A Celebration of Women Artists

February 3 – May 19, 2023
BSU Harlow | Kleven Gallery

Margaret Harlow and Lillie Kleven collected works by some of the finest male and female artists in the world of ceramics and printmaking. This show celebrates the women artists in the collections and their contributions to the art world.

As you look at these works, ask yourself whether these pieces are any less serious or “less than” because a woman made them. If you did not know the artist’s name, would you attribute the work to any particular gender? The women in this show were and are accomplished ceramic and print artists.

Jakie McElroy
Jakie McElroy

Women have been part of the history of art since the beginning. But women have never been accepted and valued as male artists are. In the 17th and 18th centuries, historical paintings were the most elevated and lucrative art category.

Those that achieved the highest acclaim were the ones educated in the finest art schools and had a mastery of human anatomy.

Most women were not admitted to prestigious art schools, and if women got into these art schools, they were not permitted to attend figure classes. It was believed that looking at the nude male body was dangerous to the mores of a proper young lady. Women were encouraged to “dabble” in the arts so long as their creation reflected their genteel nature.

So if a woman artist wanted to make a living, she would have to settle for painting still lives and landscapes and portraiture. Even in the progressive Bauhaus, a German art school that espoused the equality of the sexes, women were only allowed to explore mediums that were “appropriate for women,” this was primarily textiles. But women artists persisted in studying and mastering the mediums they wanted to express their creativity. Although women have made gains in art, their work is overlooked in art history and not valued in the same way as their male counterparts.

Of all the art sold at auction in the last decade ($197B), women artists brought in less than 2% of the total. And the 2% was made up of the works of only five women.

This show is a sampling of works from the Margret Harlow Ceramics Collection and the Lillie Kleven Print Collection created by women. All the pieces in the exhibition reflect the creativity and craftsmanship of artists deserving of their place in art history.