suffragist art series

Suffragist with a headache

“Suffragist with a Headache”, encaustic with vintage postcard, 6″x8″, 2009

“Suffragist with Hat”, encaustic with vintage postcard, 6”x8”, 2009

.“Suffragist Ballerina”, encaustic with vintage postcard, 6”x8”, 2009

“Suffragist with Cape”, encaustic with vintage postcard, 8”x8”, 2009



about the paintings

Why and How I painted These Specific Works….

These paintings represent my smaller work, as part of my ‘feminism series”. Each painting is constructed from a vintage postcard (from the early 1900’s), a panel, and encaustic (wax based) paint. I selected the postcards to show what an ideal women of that time would look like and wear.  I added a bit of reality to this by painting on chains and/or handcuffs to represent their lack of modern rights. The women of this time  couldn’t own property,  couldn’t serve on a jury or testify for themselves (their brains were considered so weak that any testimony would be invalid), couldn’t have access to their children unless their husbands permitted it  and couldn’t divorce easily.

The primary colors in this series are green, white and violet. These colors, at the time, represented a slogan “Give, Women, (the) Vote”.

To the right is the reason why I painted this overall series about women.


Why I paint about Women

I didn’t have much of an opinion on history classes as a child—they never seemed relevant to my life. After all, history was the tale of men: great men, awful men, and men who walked the grey in between.  Women, on the other hand, well… they existed primarily in references to wives named “Martha”, with any real significance left off the page.

         History didn’t connect with me until fiveyears ago when I rented a studio and started painting at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton Virginia. This Arts Center used to be called the Occoquan Workhouse until prison beds were carted out and drywall carried in. The place has so much history that it has its own museum. Next door at the Occoquan Park a large feminist memorial is being planned to honor the women imprisoned here in 1917.

Suddenly I was putting brush to canvas in the same place that Suffragists refused to put fork to mouth, where they engaged in hunger strikes that swayed the opinion of a nation and won them—won me—the right to vote. While some men were allies in the movement, women led, women fought; women undeniably filled the history books. I began a series of paintings honoring the suffragettes, depicting everything from prison guards fighting the hunger strikes by cooking fragrant hams to how the women risked leprosy in the showers in jail. Every day, I told their stories to the Arts Center’s visitors.

 The power of art is only partially held in what viewers see on the canvas. The true power is in changing how viewers see the rest of their lives. In my encaustic paintings, layering wax like the accumulation of history, I seek to remind women and girls of their potential to change the world.