Photo by Mary Randlett

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Mary Randlett

Mary Randlett, Photograph of artist Helmi Juvonen, 1983. Whatcom Museum #1986.0017.000001.

This is the final installment of #5WomenArtists, inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” The Museum featured five female artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Share our posts with your followers on social media and tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Mary Randlett early years

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, Mary Randlett has spoken hundreds of thousands of words about the Pacific Northwest and the people in it. Through her powerful photography, Randlett has captured the beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

Born in Seattle on May 5, 1924, art has always played a central role in Randlett’s life. Her mother was active in the arts and crafts movement, and Randlett had contact with early Northwest artists such as Kenneth Callahan, Morris Graves, and Mark Tobey from a young age. At the age of 10, she received her first camera, a small Kodak. Within a few years she had produced her first photo album. She continued to take photographs throughout high school at Queen Anne High.

It wasn’t until college that Randlett really developed her photography skills. In the basement of Whitman College’s darkroom, Randlett experimented with different development techniques. In 1947 she graduated with a bachelors in political science.

Her career

Following graduation, Randlett worked at a small Seattle store. She was fired after she spoke up about female wage discrimination and demanded a pay raise. After this, she apprenticed with fashion photographer Hans Jorgensen in Seattle. In 1949, Randlett took photographs of Slo-Mo-Shun IV, the world’s fastest boat at the time. The photos gave her a great deal of publicity and helped launch her career as a professional photographer.

Mary Randlett; Photograph, 1968. Whatcom Museum #1976.0022.000001.

In 1963, Randlett started a project taking portrait photographs of Northwest artists. During the project, she photographed Theodore Roethke, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and University of Washington professor. Her photos of Roethke were the last photos taken of him before he died two weeks later from a heart attack. They gave her further acclaim, thus securing her career.

A year later, Randlett entered an agreement with the University of Washington Press to take photos focused on Pacific Northwest landscapes, art, artists, and architecture for their publications.

“I still get chills when an image appears and I’m able to catch it on film,” said Randlett in an article on Whitman College’s website. “I suppose I like to shoot landscapes most of all. The coastal light in the Northwest — there’s nothing like it.”

Throughout her life, Randlett also took photos of artists such as Morris Graves, Mark Tobey, Jacob Lawrence, and George Tsutakawa, as well as writers such as Tom Robbins, Henry Miller, and Colleen McElroy.

Her impact

Through dedication and her creative spirit, Randlett forged a prolific career in photography. So prolific in fact, that Don Ellegood, former director of the University of Washington Press, called her “beyond question the leading photographer in the Northwest.”

Randlett’s photography will live on in history, showing the beauty of the Pacific Northwest. But above all she fought the discrimination that has been prevalent in the workplace and art world. She challenged the status quo and demanded an equal place.

Female artists have played a vital role in the formation of art throughout history. Often those contributions are forgotten or overshadowed. Yet their work serves not only as a history lesson but as inspiration for many young women now and into the future.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Dale Gottlieb

Dale Gottlieb; Tuskegee Airmen, 1995; Hand-knotted wool rug, 8 x 5 ft. Purchased with funds donated by Chuck and Dee Robinson, WM #2004.28.1

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose work is featured in our collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Follow us on social media and share our posts with your followers, or tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Dale Gottlieb

Dale Gottlieb was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1952. From an early age she was frequently exposed to the art world. Almost every Saturday morning she would go to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. It was at this museum that Gottlieb became heavily inspired by African art. She also drew inspiration from her environment growing up. Raised in Brooklyn during the 1950s, Gottlieb was constantly surrounded by people with a range of religious beliefs, races, and sexual orientations.

Up until the 8th grade, she attended Brooklyn’s Ethical Culture School. This alternative school emphasized a curriculum based on philosophy and humanitarianism.

Gottlieb attended the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, in New York, in the 70s. At the age of 20, she postponed her studies for a couple of months to travel to India and stay at a Hindu ashram. While in India, she was deeply touched by the spiritual rituals. She considered staying, but eventually decided that continuing her work as an artist was her true calling. She returned to Alfred University and finished her degree with honors in 1975.

Her art

Using what she had learned from her experiences, Gottlieb began to paint. As time went on, she refined her style and discovered new mediums. In 1990, Gottlieb met a Tibetan Buddhist named Lobsang Tenzing. He and his family create hand-knotted rugs using a traditional Tibetan carpet technique. In 1993, the two began collaborating to make a variety of artistic rugs. Gottlieb would create the designs, and Tenzing and his family would weave the rugs and send them to Gottlieb. The entire process could take up to three months.

“It blew my socks off!” Gottlieb said when she saw the first rug, according to the book Story Rugs: Tales of Freedom. “I thought they were wizards—it was so beautiful…when you know that you’re looking at eighty knots per square inch, and then you look at how large an eight-by-ten-foot rug is, it’s amazing to realize the effort and skill that’s gone into it.”

The collaboration between Gottlieb and Tenzing continues today, more than two decades later.

In addition to her Story Rugs and paintings, Gottlieb has also written, as well as illustrated, 28 children’s books. She has created illustrations for publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated and Esquire.

In 2003, the Whatcom Museum curated the exhibition Story Rugs: Tales of Freedom: the work of Dale Gottlieb. Gottlieb lives in Bellingham and continues to create her art and rug designs. Her pieces tell a story of happiness, pain, and triumph that extends through history. They demonstrate cooperation and collaboration. Above all, they depict the human experience for all that its worth.

For more information about Gottlieb’s work, visit her website, http://www.dalegottlieb.com/.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Doris Totten Chase

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose work is featured in our collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Read on to learn about Doris Totten Chase.

Doris Totten Chase; Sun Disc, 1980; Silkscreen print, 22 x 30 in. Gift of Doris Totten Chase, Whatcom Museum # 2003.51.12.

Doris Totten Chase early years

Doris Totten Chase was an influential figure in early computer-generated art. Her early experimentations helped defined the future of the medium and expressed themes about the lives of women.

Chase was born in Seattle on April 29, 1923. In 1941 she graduated from Roosevelt High School and began to study architecture at the University of Washington. Soon after, she met Elmo Chase, a lieutenant in the US Navy, and dropped out in 1943.

Chase’s introduction to the art world came after the birth of her first child. After suffering from an emotional breakdown, Chase decided to explore new interests and discovered a talent for painting.

She originally studied oil panting under prominent Northwest artists like Jacob Elshin, Nickolas Damascus, and Mark Tobey. She found her first success in 1948 when one of her paintings was accepted into the Seattle Art Museum’s Northwest Annual Exhibition.

Chase continued to work in the Pacific Northwest and make a name for herself. Gradually, she shifted mediums, going from oil painting to cement work to outdoor sculptures. Her artwork began to include interactive elements that invited viewers to move the art around for further exploration. One of her more recognized pieces was the sculpture Changing Form, in Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. The sculpture, which was made at a time when sculpting was considered a man’s art, became one of Seattle’s most widely recognized pieces of art.

Her video work

Doris Totten Chase; Late Autumn, 1997; Glass and metal, 14.75 x 20 x 2 in. Gift of the artist in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Arch Talbot, Whatcom Museum # 2003.51.9.

In 1969, acclaimed dancer Mary Staton used one of Chase’s circular sculptures in a dance routine. This inspired Chase to collaborate with Boeing on a project dealing with a medium she had never used before: video. Using Boeing’s mainframe super computer, Chase created Circles, a video depicting multiple multi-color hoops transforming and multiplying on a black background.

Later, she used parts of the video to create Circles 2. It depicted a woman rolling around in multiple multi-color hoops while classical music played. The video garnered acclaim at the 1973 Sundance Film Festival.

Wishing to focus more on her video work, Chase moved to New York City in 1972 and rented room 722 at the Chelsea Hotel. The room had been the residence for many famous artists and authors, including Janis Joplin, Mark Twain, and Dylan Thomas.

During her time in the city, Chase continued to work on computer-generated videos. Most of her early work involved integrating dancers with her sculptures, then using computer-generated effects to create a dreamlike atmosphere.

Chase also created videos that explored themes such as feminism. One of her most widely regarded works is By Herself (1985). The piece is a series of 30-minute video dramas regarding older women’s autonomy. Other works exploring similar themes include Table for One (1985), Dear Papa (1986), and Sophie (1989). Dear Papa won first prize at the Women’s International Film Festival in Paris in 1986.

In 1989, Chase returned to Seattle. She continued to create videos until she passed away on Dec. 13, 2008.

Chase left a lasting legacy in the world of art. Her early explorations of computer-generated video art helped pave the way for future artists.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

 

 

 

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Maria Frank Abrams

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” the Whatcom Museum is continuing the tradition it started last year and highlighting five female artists whose work is featured in our collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Read on to learn about Maria Frank Abrams.

Maria Frank Abrams, (1924-2013); Untitled, 1977; Graphite on paper, 13.25 x 21.25 in. Whatcom Museum #2008.78.3. Gift of the artist.

Maria Frank Abrams early years

Maria Frank Abrams’ life was one of tragedy, perseverance, and beauty. Her powerful paintings were seen by people around the world and touched the hearts of those in the Pacific Northwest.

Born in 1924 to a Jewish family, Abrams grew up in Debrecen, Hungary. At 5 years old, she began to paint. However, her life was forever changed when, at the age of 19, her family was taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1944.

According to the Washington Jewish Museum, Abrams was able to find pencils and paper during her time in the camp. Women in the camp would ask her to draw what they looked like before the war. From this experience, she said she was able to find some sort of reality in the “unreal tortured world that we lived in.” By the end of the war, she had lost 33 relatives. Only one cousin had survived.

Abrams immigrated to the United States in 1948. Continuing her work as an artist before World War II, she decided to study art at the University of Washington (UW) on a Hillel scholarship. It was during her time at UW that she developed her artistic style. Oil paintings were her preferred medium. The cool hues of paint that covered her canvases often depicted landscapes and geometric patterns.

Her career

Following graduation from the university, Abrams created a successful career for herself. The Otto Seligman Gallery, a former Seattle-based gallery, invited Abrams to show her work. Her art was particularly sought after by distinguished members of the local art community including her early mentor, Mark Tobey, and Richard Fuller, the founder of the Seattle Art Museum.

Maria Frank Abrams, (1924-2013); City Structures, 1959; Tempera and ink on paper, 21 x 24 in. Whatcom Museum #2008.78.2. Gift of the artist.

During her career, Abrams received many awards and showcased her artwork in exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Oakland Municipal Art Museum, and others.

In both 1966 and 1975, Abrams was included in the Governor’s Invitational Exhibition, which was shown in Kobe, Japan, and throughout Washington. She died in 2013, at the age of 88.

Abrams drew inspiration from the Northwest landscape, expressing the beauty of her new homeland, but she also combined imagery and family ephemera into her art, representing her Holocaust survival and experience. According to her obituary in the Mercer Island Reporter on April, 8, 2013, Abrams once explained that her much of her inspiration came from the “subtle, ever-changing hues of the light over Lake Washington.”

“The Northwest affects my work very, very much,” she said. “Most of my work is inspired by the landscape around me, and by the colors around me.”

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Ella Higginson

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Ella Higginson

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose work is featured in our collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Read on to learn about Ella Higginson.

Ella Higginson

Whatcom Museum #1968.24.208

Ella Higginson was a prominent Bellingham author whose books, essays, and poems are regarded as iconic to early Pacific Northwest literature. Her writing, which detailed the vast wilderness landscapes and inherent beauty of the region, introduced many readers to the Pacific Northwest for the first time.

Higginson was born in Council Grove, Kansas, but her family soon moved to Oregon. As a young girl, Higginson showed a talent for the written word. When she was 14, she published her first piece of work and by her late teens her work was being published in newspapers around Portland.

In 1885 she married Russell C. Higginson, and in 1888 they moved to Bellingham. Soon after they moved, Higginson began to make a new literary life for herself.

Her career

In 1889, some of her poetry was published in national magazines such as Collier’s Once a Week and Harper’s Magazine.

Her career really started to take off in 1894 when she won McClure’s Magazine’s writing contest for her short story, “The Takin’ In of Old Mis’ Lane.”

Following the contest, Higginson released multiple books of poetry and continued to write until her declining health slowed her down. Some of Higginson’s most significant works include A Bunch of Western Clover (1984), When the Birds Go North Again (1902), Mariella of Out West (1902), and The Vanishing Race and Other Poems (1911).

In 1931, the Washington State chapter of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs named Higginson the first honorary poet laureate of Washington State, securing her legacy in Northwest literary history.

Outside of her literary accomplishments, Higginson was a strong supporter of the arts, education, and women’s rights. Through her efforts, she helped establish the city’s first library. She also helped elect the first woman to the Washington State House of Representatives, Frances Axtell.

Higginson’s impact on the Bellingham community is still felt by many people today, and it distinguishes her as one of Bellingham’s most successful female literary artists.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

 

Four-Leaf Clover

I know a place where the sun is like gold,

And the cherry blooms burst with snow,

And down underneath is the loveliest nook,

Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

One leaf is for hope, and one is for faith,

And one is for love, you know,

And God put another in for luck—

If you search, you will find where they grow.

But you must have hope, and you must have faith,

You must love and be strong – and so—

If you work, if you wait, you will find the place

Where the four-leaf clovers grow.

 

Published in When the Birds Go North Again (The Macmillan Company, 1898). It is in the public domain.