by Larissa Gudino
National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C., is sponsoring Heavy Metal: Arkansas Women to Watch 2019, a traveling art exhibition that will visit eight locations in the Natural State.
The Women to Watch exhibition is a biennial series designed to feature underrepresented and emerging women artists from the states and countries in which the museum has outreach committees. Heavy Metal, the fifth installment of the series, showcases 23 works by four contemporary artists working in iron, steel, bronze, silver, gold, brass, tin, aluminum, copper and pewter.
Guest curator Matthew Smith of the Arkansas Arts Center selected works by Arkansas artists Michele Fox, Amanda Heinbockel, Robyn Horn and Holly Laws to be featured in the 2019 state tour for their ability to challenge “our understanding of metal’s potential – malleable and dynamic” through their work. Their art investigates the physical properties and expressive possibilities of metalwork through a wide variety of objects ranging from large-scale sculpture to small objects, including jewelry, intended for personal adornment.
Fox, a professor of pathology and the head of cell therapy and transfusion medicine in the clinical pathology lab at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, began creating jewelry with found objects as a child. She was inspired by her experience of undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and surgery, and felt the need for safety through a support system. Making jewelry has become a form of therapy. Today, her functioning conceptual jewelry contains intricate works that make a statement on time and skill containing more value than the materials with which they are made.
Heinbockel teaches art at Little Rock Central High School and expresses an affinity for the sciences through her work. Her predominantly copper, brass and sterling silver collection contains detailed patterns from human anatomy, plant root systems and river deltas. Her love for the arts and the allure of wilderness is indicative in her pieces.
Horn’s sculptures express dichotomies – tension and movement, nature and geometry, strength and grace.
“I think in terms of wood and stone, of the things of which nature is made, of the ease with which nature develops into shapes and forms, created throughout centuries of accumulated time,” she says.
Laws, an associate professor of art at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, creates abstract and conceptual pieces meant to be approached viscerally, where the viewers notice their own immediate feelings and questions these reactions within themselves. Her pieces are political and personal.
“The sculptures in this exhibition were created in response to a deep sadness over the divisive state of affairs in the current American political landscape. I wanted to explore the horrible disconnect between the citizens of this nation: the miscommunication, the polarization and the hate. The resurgence of overt misogyny and the backlash against feminism were of particular interest to me.”
Heavy Metal does more than build up women representation in the arts. This exhibit pointedly goes to locations where their representation is needed, in cities that have either a predominantly rural population or a higher percentage of populace that falls into marginalized oppression.
The tour began in Fort Smith and has visited Russellville and Arkadelphia. It will be in Pine Bluff through June 22, before it heads to Springdale, June 29 – July 27; Fayetteville, Aug. 3 – 31; Clarksville, Sept. 7 – Oct. 5; and North Little Rock, Oct. 12 – Nov. 9.
Arkansas Women to Watch 2019: Heavy Metal Tour Schedule
Through June 22
Arts & Sciences Center for Southeast Arkansas
June 29 – July 27
Arts Center of the Ozarks
Aug. 3 – Aug. 31
Sept. 7 – Oct. 5
Stephens Fine Art Gallery at the University of the Ozarks
Oct. 12 – Nov. 9
North Little Rock
William. F. Laman Library