Benton Museum brings women behind prominent art forward

By Dan Wood for the Daily Campus

“Why don’t we talk about women artists? I have never heard of this painter, why should I care?” asked host speaker and associate professor Alexis Boylan in a devil’s advocate pitch to her guest speaker, Dr. Emily Burns.

“Great question.” Burns said. “This is a question I often ask my students at Auburn University. We have spent time dissecting this conundrum, looking into the lives of women artists. We see that they are able to gain prominence in their own lives and mediums but not in a historical context, and it is important to understand the factors that affect this.”

The focus of the talk held in the William Benton Museum of Art on Tuesday afternoon primarily inspected the life and work of late painter Ellen Emmet Rand. As one part of a four-part exhibition that opened last month titled “Work It: Emily Emmett Rand & Women Artists of the 20th Century,” the late painter’s works can be found in the first gallery space past the permanent installation gallery. With the overwhelming majority of her work being commissioned portraits, Rand proved to be a shining example of how women in art were able to “work it” even with the odds against them.

“The exhibit that is open now is only a small part of the full collection that will be opening in 2018 in addition to the first-ever academic book on [Rand] and her remarkable life. Emily Burns and I have been working to catalog and piece together her life through archived works of art, documents, diaries and correspondence. We have to read between the lines pretty heavily but that is what we have to do,” Boylan said.

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