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"Daring From Within: The Art of American Women from the Sellars Collection"
2001-09-28 until 2002-01-13
Walter Anderson Museum of Art
Ocean Springs, MS, USA United States of America

The new exhibition, Daring from Within: The Art of American Women from the Sellars Collection, will open at the Walter Anderson Museum of Art on Friday, September 28. Featuring approximately eighty works of art by American women from the noteworthy collection of Alan and Louise Sellars, an adjunct exhibition of Mississippi women artists complements the collection. Watercolors and drawings of women by Walter Anderson will be on exhibit in the Galleria.

A sheltered life can be a daring life . . . for all serious daring starts from within.

These words closed Eudora Welty's biographical sketch, One Writer's Beginnings, which she delivered at Harvard University in 1983. Welty came from a sheltered environment but that did not keep her from becoming the South's most prominent woman writer of the twentieth century, winning the Pulitzer Prize as well as the American Book Award.

The women in this exhibition have been daring both inwardly and outwardly. Choosing art as a profession in the late nineteenth century was a bold act for a woman. Social forces constantly emphasized the importance of respectability for women, defined as silence, invisibility and passivity (except perhaps in the American West, where art was not much of an option for pioneers). Artistic success required moving actively in public to seek and assure an audience for one's art. That changed only slowly in the early twentieth century. In 1920, when women gained the right to vote, more liberal thinking women became more visible throughout society. Yet, it was not until World War II that women often took over the work of men to keep the country running. Art, however, was one of the professions, like law or medicine, which continued to be traditionally associated with men.

Art made by women has been largely ignored throughout much of cultural history. Only now are great artists such as Artemesia Gentilleschi, Rosa Bonheur, and Mary Cassatt finally making their appearance in the art history tomes along with great male artists. The art of American women is even further behind in acknowledgement. To be sure, Georgia O'Keefe's later works have been extolled and are best sellers in notecards and calendars, and Judy Chicago's work has been on the cutting edge of the Feminist movement over the last twenty years. But little is known of the American women artists from 1850 to 1930. There were many artists of skill and insight who were painting on a regular basis during these years when women were still struggling to get to vote, and it is on the artists from this period that the Sellars collection of Art by American Women focuses.

Louise and Alan Sellars set out to collect works by women artists, because women seemed to be so underrepresented. Alan Sellars noted that of the approximately 25,000 artists working between 1880-1930, probably forty percent were women, but fewer than five percent were shown in museums. While living in Marietta, Georgia, the Sellars amassed the largest collection of art of this kind in the country. Their collection brought to light the sheer breadth and brilliance of this body of work. The collection now resides in Indianapolis with their daughter, Sue Sellars Rice, Curator for the Sellars Collection.

The state of Mississippi has a strong history in the visual arts as well. From the portraits and landscapes of the nineteenth century, the twentieth century blossomed into a veritable garden of visual activity. The Fugitives, a 1922 group of intellectuals at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, were among the first to call for visual artists as well as writers to nurture the spirit and traditions of the South. The cry was taken up on the Mississippi Gulf Coast even earlier. William Woodward, along with his wife Louise Amelia Giesen, moved to Ocean Springs from New Orleans and later settled in Biloxi. Woodward and Giesen were the founders of Newcomb Pottery. Woodward and his brother Ellsworth, a frequent visitor, became catalysts for art activity on the coast.

In Art in Mississippi, artist and art historian Patti Carr Black credits Annette McConnell Anderson with an even greater impact on the Gulf Coast and, ultimately, on the history of art in Mississippi. Anderson was an artist with training by Ellsworth Woodward, J. Alden Weir, and William Merritt Chase, and the fourth painter to be given a one-person show by the Delgado Museum (now the New Orleans Museum of Art). She purchased 24 acres of land in Ocean Springs in 1918, moved there with her family in 1922, and started Shearwater Pottery with her oldest son, Peter, in 1928. Anderson fiercely nurtured the careers of her three artist sons, Peter, Walter and Mac, and taught art the rest of her life. She is the matriarch of the Anderson family, and The Walter Anderson Museum of Art is dedicated to the collection and exhibition of the work of her three sons.

Annette McConnell Anderson's work is included in this exhibition as the vital link between the Anderson family and the collection of American women artists. Second generation Anderson women artists are included in the exhibition along with representative works by other noted Mississippi women--Marie Hull and Dusti Bonge, who were close friends with the Anderson family; Theora Hamblett; Mary T. Smith; Caroline Compton; Mildred Wolfe; and Eudora Welty. Artwork of Mississippi women has been exhibited at the Whitney, Museum of Modern Art in New York, Corcoran, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Art Institute of Chicago, and National Museum for Women in the Arts. As an ancillary to this collection, an exhibition of contemporary Mississippi women artists is being hosted by the Mississippi State Committee (MSC) of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) on the Jefferson Davis Campus of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College through Thanksgiving.

Since its opening in 1987 in Washington, DC, NMWA has pursued the goal of bringing recognition to the achievements of women artists in a broad variety of artistic disciplines. The MSC, along with other State Committees, is a vital component in this effort. Formed in 1998, MSC has taken as its primary focus the promotion of the work of state artists, art education in the schools, and on the badge program for Girl Scouts of the USA. MSC is composed of a diverse and enthusiastic membership from across Mississippi.

The Walter Anderson Museum of Art is located at 510 Washington Avenue in Ocean Springs, MS. Museum operations are supported in part by a grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency. Exhibition sponsors for 2000-2001 are Donald and Anne Bradburn, The Family of Walter Anderson, First Chemical Corporation, Richard and Rosemary Furr, Yellow Book USA, and the late Mrs. Arthemise Blossman.

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