Anglo women artists in New Mexico demonstrate a cross-narrative to the prevailing norm, according to Joy Spering, professor of art and visual culture at Denison.
Sperling recently delivered a lecture on Olive Rush, Eugina Shonnard and Laura Gilpin, three Anglo women artists who came to New Mexico to make their art, at the Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico.
According to a blogpost about the lecture, Sperling noted:
“While the prevailing artists narrative is compelling in its clarity, the work of New Mexico woman artists . . . disrupt this dominant modernist narrative at its foundation,” Sperling said. “Their work was frequently diverse and was sometimes framed by complex practical, conceptual, and even geographical situations.”
It continued: Sperling’s research focused on the more complex modernist narrative that never had a chance to be told outside the urban walls of major art exhibiting cities such as New York or Chicago. “In artistic discourse as in life, the complicated story is usually the more accurate one,” she said.
Viewing modernism through a broader cultural lens demonstrated the Anglo woman artist’s ability to devise strategies for artistic survival while the larger art world institutions worked against them. The emerging gallery system of the late 1800’s was not particularly friendly to women and was used as a means to keep out professionally trained women artists. Instead, women artists created their own system of artistic self-validation. If it were not for these women’s foundering in trying to fit the masculine mold of modernism, artists like Olive Rush and her contemporaries would not have branched out to more unorthodox means of producing their art.