they always face the light and cannot see the shadows, they are said to exemplify endurance, resiliency, and hope. Kelsie Coronado’s daily reliance on these virtues while working in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit may well have led her to see in the life cycle of a single sunflower an emblem of life itself, which she sculpted primarily in paper. Her row of nine flowers grow sequentially from a seeding still enclosed in a shell to a bent crone with a few seeds still attached. Brilliantly colorful and arrayed before the gallery’s long, sunny glass wall, they can be read either as the story of one life, or a congregation of all life.
To a casual viewer, Yvonne Krause might be mistaken for any other admirer of the red rock landscape. A closer look, though, might reveal a resemblance between the weathered sandstone faces she paints here and various venerable scriptures. In fact Krause, who studied art before settling into the role of mother, followed her retirement by returning to the study of art, where her intentions are as transparent as her watercolors: to render her faith visible by depicting those things she believes prove the existence of God. Notably, her evidence for the spirit is as firm and solid as bedrock, while Nancy Strahinic’s testimony on behalf of nature and the living brings her to collage together graphic illusions like “Confidence Leap,” wherein a pedestrian tunnel pierces the silhouette of a dancing boy, who in turn plays it like an electric guitar.
Framing a work like a photo or a cutpaper picture can call the viewer’s attention to their own presence by separating the art from the surrounding space. Adding a glass cover may complicate the equation by placing a reflection of the viewer inside the work. The Victorian taste for domed covers went further by reflecting like a fisheye lens. In Cindy Bean’s “No Guts, No Glory,” the antique appearance is belied by her intricate image, about which she writes, “One of the trials of having children is that I feel like my insides are on the outside of me. My heart and guts are being carried around by two small people in the same way that they would carry around a small kitten or baby doll. Sometimes they get dropped and stepped on, but always they are loved. Couple this with a strong desire to create art and care for them. Sometimes one of the other gets neglected, more frequently the art, but often it feels like what I can create is better from the experiences of life.”
Some of these artists have made their art while caring for three or four children. Some may have not faced that challenge. It doesn’t seem to matter, except in so far as subject matter may be concerned. If the dimensions of the responsibilities versus the caliber of the art are any indication, we’ve been robbed for centuries of what women can do, and just as clearly could have been doing. Speaking of her recycled-material collages, Rebecca Klundt says, “It a good day when I have had a chance to talk with someone about things that matter.” She says nothing about in what language: whether that is the recently, scientifically-vindicated way mothers talk to their children, or the visually sophisticated way an artist communicates visually. Each of these 11 women has balanced a career, only occasionally in art, all of them impressive, with relationships and participation in a community that mutually supports their art, and them.
Call Forth (featuring Cindy Bean, Linnie Brown, Kelsie Coronado, Krysta Dimick, Rebecca Klundt, Yvonne Krause, Jessica Rasmussen, Susan Riedley, Christina Stanley, Nancy Strahinic, Camille Wheatley), SLCC’s Eccles Gallery, Salt Lake City, through May 18.