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InterUrban Arthouse exhibit gives women artists the spotlight

Quilting artist Sherry Whetstone-McCall created her first quilt in 1978. After losing her 34-year-old son in 2016 to brain cancer, she has focused her art on creating healing quilts to assuage her grief and that of others.
Quilting artist Sherry Whetstone-McCall created her first quilt in 1978. After losing her 34-year-old son in 2016 to brain cancer, she has focused her art on creating healing quilts to assuage her grief and that of others. Special to The Star

Look in most any museum or art venue and it becomes clear that women often have only a fraction of the representation men have.

Through April 19, 50 local artists have come together in the hopes of making a bit of a change. They share their creative voices in the InterUrban Arthouse exhibit, “Who Does She Think She Is?”

Nicole Emanuel, InterUrban ArtHouse founder and artistic director, points to the power of women in the arts.

“Through this incredibly rich spectrum, you have an opportunity to see what it means to be a woman in the arts.

“From their backgrounds to the media they have chosen, these artists all bring unique perspectives to their work. We’ve joined creatively across all of these boundaries and all media to explore our common concerns and passions.”

Arzie Umali, assistant director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Women’s Center and the show’s curator, notes that women artists have been written out of the history of art over time.

“Women have created in all artistic fields, but when it has come to recognition, they’ve been left out, muted and overridden,” she said. “Throughout history, a lot of art created by women has been attributed to men. We’re half of the population, but our representation is not equal.

“Though it’s really important to let people know of this inequity and discrepancy, it’s equally important to celebrate the artwork women do.”

While “Who Does She Think She Is?” celebrates women’s art, the show also explores their unique experiences and challenges, as they bring together family, careers and artistic fulfillment.

Kansas City artist Susan Kiefer faced a number of challenges on her journey to becoming a professional artist.

While raising two children, Kiefer completed her art education, receiving bachelor and master of fine arts degrees in printmaking from the California College of the Arts in San Francisco. She then worked as a graphic designer while raising her children as a single parent.

“Once the degrees were achieved, the difficulty didn’t end.” she said. “A reasonably high-paying job was necessary to provide for my children, but working full time left an art career on the back burner. Though I was in my late 30s when I finally realized that making art was my true vocation, being an artist didn’t even seem possible.”

Kiefer said that often, the challenge for women is balancing raising children with “the burning need to make art.”

Today, Kiefer is primarily a painter, but printmaking and artist books are also important creative avenues. Her work has been exhibited across the world, and one of her books is held in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Sherry Whetstone-McCall is a quilter who created her first piece nearly 40 years ago. During the past three years, this artistic journey has been deeply woven with grief. The Liberty artist’s series of healing quilts, on exhibit in the show, are an integral part of that journey.

In 2016, Whetstone-McCall’s 34-year-old son, Ronald, died from brain cancer.

After taking a respite from her art, she began the healing quilt series in 2017 to honor her son — and to ease her pain and that of others.

“All I can do is try to breathe every day,” she said. “Though Ronald’s spirit is always with me, I have this huge loss in my spirit and my soul. But, I’m trying to help other people heal and get through their own grief with these quilts.

“I believe art heals, and when I’m in the mode of working on one of these quilts, my mind is constantly on my son and I’m in a beautiful place.”

Whetstone-McCall acknowledges that though time has brought some healing, she says she will never be 100 percent joyful again.

“This is why I did the healing quilts,” she said. “I believe people need to understand grief and how it can impact your whole life. I hope when people see them, they can look at them and see something that helps them start their own healing process.”

In addition to the visual art exhibit at InterUrban ArtHouse, 8001 Newton St., in Overland Park, multiple programs at different locations across the metro area, are scheduled in association with “Who Does She Think She Is?” Visit http://www.interurbanarthouse.org/calendar/2019/3/15/reception-who-does-she-think-she-is for more information.

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