Across styles and mediums, strong women will be the focus of “Making Her Mark,” the June show at the Kenai Art Center featuring the work of Charlotte Coots, Abbey Ulen and Shannon Olds.
The show features both paintings and ceramic sculptures — the paintings by Coots and Ulen, the sculptures by Olds.
Coots’ paintings feature women from religious texts like the Bible, the Quran and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Ulen’s paintings come from photos of local homesteaders, including some of her own family members. The sculptures by Olds are more abstract, but she said that each was inspired by members of her family.
The show was borne of a conversation between Coots and Ulen as they collaborated during one of the November mural shows. They said they both were interested in holding a show, but they both were unsure they could fill the gallery.
Ulen was working on a series of pieces inspired by her old family photos, and Coots had been working on the pieces inspired by “peeling back” layers of scripture.
“We decided that they’re all highlighting women’s choices and what they made in generational history,” Ulen said. “It went together, naturally and organically.”
The pair of painters were interested in having an artist involved who brought more three-dimensional work, and they said Olds immediately came to mind.
On Tuesday, as the three placed their work around the gallery in preparation for display, Ulen said it was the first time everything had been in the same space.
Olds said they approached her and told her they were working on a show about “women that you know who have done small deeds that have led to great feats.” She said she knew women like that.
“With my work in particular, I thought about my daughters,” Olds said. “I thought about my grandmother, my great grandmother.”
Olds said that she found inspiration in the strength her family members have shown.
Translating those personal stories through her work means being vulnerable, Olds said, producing art that anyone can look at and critique. She said that each of her works represents a choice, one that she made to put that creativity into the world rather than using her time another way.
That vulnerability was also discussed by Coots, who said that the prospect of opening the show on Friday was “exciting,” but also “scary.” She said she had to grapple with doubt as she returned from years dormant without creating much artwork, wondering if anyone would be interested in anything she had to say.
“You have to be strong enough to say it’s still important that I do this, even if it’s just for me,” she said. “This is an important thing that I want to share.”
Coots said that her work, each of which includes a motif of paper being peeled back, was inspired by peeling away some wallpaper in her home.
“Each time I’d peel a layer back, there’d be something underneath,” she said. “Each layer peels back and you learn a little bit more about the story.”
That became an examination of women in scripture, Coots said. Of their emotions and of the decisions they would have to make. She said she was peeling back the stories to connect with the women, digging deeper into stories that she knew and stories that she didn’t.
For more information, visit kenaiartcenter.org or facebook.com/KenaiArtCenter.