The Latest from American Women Artists

Carrie Waller Abundance

With the upcoming AWA show at the Booth Museum of Western Art in the fall and AWA’s ongoing commitment to museum-level exhibition for its members, we launch an in-depth look at the state of museum representation for women artists, beginning with an exclusive interview with Dr. Scott Shields, Chief Curator of the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California.  Shields, a co-curator of the recent, critically-acclaimed show, Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey, is also a major contributor to the book of the same title, released in conjunction with the exhibit.


Elizabeth Pollie, No. 13, oil 
 17th Annual National 
Juried Competition 

American Women Artists is pleased to announce the finalists for the 17th Annual National Juried Competition, to be exhibited at the  Addison Art Gallery in Orleans, MA this summer. 
Over 350 associate members applied with over 900 entries of work. Our selection jurors for 2014 were very impressed with the high quality of work to review.  Their task was not an easy one; ultimately only 60 artists go on as finalists in the National Juried Competition Exhibit at the Addison Art Gallery from August 15-September 15, 2014.

We thank each and every Associate Member who entered AWA’s National Juried Competition.  The work entries were truly a testimony to the great talent and skill evident in American Women Artists.

Congratulations to the 60 Finalists: 
Fifty paintings and drawings and ten sculptures will be displayed in the 17th Annual National Juried Competition Exhibition at the Addison Art Gallery this summer.  
AWA congratulates the following on being juried into this outstanding showcase of diverse work: Alex Alvis, Carol Amos, Carol Arnold, Tracy Avant, Debbie Baer, Anna Bain, Kathleen Bergstrom, Marlys Boddy, Tina Bohlman, Winifred Booth, Patrice Burkhardt, Marsha Chandler, Jane Chapin, Cecelia Cox, Valerie Craig, Angela de la Vega, Christine Drewyer, Aimee Erickson, Kelli Folsom, Susan Gibson, Kathleen Giles, Zoe Hadley, Jane Hartley, Susan Hecht, Jammey Huggins, Debob Jacob, Maryanne Jacobsen, Barbara Jaenicke, Shelby Keefe, Jenny Kelley, Christine Kidwell, Sheryl Knight, Cally Krallman, Olga Krimon, Anne Laddon, Karen Leffel-Massengill, Susan Lynn, Jane Mason, Sally Maxwell, Georgene McGonagle, Gini Morelock Bosco, Paddi Moyer, Margie Murray, Jean Olliver, Susan French Overstreet, Lori Pandy, Pokey Park, Anne Peyton,
Elizabeth Pollie, Claudia Post, Diana Reuter-Twining, Gladys Roldan-de-Moras, Cathy Rowten, Fay Shutzer, Betty Smith, Laurie Stevens, Cathryne Trachok, Burneta Venosdel, Sarah Webber and Kathie Wheeler.

Catherine Trachok, Sun Dance, graphite drawing 
Jammey Huggins, Bronze Vessel of the Raven
Jane Hartley, Knot on Time, oil


Reminder to Master Signature & Signature Members:
April 12th Deadline for Consignment Forms & Images for Annual Member Show 
at Addison Art Gallery
To all Master Signature and Signature Members planning to participate in the 17th Annual Master Signature & Signature Member Show this summer, please send in your completed consignment forms and images to by April 12th.  Thank you!

Women on the Walls: Old Works get New Life at Crocker Art Museum 

By Nicole Cardoza

With the upcoming AWA show at the Booth Museum of Western Art in the fall and AWA’s ongoing commitment to museum-level exhibition for its members, we launch an in-depth look at the state of museum representation for women artists, beginning with an exclusive interview with Dr. Scott Shields, Chief Curator of the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California.  Shields, a co-curator of the recent, critically-acclaimed show, Edgar Payne: The Scenic Journey, is also a major contributor to the book of the same title, released in conjunction with the exhibit.  


Crocker Art Museum’s Chief Curator, Scott Shields beside Mary Curtis Richardson’s painting Portrait of Mary Blanche Hubbard

When Scott Shields took over as Chief Curator at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, he recalls that there were significant gaps in collections, notably, that women artists were not well represented. Opened as the E.B. Crocker Art Gallery in 1872, the Crocker is one of the leading arts institutions in California and the longest continuously operating art museum in the Western United States.

Originally from Nebraska, the 45-year-old Chief Curator holds a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Kansas with an emphasis on California art. Shields has written books on Edgar Payne, Edwin Deakin and an in-depth history of The Monterey Peninsula Art Colony.  In his 15 years with the museum Shields has seen the number of women artists in the collection grow from  dozens to more than a thousand. In fact, Shields estimates that now women artists represent roughly fifteen percent of the collection – a stark contrast to other major museums, where the numbers of women artists represented is bleak, typically less than five percent.

According to The National Museum for Women in the Arts, in Washington D.C., 51 percent of today’s visual artists are women, yet only five percent of the art currently on display in American museums is by women artists.

                Dr. Shields made it a priority to shift the balance. 

“I wanted to tell a broader story,” Shields says. “I think people want to see themselves represented on the walls when they visit.”

 He began by excavating the museum’s long-lost treasures hidden away in crates,  warehouses and the museum’s basement.  His surprising discoveries suggest museums around the country can exhibit more women artists with a critical review of their own holdings.

While showing off a restored seventeenth century floral still life by Maria van Oosterwyck,

Maria van Oosterwyck, 
Still life with Flowers
Shields remembers the masterwork of the Dutch Golden Age as being unrecognizable when he found it in storage.

“You couldn’t even see it at first – we thought the frame was worth more than the painting,” Shields recalls.

Popular among European royalty and collected by many during her lifetime – including the Pope – van Oosterwyck’s story is unfortunately, representative of most of the women artists of her era.   As a well-known painter, she commanded large sums for her work but was never allowed to join the painters’ guild and was not considered a professional artist by many in her day because of her gender. She is one of the only woman whose work the Crocker has from that time period. Shields’ explanation for this common phenomenon is sad and simple – woman artists were not taken seriously and their work was not often collected or preserved. Centuries of work by women artists has been lost to time.

While building an extensive collection of California impressionists, Shields made another discovery in the Crocker’s vast body of stored works – a large portrait by Mary Curtis Richardson, the painter known as the “Mary Cassatt of the West.” The 1889 painting, of the one-time Mayor of Sacramento’s wife in a white Grecian-style dress, was so filthy from years of neglect that Shields didn’t know what he had at first.

“It was really a shock to find this huge, dirty thing and then to see this pure, white dress revealed,” Shields says.

Shields goes on to suggest that competition and impersonation as additional reasons why the work of women artists has not always received its due. In the paintings of early 20th century plein air painter, Marion Kavanagh Wachtel and the craft work of Arthur Frank Mathews (it is believed his wife Lucia contributed to many of his pieces), Shields points out examples of women who chose not to promote their own careers, so as not to compete with their artist husbands. While some women artists stepped out of the limelight, others obscured their sex with a signature like California impressionist E. Charlton Fortune – who used her first initial throughout her career.  These tactics were not uncommon for women artists who were often dismissed because of their gender.

E. Charlton Fortune, Feeding Time 

For most of the pieces Shields has discovered in his fifteen years at the museum he can recollect an amusing anecdote about the origin, the artist and how the museum came to display it. Touring the museum with him, the works come alive with his tales of sometimes temperamental artists and collectors, financial roadblocks faced, and unexpected finds in the hundreds of works the museum holds in storage. Whether he is talking about the time now-deceased ceramic artist Toshiko Takaezu ordered him to “pick something” for the museum from her New Jersey home or watching British wood sculptor Barbara Spring making art with a chainsaw in her nineties, Shields personal connection to the pieces on display at the museum is vibrant.  His commitment to broaden the ever-expanding Crocker Museum holdings by women artists is a journey that began in the museum’s own backyard, unearthing rare works and bringing lost treasures to light. 

AWA Welcomes New Master Signature Members 


AWA is pleased to welcome two new Master Signature Members in 2014, Denise LaRue Mahlke and Sherry Salari Sander.  

Painter LaRue Mahlke began drawing at an early age and eventually taught herself pastels using books she checked out from the local library. Her family’s move to the Texas hill country inspired her to work in Plein Air which she credits for teaching her learn editing, composition and design. LaRue Mahlke is a returning member to AWA and was honored to be asked join the organization once again.

“AWA is impressive as an organization because of the high quality of artists in the group, they are about excellence and growing – supporting for each other,” LaRue Mahlke says.  ” The fellowship is an important thing when you have a solitary kind of job, being a part off something bigger is good for all of us.” 

Montana-based sculptor Salari-Sander‘s work is greatly influenced by the natural world. As a teacher, she says, the hardest thing to show someone is how to see – to get all the detail needed. When Salari-Sander started her professional career it was still largely a field dominated by men, so much so that she signed her name S. Sander. Success in the arts is just as much a gift of talent, luck and circumstance as hard work according to Salari-Sander.  

“I don’t wait until I am inspired because then I’d never get anything done,” Salari-Sander says, “Women that stay in this business for the long haul need each other, you have to be tough and tenacious through the ups and downs.” 


White Tail DeerSherry Salari Sander, Montana, Master Signature Member
CommunionDenise LaRue Mahlke
Texas, Master Signature Member

AWA Board and Officers 2014
Ann Larsen, President, Edinburg, NY 
Kathrine Lemke Waste, Vice President, Sacramento, CA
Ann Self, Treasurer, Hutchinson, KS
Paula Holtzclaw, Secretary, Waxhaw, NC
Carol Swinney, Immediate Past President, Casper, WY
Bethanne Kinsella Cople, Past President, Alexandria, VA
DeBob Jacob, Maypearl, TX