Marilyn Artus

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 started 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.

 

ABOUT ME

I’m an artist and a woman, and my work explores the female experience.

This exploration has led me to take on roles as a curator, designer, burlesque promoter and female artist mentor. I have created shows that explore the suffragist era in the U.S., paid tribute to an assortment of women in US history, and continue to expose the many different stereotypes that women navigate on a daily basis.

I grew up in Texas and Oklahoma, spent two years at University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, then finished a Bachelor of Fine Arts in printmaking at the University of Oklahoma. I worked for 13 years in the gift industry designing products and packaging for United Design Corporation and Relevant Products for manufacturing worldwide.

In 2008 I became a full-time visual artist.

In 2003 I co-founded The Girlie Show, a two-day, annual all-female art, music and craft festival in Oklahoma City. The Girlie Show drew artisans from all over the United States to exhibit, celebrate, encourage, and showcase female talent. Every year we worked to exhibit and promote creativity, and we awarded a deserving female art or design student a $1,000 scholarship. The show ran successfully through 2013, when we all moved on to other goals.

Some of the highlights of my art career so far have been solo and group shows in Oklahoma, Tennessee and Washington,  the first to receive the annual Brady Craft Alliance Award for Innovation in Fiber Arts in 2011, and in 2010 leading an art making workshop at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City in association with the retrospective exhibit Seductive Subversion: Women Pop Artists, 1958-1968. I also was selected to exhibit in the premier exhibition of “Elevate” on the guest room floor elevator lobbies at the 21c Museum Hotel in Oklahoma City.