I Am A Woman’s Rights: Exploring Modernity and Womanhood
Natalie Combs, a gallery assistant at Sierra Arts, got the idea for her first curated show from a class at the University of Nevada, Reno about gender and art.
“It really got the cogs turning a lot, thinking of the dynamics of why this is something we don’t talk a whole lot about, and why the canon of art is male-based and very Eurocentric,” said Combs, a student in the art history program at UNR.
Combs’ curated exhibition, I Am A Woman’s Rights: Exploring Modernity and Womanhood, is still scheduled through March at the Sierra Arts Gallery Annex, once it re-opens to the public. “Even though we have this politically greater level of equality in the United States for women, we’ve still got a lot of work to do within the art industry,” Combs said. “It’s changing, but it’s still a long process.”
The show, named for a line in former slave Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, features artists across different disciplines offering their views on modern women. Combs, who ran an open call for artists to participate, said each artist brought their own flair to the theme, making for a diverse show both in concepts and styles.
“Some of the pieces I kind of envisioned would look a certain way, but there were also some nice surprises,” Combs said. “Like Vivian’s [Olds] work had more of a Great Basin, tribal women aspect to them, and that was something I hadn’t really considered.”
Olds is a retired school teacher who also has a gallery in Wadsworth called Desert Light Arts. She works in photography, and for her Woman’s Rights pieces, she used photographs of rock formations all over Nevada, many of which suggest the outlines of a woman’s body.
“There are so many beautiful forms in nature that women can relate to,” Olds said. “Rock art, to me, is just one of the things in nature that says ’mother’ to me.”
OIds has been involved as a volunteer for Sierra Arts as well as Arts for All Nevada for many years, and she believes that women are given a place in the Reno arts community and encouraged to showcase their work.
“I’m always telling women artists, especially younger women, to get in touch with Sierra Arts, as there are some grants available to women artists as well,” Olds said.
Artist Lynn Bell Hurley agreed with Olds, saying that there is “abundant space in Reno for women artists. I’ve never felt that being a female has closed any doors for me. Everyone is open and embracing with artists, and that’s one of the beautiful things about this area.”
She starting making art as a child but had stopped making art until 2014, when she began to create and display her work around the Truckee Meadows. “I had a series of painful losses, and realized that I needed to bring art back into my life and find my inner artist again,” Bell Hurley said.
Her work in the gallery is a series of six pieces that both comment on and celebrate women’s bodies. They include collages using newspaper and magazine cut-outs.
“I’m interested in celebrating and honoring the female form as a sacred space, even though society still pushes against that,” she said.