I found myself on the US National Archives looking at photos of Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, and Amelia Earhart as I started to build a series of artworks of these recognized women. That’s when I came upon another set of images.
I found black and white photos of women from the 1940s. Some were cabbies. Others were photographers. Someone thought it important to document these women and the changing social norms of the time. And that’s when I saw it: none of these women had any names.
Someone found it valuable and important to document these women and this moment in time, but no one found the women themselves important enough to write down their names.
In that moment I stopped thinking about Frida, Amelia, Rosa or anyone else who we know today as examples of strong public women. I wanted to know more about these unknown, anonymous women.
The series is far from done but has already garnered some attention. My Ruth, my first finished work, was exhibited in a show in Montreal. It was part of the Bombay Sapphire Artisan Series – a Canada and US wide competition for artists. You can see the work here:
I began working on one of the first images that captured me: a blond woman with a proud, chin high pose. She looked proud and elegant. As I worked on the underpainting I realized I wanted to do more than paint these women, I wanted to take my time with them and embellish them.
I wanted to give them the time and respect they deserve through my art. I incorporated 23 karat gold leaf and embroidery into the work as a means of showing them that time and honor. I also enjoy the irony of using art materials that are deemed craft, or feminine for these “unimportant” women.
While I worked on the first piece, I began to wonder more about the life of these women. And that’s when it came to me: I wanted to name each woman too. I want to reveal them to the world and give them the names the original documenters found unworthy of their time.
Now I would like to introduce you to meet the everyday, norms changing women that have shaped the people we’ve become today here.
This is just the beginning…