ThewildbunchLocal female artists get together for a group exhibition
Regeneration. The word brings to mind images of renewal and re-creation. It also implies a prior state of loss, hibernation or enervation that allows for that regeneration to take place. It’s the title of the annual Wild Women Artists exhibit at the Wilbur D. May Center at Rancho San Rafael Regional Park happening this fall.
The Wild Women Artists group began around 16 years ago. The only original member still active, Jimmie Benedict, moved to the area 20 years ago after being involved in craft guilds in Tennessee. (She was a member of the Southern Highlands Crafts Guild.) There, she was surrounded by a professional support group of like-minded women who came together and started working and showing together. When she moved to Reno, she left all that. After meeting various people involved in the arts here, she was told to meet Mary Lee Fulkerson, a well-known basket maker. Benedict called her, and they got together and starting pulling people together to form a collective that eventually turned into the Wild Women Artists.
Couldn’t drag them away
There are currently about 13 active members in the group from all around the region—Grass Valley, Elko, Tuscarora, Reno. The people in the group are mostly full-time artists although some of them, of course, do other things. Members in the group cycle in and out. A few have been around since close to the beginning, and some of them are fairly new.
“We are always looking for people that are professional and that are original in what they produce,” says Benedict. “If we feel like the work fits in with the group then … we try not to overlap in what we have too much.”
The Wild Women Artists are a diverse community of women. There are multiple jewelry artists, three fiber artists, two painters, a storyteller and performer, a ceramics artist, a basket maker/sculptor, and an assemblage artist. The members encourage each other to evolve and grow.
“I didn’t realize I was a storyteller until I got involved with this group, which gave me a place to do it,” says Kathleen Durham, storyteller and creator of Underwood—an entire world in miniature with gnomes and mice and other characters. “It made what I do more legitimate.”
Looking at their art—because it’s such a diverse group—you might think that their name makes perfect sense. It seems to fit their style and energy and the variety in their craft. However, the name originally came from other roots.
“Back in the group that I was a part of in Tennessee. … We were saying, ‘How do you get your name in the newspaper?’ Come up with the most outrageous name you can,” says Benedict. “Then, they’ll say, ‘I wonder what these people are doing.’”
Her group in Tennessee came up with the name the Amazing and Astounding Women Artists Breakfast Club, and it got the media’s attention. As for the Nevada group, they tried several ideas before they found a name that fit.
“We kept changing names and then Wild Women just sort of stuck, and people started knowing who we were,” says Benedict. “Several of us were reading that Clarissa Pinkola Estes book Women Who Run with the Wolves and they were talking about the wild spirit and women.”
The theme for this year’s show is regeneration. It grew sort of organically grew out of conversations the women were having about changes happening in their lives—deaths and births, aging and rediscovery.
“Last year, a couple of moms died, and we started talking about passing on,” Benedict explains. “What did you learn from your mother or your grandmother? We were talking about passing on your work.”
Each member wrote a statement for the Wild Women Artists newsletter and in some way they all had to do with regeneration. Benedict talks about how the traditional craftspeople passed on techniques and ideas to her and her work evolved from that. She hopes that what she does helps pass it on to somebody else and is a regeneration in that way.
“It was my grandmother who lived with us that taught me to sew,” says Durham. “I made tiny things then. I remember her always when I sew. She’s the one who shaped my love of fabric. And it was my mother who taught me that in our house everything was alive—the toaster and vacuum, they all had names and personalities—so I think she was the one that made me a storyteller.”
Some of the artists are trying out collaborative work this year. Kristen Frantzen Orr, who makes glass beads, writes of her collaboration with fellow Wild Woman Gail Rappa, a jeweler: “A good energy is generated in working with another artist. Our show theme this fall is ‘Regeneration’ and the collaborations have kept us both growing.”
Sidne Teske, who works with pastels and creates impressionistic pieces as well as more collage style work, comments on how “the word regeneration makes [her] think of coming out of a deep sleep, the productive period after a long rest.” Her paintings are done on-site and have an aura of spring and awakening in them.
Ceramic artist Barbara Glynn Prodaniuk’s pieces are created from clay and found objects. She writes, “This year has been full of transitions for me. I have tried to express regeneration in my work and my life by seeking balance.” She uses symbolic objects in her work that tell stories and engage the viewer.
The show will also feature Pat Wallis’s detailed copper paintings, hand-painted and dyed silk art quilts created by Karel Hendee, Baraba Uriu’s unique stone jewelry, Claudia Knous’s felted clothing and accessories that also incorporate silk, sculptural baskets twined from waxed linen thread by Gretchen Ericson, Susan Church’s found metal object welded sculpture, Jimmie Benedict’s clothing made from her own fabric created by piecing together different patterns and textures with appliqué, and Kathleen Durham’s storytelling and miniatures. The show also features the work of two guest artists, Lara Alberti and Ron Arthuad. Alberti creates assemblages reminiscent of Joseph Cornell boxes that combine painting and collaging of objects. Arthaud paints on linen with oils rendering mostly outdoor scenes and architecture.
”We’ll often have a man as our token ‘Wild Boy,’” jokes Benedict, in reference to Arthaud being the only male in this year’s show.
The weekend of the event, the artists will take over the entire Wilbur D. May Center. Admission is free, and all of the artists will be present. This year, they will be doing artist demos so visitors will have a chance to learn about how the artists create their work and to ask questions. In this way, they will be passing along their skills and encouraging a ‘regeneration’ of sorts. The event will also include an Underwood Story Hour on Saturday.
The group has also created a Wild Women Emerging Artist Award that goes to a young woman artist who is involved in scholastic arts. The Wild Women Artists generate funds for this through a raffle held during the event. Each artist contributes a piece of work to the raffle and half of the money raised from ticket sales goes to the scholarship. The rest of the raffle money goes to support the Wilbur D. May Center as well as a portion of the artists’ proceeds.
Most of all, the Wild Women Artists want to share their work—to inspire creativity and pass on the tradition of their craft and passion for creation.