Pioneers: Women Artists in Boulder, 1898 – 1950
September 16, 2016 – February 4, 2017
Featuring the work of: Eve Drewlowe, Muriel Sibell-Wolle, Virginia True, and more.
Co-curators: Dr. Kirk Ambrose, professor of art history, chair of the Department of Art and Art History, and Stephen Martonis, exhibitions manager at the CU Art Museum.
Visit the CU Art Museum, where this exhibition is currently showing, and learn more about the affiliated series Celebration! A History of the Visual Arts in Boulder.
Hear about the exhibition from Dr. Kirk Ambrose in the days before the opening of the show:
“We, actually the co-curator, Steve Martonis and I, did a show about two years ago called American West, which was simply looking at the representations of the west out of the permanent collection in this exhibition, and during that time we kept running across the names of women and so on. It was really interesting, because particularly in view of the fact that typically the history of western art is a masculine enterprise and described in masculine terms, and it was intriguing to us that we basically kept running across the names of these women, some of which we had in the permanent collection. It just kind of sparked this interest and we began pursuing this in earnest and I contacted museums in the area, collectors and so on, and most of the works – I believe the majority of the works in the exhibition are from private collections – and it’s just a way to kind of flesh out the kind of remarkable histories of these women, both as artists – but also what I think is interesting is the social and institutional aspect of these women. So many of them were involved in the foundation of museums, artist organizations, and actually in various civil rights movements as well. So there’s a way in which this – not only were they artists but they were also involved in advancing kind of social causes and using art as one vehicle to get at that agenda.
“I think that one of things that is interesting about the response that I’ve received is that, there’s a growing consciousness I think of in Boulder and in Colorado. And I think a lot of the you know, some of the state in between the coasts, have often looked over their shoulder in terms of art, and art development and so on. Also an inferiority complex, and I think a show like this is meant to kind of step away from that model a little bit and basically assert that there’s interesting stuff going on here and there’s a history we can be very proud of, and I think particularly within the Rocky Mountain region what is so interesting, and warrants further study is the pivotal role of women in all of this. And it’s basically been absolutely neglected. And so I think Boulder can be very proud of that history and I think also many of these women were very interested in ensuring, for instance, that students of color had access to education in the arts and were very supportive of say, African-American students during – there were a series of sit-ins for instance in 1943 on the hill that, in which a number of African-American students demanded access to these business that were segregated, even though that was against the Colorado state constitution at the time. And the business owners basically said, well you know, this is to make our clients comfortable. And they’re thinking in terms of clients, uh mostly folks from the Chautauqua, a lot of people coming from Texas and so on, which was obviously a segregated environment at that point. And one woman in particular, Dolores Hale, who was a young African-American woman, who was very much involved in organizing these events, was supported very staunchly by Muriel Sibell-Wolle, the woman whose portrait is over there. And so Sibell-Wolle made a point of having a lunch or a tea with this young woman every week to kind of signal faculty support, and interestingly enough I mean they pressured the university, really pressured these businesses, and they, to their credit listened. Because it was overwhelming support in terms of faculty, students, and so on, for changing these policies.”