SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Oct. 21, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Seventy-four artists. One hundred and eight stencils of women who are catalysts for change. Seven panels, 28 feet long and eight feetwide. This is “Work in Progress.”
“Few of us know this history,” said Jann Haworth, project director of “Work in Progress,” the Women’s Mural she has created with fellow artists.
“The film ‘!Women Art Revolution’ opens asking: ‘Can you name five women artists?'” Haworth added. “‘Work in Progress’ asks can you name five women scientists, mathematicians, activists, writers? This mural project arose out of a single frame in a comic strip that I created as part of a catalog for the 2009 retrospective exhibition of my work in the UK. In the strip, ‘Mannequin Defectors’ were marching past a street mural featuring the faces of women of distinction in the arts and sciences.
“To my shame I barely knew enough to cite 30 women. I was reminded of my knowledge gap when I saw ‘!W.A.R.’ and it is this negative space that drives the purpose, form and style of the mural.”
The Utah Museum of Contemporary Art (UMOCA), in partnership with The Leonardo and the Brigham Young University Museum of Art, is presenting “Work In Progress,” a collaborative, traveling exhibit that celebrates women. The show, opening today, is at UMOCA through Jan. 14, then is traveling to BYU.
“Work in Progress” begins a visual narrative citing women who stood alone. They were inventive and dynamic, challenged prescriptive laws and rules, questioned the status quo, and risked their safety to stand against prejudice and exclusion, said Haworth.
The exhibition brings to the fore the diverse contributions women have made to our lives in a range of fields, including but not limited to science, math, the arts, technology, and social, political and domestic activism.
During the last three months, Haworth and her daughter and fellow artist, Liberty Blake, who acts as art director and collagist, have helped both fledgling and established artists contribute to the collage.
Along with the mural, acclaimed photographer Lynn Blodgett has taken portraits of the participants, which are hung alongside the mural to recognize those in the community who are active participants in the strive for equality.
Those who have participated in the project include the YWCA Board, the Young Women’s Council staff and residents, the University of Utah School of Nursing and Medical Research, the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office and Salt Lake County Mayor’s office staffers, the Leonardo Museum staff, University of Utah students, BYU faculty, Modern West Fine Art artists, and Salt Lake City artists and performers.
This community-based method of creation encourages the project to grow as it travels from one community to the next. Creators are encouraging exhibit hosts to recognize and add images of dynamic women in each community.
The goal is to compel those involved, both creators and viewers, to identify both how women’s contributions have impacted them personally, and to better articulate their own fundamental desire for progress.
“As the mural developed, it unpacked more and more questions,” Haworth said. “How do we make the list for the first seven panels? What are our topics? Do we do a portrait of the woman when she was ‘looking her best’? What does that mean? What would the woman want? What interests the artist making the portrait? How is diversity represented?
“As we moved forward not only did all of participating ‘makers’ literally came face to face with how little we knew, but how huge the story was,” Haworth said. “Why did these women disappear from history, or, if they were there, why were they of lesser stature? Why were they a post-script? Or not acknowledged at all? Women represent 40 percent of the workforce. Worldwide they own 1 percent of the wealth. Why?
“The mural is, as its title states, a ‘Work In Progress’ in two senses,” she said. “It holds a mirror up to progress in both the mural itself and Lynn’s photographs. As the mural travels to each venue, two more panels will be added. The mural will continue to grow. New women will be added, other communities reflected, the overlooked remembered.”
“Work In Progress” has a celebratory reception in UMOCA’s Street Gallery at 20 S. West Temple at 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Oct. 21. UMOCA will also present a series of talks, films and a storytelling night, hosted by The Bee storytelling collective, which will expound on women’s topics in the areas of art, gender equality and progress.
The exhibition runs through Jan. 14 with various public workshops and photo sessions occurring at The Leonardo.
For more information about the exhibition at UMOCA, click here.