In 2012 the Town of Taos approved and launched a P.R./Marketing campaign called The Remarkable Women of Taos.
The idea came from a suggestion made by the late art dealer/gallery owner, thespian and writer, Steve Parks (see his Artlines archives under Taos Links on the blog sidebar), who remarked that the Town of Taos theme for 2012 should be the Remarkable Women of Taos. Steve noted that the Harwood Museum of Art was already planning an exhibition of Agnes Martin’s 100th birthday to coincide with New Mexico’s centennial statehood celebration, and he had the idea that if the five Taos museums would create theme-related exhibitions, these would become a springboard for a cohesive Marketing push.
The late writer, Liz Cunningham, was commissioned to write about 30 women (past and present), and (UNM-Taos DMA Chair), Peter Walker was hired to make a Promotional video.
Remarkable Women of Taos struck a chord, both in the community and beyond; Taos will forever be known for the inspirational women who shaped its reputation as an Art Colony and continue to inform its present and future.
One of those women is Janet Webb who at the time of this campaign, was heading up Market Taos/Taos.org (which she did for 35 years.) Janet continues to impact the way Taos is perceived by the outside world, and her unique background in the Arts and as the longtime partner of the artist, Larry Bell, gives her a singular perspective.
Janet spent 35 years putting Taos on the map, while juggling that relationship, motherhood (she and Larry have three children together), and a busy career. This alone qualifies her as a member of this pantheon of women. But she has done and continues to do, so much more.
This winter, I have received emails from several Art Fairs and Museums around the globe including a show in Vienna (which just began), and Art Paris (coming up in April), reaching out to see if I would like to do pieces on their events.
What got my attention (besides the fact that having reached out to me, these esteemed institutions evidently consider Taos to be an important Art hub), was a common thread running through several of these missives; art by women.
Flying High ( at Bank Austria, Kuntsforum Feb 15 – June 2019), is the first exhibition that is devoted “globally” to female positions in Art Brut produced from 1860 until the present. The exhibition (curated by women), has gathered together 316 works by 93 women artists from 21 countries, which challenge our idea of what art is. The exhibition adopts the term Art Brut – raw art or outsider art – defined by Jean Dubuffet in 1945 as a starting point for the primordial, non-academic art produced outside the cultural mainstream.
“The history of female Art Brut artists reflects the history of women’s emancipation on a precarious level: they have always been “the outsiders among outsiders”. The Press Release informs us. “Art Brut has never been treated on a par with the “high arts”. Since women first have to conquer their place both within Art Brut and also beyond feminist art, it is high time for a presentation of their works.”
Art Paris opening at the Grand Palais April 4th – 7th, is being touted as “a sparkling 21st edition focusing on Women Artists and Latin America”
Also taking a thematic approach, the 21st edition of the fair will bring together 150 modern and contemporary art galleries under the majestic glass ceiling of the Grand Palais. Art Paris has an identity all of its own: an international art fair, it focuses on new discoveries, as well as placing special emphasis on the European scene from the post-war years to the present day, whilst exploring the new horizons of international creation, whether in Asia, Africa, the Middle East or Latin America.
A Gaze At Women Artists In France presents a critical and subjective overview of the work of women artists in France from the post-war period to the present day with 25 projects selected from amongst the exhibits of participating galleries. With Latin American Art Art Paris explores Latin American art from the 1960s to the present. Around twenty European, Asian and Latin American galleries are presenting an ensemble of 60 Argentinean, Brazilian, Chilean, Columbian, Cuban, Mexican, Peruvian and Venezuelan artists.
These notices in my inbox, immediately brought to mind the Work by Women show at the Harwood Museum of Art, here in Taos last year, curated by Janet Webb and Judy Kendall.
An ambitious project that utilised every gallery space in the building, Work by Women put the remarkable women (artists) of Taos in the spotlight, From Agnes Martin to Erin Currier (Steve Parks was her first dealer), the two women left no stone unturned, as they carefully gathered the works that would showcase these artists in the best light.
Well clearly there has been a ripple effect, so I reached out to Janet to talk to her about Art in Taos impacting Art Internationally. We met at Manzanita Market for lunch. I was running late and Janet was already there when I arrived, I ordered and we got down to business right away. Janet did not seem at all surprised by these Art Fairs and Museums contacting me.
“Taos has always attracted women in the Arts,” she explained. “And three of the most important women artists of our time lived here in New Mexico; Georgia O’Keeffe, Agnes Martin and Judy Chicago.”
Not to mention all the others. Soon after the Harwood show (which she was a part of), Maye Torres had a show by women at her gallery Studio 107-b. Hundreds of women responded to her call for entry. Far too many to keep track of, let alone include. “The list was endless,” she told me at the time.
I mentioned this to Janet, and she, in turn, reminded me of The Remarkable Women of Taos project, which also reached out to the community for individual stories. Hundreds of women from all of our diverse communities had left their mark on Taos in one way or another. Many of them, artists. “Look, Taos has always been a destination for artists and art collectors,” she said. “And right now we seem to be enjoying somewhat of a renaissance.”
“The Harwood shows (including Larry Bell’s show last summer), have been getting good publicity and with Judy Chicago’s show opening there this summer, we are bound to get even more.”
I asked her what she thought was driving this renewed interest in Taos, particularly younger (female), artists beginning to move here in record numbers
She talked about how the Remarkable Women of Taos campaign has had an effect, along with the appeal to millennial artists of an “off the grid” lifestyle.
“I think Mike Reynolds has had a big influence with his Earthships,” she mused. “Young people are drawn to that lifestyle, and the fact that it’s becoming unaffordable to be a young artist in the cities.
“Meow Wolf is doing interesting things, as well as The Paseo perhaps.” She noted. “It’s probably a combination of factors.”
And no doubt has something to do with the light.
We discussed the Art scene in Taos, which we both agree is very vibrant, but we also shared a frustration regarding the lack of relevant (to Contemporary Art being made now), Galleries, except for Maye’s, Magpie and a few others. “They seem to be in a bit of a time warp.” I said.
Janet agreed, but she was hopeful that would soon change as well, pointing out that the new businesses opening in the long empty spaces along the Paseo (alongside her daughter Rachel Bell’s Shank), include an artist owned gallery. “Perhaps that’s the wave of the future.” She said.
Our conversation circled back around to the subject of Art Fairs. She mentioned the success of the Santa Fe Art Fair which is separate from SITE Santa Fe. In December Janet had gone with other Harwood Board Members and Faculty, to Art Basel in Miami. “I really didn’t know what to expect,” Janet told me, “but I ended up loving it.”
“There was none of the elitist snobbery attached like there can be when going into a gallery in NYC for example.”
“It was very democratic,” she explained. “Gallery after gallery with artists and people from everywhere passing through, it was really exciting and there was some fantastic new art.”
At the same time, both Larry Bell and Judy Chicago were showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Miami. “Judy was on the second floor and Larry was on the third.” Janet smiled, bringing it all back home. To Taos.
Judy Chicago’s upcoming Harwood show will inevitably seal Taos’ reputation once and for all as a mecca for women in the Arts. “ Judy’s work is interesting in this regard,” said Janet, who has worked with the artist. “Because it has always been about the feminine journey.”
Judy Chicago is an American feminist artist and writer known for her large collaborative art installations that riff on birth and creation images, examining the role of women in history and culture. By the 1970s, Chicago had founded the first feminist art program in the United States. Her work incorporates disparate elements such as needlework juxtaposed with unlikely pairings such as welding and pyrotechnics.
Chicago’s most well-known work is The Dinner Party, which is permanently installed in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. The Dinner Party celebrates the accomplishments of women throughout history and is widely regarded as the first epic feminist artwork. Other notable art projects by Chicago include International Honor Quilt, The Birth Project, Powerplay, and The Holocaust Project.
“Her newest project is about Death.” Janet told me. Apropos as this fearless woman artist enters her 80’s.
Chicago, despite her name, is a long time New Mexico resident. And here in Taos (JUDY CHICAGO: THE BIRTH PROJECT FROM NEW MEXICO COLLECTIONS, Opening Reception, Sunday, June 2, 2019 from 3-5pm), the Harwood show features her work exclusively from New Mexico collections.
Judy Chicago collaborated with more than 150 needle workers between 1980 and 1985 to create dozens of images combining painting and needlework that celebrate the birth process. This series celebrates the life-giving capacity of women along with their creative spirit and spirit of endurance. Drawing from the Harwood’s collection as well as from the University of New Mexico Art Museum, Through the Flower, Judy Chicago’s non-profit feminist art organization, and other New Mexico collections, this show is as timely as it is important.
In this Me2 era Feminism has found its new footing with a wave of women voted into Congress here in the States, among other indications that the current Zeitgeist is dominated by women’s refusal to remain silent and subservient any longer. Last week in Paris, Dior’s designer Maria Grazia Chiuri ( who created the “We should all be feminists” T-shirts to herald fashion’s new mood in 2016), sent three new mantras down the runway;: “Sisterhood is global”, “Sisterhood is powerful” and “Sisterhood is forever”.
And nowhere is that more evident, than in the Arts.
For more information on Judy Chicago’s show at the Harwood Museum of Art, please visit the site linked below this post.
Janet Webb blogs about the Arts in New Mexico on her website, Beyond Taos.
For information about Flying High in Vienna and Art Paris at the Grand Palais this spring, please see their sites linked below.
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