After recognizing the ageism that mature women artists face, Terry Rooney decided to curate an exhibition bringing attention to their talent and wisdom.
The exhibit is entitled “The W.O.W Show,” which stands for Wild Ornery Women, Wiser Overlooked Women , and it is on display through October 23rd at Workshop 13’s Artworks Gallery in Ware, Massachusetts.
Zydalis Bauer spoke with Rooney and artist Anne Burton to learn more about the show and what it means to them for their work and voices to no longer go unnoticed.
Read the full transcript:
Zydalis Bauer: After recognizing the ageism that mature women artists face, Terry Rooney decided to curate an exhibition bringing attention to their talent and wisdom.
The exhibit is entitled, “The W.O.W. Show,” which stands for Wild, Ornery Women, Wiser, Overlooked Women, and is on display through October 23rd at Workshop 13’s Artworks Gallery in Ware, Massachusetts.
I spoke with Rooney and artist Anne Burton to learn more about the show and what it means to them for their work and voices to no longer go unnoticed.
Terry Rooney, W.O.W. Show Curator: I have been noticing that older women artists have been ignored, overlooked, and this is why I curated W.O.W. — wild, ornery women, wiser, overlooked women.
Zydalis Bauer: And as you were saying, this — this group of women has been overlooked and ignored, particularly during the 20th century.
Why do you think that was the case? Both of you are artists in this exhibit, as well. What factors do you think contributed to having your voices and your work being dismissed?
Anne Burton, W.O.W. Show Artist: In the sixties, I was an art student being taught by men whose work was in the Museum of Modern Art. And just to give you an example of the way they looked at me, I was working on a piece of sculpture and a very famous artist was behind me. And he and another man, rather than looking at what I was working on, were evaluating my behind and comparing it to the Donatello “David” behind.
So, I was advised by one of them, “You’re a very talented person, but you should get a teaching degree because, you know women don’t make strong enough work to be of museum quality.” So, that’s something that women in the fifties, sixties and seventies and eighties and nineties — until really this century — experienced.
Now, I don’t know whether you can see it, but I’m wearing a piece of jewelry that I made. I was at a workshop. I was, at the time, 75. All of the other people at the workshop were younger. The man teaching it didn’t address me, didn’t look at me. He looked through me.
And when we showed our work at the end of the two-week workshop, he stopped dead in front of this piece and said, “Wow! Did you make that?” And I said, “Yes.” And he looked at me again and he said, “Have you been in this class?”
Need I say more? We were ignored when we were young, now that we’re older, we’re looked right through.
Terry Rooney: We are invisible.
Anne Burton: We’re invisible.
Terry Rooney: Especially when you get silver hair. It feels that you are being looked through.
Zydalis Bauer: I have to say, hearing both of your stories, it makes me emotional because to — to hear, Anne how you described it, being ignored and overlooked at a young age and then having this experience at an older age and still being dismissed.
How does it feel for the both of you to — to have this exhibition and highlight all of this amazing artwork done by these wild, ornery women?
Terry Rooney: I learned from other artists, and especially the ones that I have here. It also, I think coming out from the pandemic, it has been uplifting for these artists to be in a real show, because during the pandemic there were virtual shows, and especially with sculpture, you really can’t appreciate the artwork. And there’s something about the physicality, the texture, the colors, are true, which don’t come through as well in a screen.
Zydalis Bauer: And I know that this exhibit is featuring the work of several artists, a really talented group of artists, that are expressing their outrage in an artistic way.
Talk to me about some of the societal issues that this exhibition addresses.
Terry Rooney: Well, there’s several artists in the show, including Gabrielle Senza, Holly Murray, Anne Burton, who have been addressing climate change in their work.
Gabrielle went on an exploration of Antarctica, and she wore her wedding gown and crawled in the snow and is trying to bring attention to all the melting ice and snow around her.
And she is — wants to do a piece of a huge iceberg. And she did a piece like this in Brattleboro Museum, where it was up for several months. And then at the end of it, she wants to erase the iceberg. I think it’s a wonderful metaphor of what is happening to our planet.
Zydalis Bauer: And then Anne, you’re also one of the featured artists in this exhibition.
Talk to us about some of your artwork that viewers will be able to see and the issues that you chose to address.
Anne Burton: Well, I also chose to address climate change and… the fact that that people are going to be…in need of coming inland. They will be immigrants because they’ll be overwhelmed by the warming ocean.
And the other thing I’m addressing in my piece is, that under the warming ocean is plastic that we’ve discarded. So, I have very purposefully put a mirror in back of my piece so that people can see themselves in it and recognize that we are the cause and that we have to take responsibility.
Zydalis Bauer: So, I know it’s several artwork and pieces in this exhibit, there must be so many different things to look at.
What are some things that people can expect to see when they visit the exhibition?
Terry Rooney: There are many pieces that I’d like to share with you. One is Belinda Lyons-Zuker. She is a Black woman who does these dolls. Her ancestors came from the Gullah section of South Carolina, and she did this beautiful piece that has a flag from a parade from 1865 when Nevada became a state. It is also the first year that Juneteenth was celebrated, and it’s the same year as Belinda’s great grandmother was born, the first one in her family that was not a slave.
Another piece I’d like to bring attention to is Lynn Horan, who has this beautiful piece based on the “Sorry!” board, and she’s in a wheelchair looking at some stairs that she cannot climb.
Also, there are two really very strong pieces from Susan Montgomery of Madea, who is a Greek mythology figure and probably the most ornery woman out there.
And the other artist is Molly Kellogg, who did these luscious paintings of Incognito, which is of women who used messy and wild hairdos and naked to show the women’s magic and their strength.
Zydalis Bauer: What do you think it is about art that’s able to really bring home these issues and kind of connect people to them?
How is art a powerful medium in that way?
Terry Rooney: Art helps the viewer see the world through different eyes. I think it can also be a way of speaking another language to people and to encourage them to see things in a new light.
Zydalis Bauer: So, after being overlooked and dismissed for — for so long, now that your voices are finally being heard and your insights are being appreciated and celebrated, what understanding or take away would you like viewers to leave with after seeing this exhibition.
Terry Rooney: That women are just as talented as men. That we have a unique view that men don’t have. We have the experiences of raising family, taking care of the home. But I think women also are the heart of our country. The heart of our community. And — and I hope that that comes out in the show.