Cuyun, a Minneapolis artist with Guatemalan roots, has two
pieces in "Phenomenal," an exhibition of artwork by women
of color at AICHO. Click on the photo for the full view. Submitted
On Wednesday afternoon, it was possible that the paint was still
wet on Karen Savage's submission to "Phenomenal," an upcoming art
exhibition of works by women of color.
The topic is just as fresh.
Savage, moved by the recent school shooting at Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., created "End of the Day."
The piece, set in a forest, shows four parents in varying stages
of letting go or not letting go. One clings to a blue sphere,
another holds his like a snow globe. One put his hand next to the
image of a child's hand within the sphere, and another lets hers
float away with a path of butterflies. There are 17 spheres
one for each of the people who died in the mid-February attack.
"What does it look like when your child is no longer here,"
Savage is one of the more than 30 artists who submitted work
to the exhibition at the Dr. Robert Powless Cultural Center in downtown
Duluth. The opening reception for "Phenomenal" 5:30 p.m.
Saturday also will include a ceremony honoring 10 women who
have been involved with the development of the American Indian Community
Housing Organization, or AICHO.
As for the show: It's about time, Savage said.
"When it comes to women in the arts, it's a challenge for us
to be on the same level as our peers," Savage said. "We need more
of these to help females get better footing."
Hamilton's "Mia the Conqueror" is a mixed-media piece and
is part of "Phenomenal," which opens Saturday at AICHO.
AICHO put out a call for art by female-identifying artists who
are indigenous, black, Latinx and/or Asian, and pieces that considered
womanhood or feminism in relation to culture.
"A lot of times women of color are in the background of things
and never fully recognized for the work they put in," said Moira
Villiard, programming director at AICHO.
There is a lot of talk right now about equity in feminism, she
said, and the gallery is at a point where its keepers can be intentional
about the kind of work they are showing.
"We're trying hard in our programming to be on top of pressing
issues," she said.
The exhibition includes more than 40 works by local and regional
artists with varying levels of name recognition. And the mediums
range from paintings to photography to quilt-work and three-dimensional
And as the pieces started coming in: "My knees went weak," said
Ivy Vainio, climate and cultural resilience coordinator at AICHO.
"Every time I see them. They're so beautiful, cultural and phenomenal."
Among the featured artists:
- Zamara Cuyun, a Guatemalan-American painter, has two bold-colored
acrylic pieces in a style that incorporates mythology.
- Leah Yellowbird, whose work is frequently featured in the
gallery, has a three-dimensional animal head with jutting antlers
and her signature bead-like painting.
- Nina O'Leary, a Twin Cities-based photographer, has an image
of the hair that collected in her shower.
- Cherie Hamilton has two paint-on-quilt pieces.
- Carla Hamilton worked in collage.
AICHO staff members, too, are in the show: Villiard, who is
known for her pop-culture portrait work, has an image of Erykah
Badu that she painted with her left hand while her favored hand
was out of commission after a repetitive use injury. Vainio, a photographer,
has an image of Terresa Hardaway, taken at the Women's March, and
another of a woman breastfeeding.
The women who are being honored at the opening reception range
from those who were involved with AICHO from its beginning, to newer,
fully-committed volunteers. Each will receive a plaque, designed
by Villiard, and a secret yet-to-be-revealed surprise.
The honorees include:
- Mary Ann Walt, who dreamed of an affordable and safe housing
for Native American women and ultimately created what would become
- Victoria Ybanez, a founding member who was on the first board
of directors and later became AICHO's first executive director.
- Marlene Diver is an original founding board member and ultimately
served from 1993-99.
- Karen Diver was a founding board member and treasurer.
- Sarah Curtiss started a career in anti-violence as a women's
advocate at AICHO's Dabinoo'Igan shelter.
- Laurel Sanders created art that can be seen on both the interior
and exterior spaces at Gimaajii.
- Karen Savage not only has artwork on display at AICHO, but
also hosts paint nights.
- Wendy Lee Savage has curated art shows at AICHO.
- Tawny Smith-Savage provides mental health services to residents
- Jara McLarren has volunteered at the majority of AICHO events
If you go
What: "Phenomenal: Art Exhibit and Awards"
When: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: AICHO, 202 W. Second St.
Tickets: Suggested $10 donation