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'Seeing Women in History Makes History Look Different'
at Autry National Center, Los Angeles, California
Recommendation by Liz Goldner

Elizabeth (Buff) Elting, “Where the Sea Used to Be,” 2004, painting

Continuing through August 22, 2010

“Seeing Women in History Makes History Look Different” is a magnanimous exhibition, co-curated by Carolyn Brucken and Virginia Scharff. The show centers on three Western locations, the Rio Arriba of New Mexico, the Puget Sound of the Pacific Northwest, and Denver, Colorado. It describes the lives of women over the centuries to the present through artworks, photography, crafts, textiles, clothing, book excerpts (by Willa Cather and others), cooking vessels, elements of popular culture as the automobile, graphic design and narratives/didactics. Narratives are of daily activities, livelihoods, ambitions, struggles and especially the spirit to never give up. As compelling as individual works and the narrative they relate may be, the installation by design veterans Christopher Muntz and Tim McNeil adds an important dimension. Examples of their artistry are: Puget Sound displays within 10-foot diameter pipe fittings (used to transport water through the Sound); and a 1950’s car, as symbol of female freedom in Denver, spliced with interactive narratives between two car halves.

The exhibition ranges from popular culture to high art works by Georgia O’Keefe, photographer Laura Gilpin and others. Subtitled, “Home Lands: How Women Made the West,” its over-arching theme is the strength and resilience of the women who contributed to the shaping the West by keeping the proverbial home-fires burning, and urging the region to grow and flourish. The narrative on Fabiola Cabeza de Baca is especially compelling. The New Mexican used her home economics degree to write, help feed and teach natives. In the course of her 97 years, De Baca worked for the government and the Peace Corps, and traveled widely in spite of an amputated leg.

Autry Museum of the American West

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