The Transit of Venus chronicles four decades of Front Range Women in the Visual Arts
Front Range Women in the Visual Arts was born in 1974 as a response to severe inequalities in the art world: There was not a single female art faculty member at the University of Colorado. Now celebrating its fortieth anniversary, the arts group is the subject of the retrospective The Transit of Venus: Four Decades of Front Range Women in the Visual Arts, featuring work by 25 artists, which opens Friday and will be up through February 23 at RedLine. The show marks the beginning of RedLine's year-long focus on female artists in the She Crossed the Line series, and was curated by William Biety. "To be asked to curate the show was one of the compliments of my curatorial and human experience," he says. In advance of the opening, we spoke with Biety about the impact of Front Range Women in the Visual Arts on today's dynamic Denver art scene.
Meridel Rubenstein Front Range Women in the Visual Arts, A Decade of Women's Art, Boulder Center for the Visual Arts, 1984.
Westword: Who are the Front Range Women in Visual Arts, and what will the show encompass?
Sally Elliott, "Corazon Con Ojos De Pescado," 34" x 74", gouache on paper
William Biety: It was a group of women who gathered in 1974 to help to support each other primarily, but also because they were mostly Boulder-centered and the University of Colorado had no female art faculty or art history faculty and weren't hiring any of them. These were all university-trained artists. So they started working at making inroads into the institutions to get more parity for women in the arts. Over forty years, they've influenced each other, as I can see from looking at all the work, in many subtle levels. Aside from the fact that they really exacerbated immense change in the institutions they were involved with, I think they've also helped each other to a deeper awareness of women's positions in the world and how to change that and how to make personal change as well. It's been very fascinating to me to work with them, because everybody's late-fifties, sixties, some in their seventies now, and all have kept working. All have maintained their studio practice and careers and have engaged their communities very heavily and most of them have also raised families. It's a group of very dynamic personalities who were about helping each other and helping the population of women artists. From what I've seen, they've made very interesting inroads in the institutions that they set out to remake.
How did they create change in the university system?
They really lobbied to get women hired as faculty and it started happening. Many of them went on to teach at CU as faculty or as adjunct faculty. It really made a difference. They stood up and said, What's the deal? Why aren't you hiring women? Don't you think it's odd that a greater percentage of your classes are women and you have no women teaching?
What do you hope that people take away after coming to see the show?
I hope that people get what I've gotten, which is a deeper understanding of how relatively small and subtle action can really institute and foster change in society. What I've really learned from my exposure to this group is that while doing what they do they also changed attitudes in themselves as well as their environment. It's a sense of community, I think, that I really hope people come away with. Along with the realization that work that has originated in this region is really top quality. Many of the artists have gone on to international careers and are still very engaged. Betty Woodman had a full one-woman retrospective of her work at the Metropolitan in New York and Barbara Takenaga is showing at one of the top New York galleries. Their reach has expanded.