The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) brings recognition to the achievements of women artists of all periods and nationalities by exhibiting, preserving, acquiring, and researching art by women and by teaching the public about their accomplishments.
NMWA has outreach committees throughout the country and the world that play a critical role in bringing the museum’s mission to regional and international audiences. Having access to—and knowledge of—these audiences, the outreach organizations are uniquely positioned to bring programs highlighting the contributions of women artists to their communities.
Women to Watch is an exhibition program developed for NMWA’s national and international committees. Every two to three years, an exhibition is held at NMWA that features underrepresented and emerging women artists from the states and countries in which the museum has outreach committees. Each exhibition focuses on a specific medium or theme chosen by the museum’s curators.
The program is designed to increase the visibility of, and critical response to, promising women artists who are deserving of national and international attention. In addition, the program is aimed at involving high quality art professionals, with diverse areas of expertise, into the committees’ activities.
Each participating committee works with a curator to propose artists from their region and NMWA’s contemporary curator then selects artists to participate in a group exhibition on the selected theme at NMWA in Washington. The previous Women to Watch exhibitions featured photography in 2008, contemporary figurative painting in 2010, textiles in 2012 and nature in 2015.
Women to Watch 2015
Women to Watch 2015 is the fourth installment in NMWA’s exhibition series that features emerging or underrepresented artists from the states and countries in which NMWA has outreach committees. This exhibition will illuminate how contemporary artists re-contextualize images of plants and animals to reflect upon the themes of sexuality, gender politics, and the abject. Nature-based imagery created by sculptors, painters, photographers, and video artists extends the Romantic-era idea that the mysterious and uncontrollable power of nature serves as an apt metaphor for the persistent unruliness of human culture.
The connection between women and nature has a long history, one that is fraught with gendered stereotypes and discriminating assumptions. As far back as the Greek philosopher Plato, there has been a tendency in Western culture to associate nature with women in contrast to the masculine realm of the mind and rational thought. In art, women were often encouraged by society to take the natural world as their subject. In contrast to history and religious painting, which required (male) invention and imagination, subjects such as Maria Sibylla Merian’s botanic drawings, the still-life paintings of Rachel Ruysch, and Rosa Bonheur’s images of animals required “only” the power of observation.
Contemporary artists working with imagery and/or materials taken from the natural world call to mind these entrenched associations of women with nature. They open a dialogue about these traditional views and actively redefine the relationship between women, nature and, art.