Museum Founder Judges AAUW’s Art ContestMay 10, 2013
Followers of the AAUW Art Contest were aware that this year was somewhat special. We welcomed two guest judges from the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA): founder (and AAUW member) Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Executive Director Susan Fisher Sterling. I recently had the opportunity to join them, AAUW’s Linda Hallman, and other AAUW staff for the ribbon cutting of the NMWA Award of Distinction winner, Winged Migration in Black and White. Painted by AAUW Oakland-Piedmont (CA) Branch Member Rita Sklar, the work was selected by Holladay and Sterling from the six winners of this year’s contest and a framed copy will be proudly displayed in the board room at AAUW’s national headquarters.
After the ribbon was cut, I had the honor of asking Mrs. Holladay a few questions.
Q: What are some of the key challenges women still face in the art field?
A: Well, things have improved, but actually there is very little change overall. For example, relatively few people in our country know Mary Cassatt. So in our country, women artists simply are not known. There are a few, like Louise Bourgeois, who are perhaps better known, but basically women artists are still unknown. We like to think we’ve improved it to a degree but there’s a long way to go.
Q: What compelled you to get involved with AAUW on this project?
A: I think AAUW is a wonderful organization and it has many members — over 165,000. Our goal is to make people aware of the contributions of women to art, and here was a wonderful opportunity to be associated with many, many people in an attempt to highlight a woman artist, so it was really our privilege. It was a wonderful opportunity for us. We were so pleased to be asked.
Q: Do you have a favorite artist?
A: My favorite artist, and it’s changed over the years, is now Gwen John. Gwen John is an English artist, and I love her work because she invites you in. It’s one of the reasons I like this one so much [gesturing to the framed Winged Migration in Black and White]. Her brother Augustus John was very well known and he said, “Someday I will be known as Gwen John’s brother.” When the Tate [museum] in London had a big show of the two of them, my husband and I were invited because we loaned several paintings for the exhibition. I was so excited because the next morning when the newspapers covered the show they featured Gwen John rather than her brother. It was a great discovery.
Q: Why did you choose Winged Migration in Black and White as the NMWA Award of Distinction winner?
A: Well, first of all, I’ve learned to trust my reaction. I’ve looked at a great deal of art and when I saw this one, I reacted — it spoke to me. I find it reminiscent of Chinese art …and I have a very close feeling with Chinese art. I think this one is a beautiful, beautiful picture of the birds.
Holladay was pleased to be the first to receive this year’s set of AAUW Art Contest note cards featuring our six winners, including Winged Migration in Black and White. Members, be sure to look out for your set in the mail!