THE RIGHT OF CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES TO VOTE SHALL NOT BE DENIED OR ABRIDGED BY THE UNITED STATES OR BY ANY STATE ON ACCOUNT OF SEX.
— 19th Amendment, U.S. Constitution —
100 years. 36 states. 1 artist’s journey.
2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It took almost a year for 36 states to ratify it into law. But on August 18, 1920, my foresisters woke up with the right to speak their voice into the policies and the people that steer this nation. Finally, they could vote.
To celebrate, Marilyn Artus will travel the path of ratification and collaborate with a female artist in all 36 states. Each will create a stripe that she will stitch together onsite in their capital city.
This journey and this flag are a tribute to the women who were bold enough to fight for this amendment and the men who were bold enough to ratify it.
My family is from rural Texas, a long, flat place with more dirt and more sky than you’ve ever seen, and where to this day luxuries look like Internet service and four channels on your rabbit ears.
In this place, the career paths of the women in my family were also long and flat, consisting, yes, of dirt and sky, but also of marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, child-rearing, meal preparation, and chores. Rinse and repeat.
I do not remember one of them asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Their choices were limited, and so, by proxy, were mine. They had no role models outside of the home, and so, by proxy, neither did I.
As I little girl growing up in the 1970s and 80s, the school text books were mighty thin with women to look to for role models. The women in my family we not necessarily interested in the feminist movement and Susan B. Anthony was not someone I identified with at that point.
It wasn't until I quit my commercial art job and begin finally making my own work, that a feminist voice came roaring out of me. Honestly, it kinda startled me.
Fast forward to a few years ago, when I created works about the suffragist era in the U.S. Through my research I collided with some fascinating women: Paulina Wright Davis, Victoria Woodhull, Elizabeth Oakes Smith, Ellen Curtis Demorest, Frances Wright, Harriet Hubband Ayer, Jane Cunningham Croly, Lucy Stone, Miriam Leslie and Sarah Josepha Hale.
They were complex and real.
They were complicated.
They were activists.
They were passionate.
They were groundbreakers.
Here were my role models.
WHERE THIS FLAG THING CAME FROM
When I was 14 years old, I took a school trip to Washington, D.C. and visited the Smithsonian Museum. Even though much of it was missing, my strongest memory is of the colossal flag that hung over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the war of 1812. It was the star-spangled banner, and the inspiration for the poem by Francis Scott Key that later became our national anthem.
Here was a moment in history that I could relate to. A woman had created this important thing — it was sewn by her hands, just as a young girl I had watched my mother sew clothes for me.
To this day my experience at that museum manifests itself in my art making.
I love my country, and I celebrate its potential.
Marilyn Artus is a visual artist based in Oklahoma, and her work explores the female experience and women’s issues. She has created shows that explore the suffragist era in the U.S., pays tribute to an assortment of women in U.S. history and continues to collide the many different stereotypes that women navigate through on a daily basis.
After graduating with a bachelor of Fine Arts degree she worked for 16 years as a commercial artist. In 2003, she co-founded The Girlie Show, an all female art festival in Oklahoma City that drew artisans from all over the United States to exhibit, celebrate, encourage and showcase female talent, that ran for 10 years. Each year, the organization awarded a $1,000 grant to a selected female art or design student. She also founded a branch of Dr. Sketchy's Anti Art School, a cabaret life drawing class that she owned for 3 years in OKC.
Other career highlights include solo exhibitions in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington. She was awarded the Brady Craft Alliance Award for Innovation in fiber arts in 2011 and led an art making workshop at the Brooklyn Museum in New York in conjunction with a retrospective exhibition of female pop art. She has also exhibited at the 21c Museum Hotel and the Gaylord Pickens Museum in Oklahoma City.
In 2017 Marilyn was invited by the Science Museum of Oklahoma to create a piece for their exhibit Sole Expressions, which focused entirely on shoes. For this piece Marilyn created a large flag, In Our Shoes, composed of shoes images from 364 of her Facebook friends. The collaboration of In Our Shoes has been one of the inspirations for Marilyn’s most recent undertaking, Her Flag.
Marilyn is part of an upcoming group show, In Her Hands, which will be shown at the Robert Mann Gallery in New York City from June 14 through August 17, 2018. A unique and timely exhibition, In Her Hands connects women artists working in the tradition of women's work with progressive women candidates running for office in the 2018 elections. Marilyn’s piece, Connie Walked Into the Chamber Knowing the Fight Would Be Hard, is a tribute to Connie Johnson who is running for governor of Oklahoma. The work is vintage ephemera and plastic that is machine and hand stitched together on paper.
Next June, Marilyn will be hitting the road for a 14 month road-trip across the U.S. in celebration of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote. Her Flag will be a collaboration of 36 female artists from across the 36 states that ratified the 19th amendment granting women the right to vote nearly 100 years ago. Her Flag will span 18’ x 36. The size of the flag is not the only thing that is large about this project—Her Flag will be used to celebrate this important historic anniversary, educate people about the long fight women had to gain this right and to empower women to get involved in politics.
As the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment approaches, I’ve taken a fresh look at the suffragist era again and will be creating a work to educate and celebrate this important anniversary.
I recently, collaborated with 364 friends on Facebook to create a large scale work and have been using the American flag for feminist exploration. I have also been feeling the need to experiment with performance art.
This project will include those three things: collaboration, the American flag, and performance art.
I met with fellow artists, curators and art leaders to talk out my passion for this cause and to figure out what the work would actually look like. I care so much about this project I found myself frozen. What could I make that would be worthy of this cause?
In 2020 I’ll travel the path of ratification to collaborate with a female artist in all 36 states. Each of these amazing women will create a stripe that I’ll stitch together in a public location in their capital city. The people of each state are invited to celebrate this anniversary with me.
The culmination will be a new flag sewn as a thank you and a love letter to the states that gave women the right to vote.
This project is about moving forward. This project is not about Democrats or Republicans. It is about Americans. It is about celebrating an important anniversary in our history. And it is about evaluating how we can encourage more women to run for political office.
The year 2020 will be a presidential election year. It will be a tough year full of negative politics. I hope that all who participate or witness this project will have a moment of pride and a respite from the political mayhem that is sure to be swirling around us in 2020.
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The piece is a 9" x 12" machine stitched work on paper. On June 29th, Marilyn will randomly draw a name from all that have signed up to be on the list.
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