On the eve of a historic presidential election featuring the first female candidate to gain the nomination of a major political party, issues of gender equality have resurfaced as an important part of the larger political dialogue.
Jann Haworth, one of Utah’s pre-eminent artists and artistic director of The Leonardo Museum, has crafted a collaborative project designed to shed light on the diverse contributions of prominent women throughout history.
Haworth is known locally and internationally as a pioneering artist within the pop art movement. As a young artist working in London in the 1960s, she co-designed the Beatle’s iconic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover alongside her then-husband, artist Peter Blake. More recently, Salt Lake City residents are likely to recognize her SLC Pepper mural near the Gateway Mall.
Haworth has collaborated with her daughter and fellow artist Liberty Blake on a traveling collage that depicts 180 women who helped shape the world through their contributions to a variety of fields. The project, titled “Work in Progress,” is on display at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, where it will remain until Jan. 14, before moving to BYU’s Museum of Art and concluding at the Leonardo Museum in downtown Salt Lake City.
Haworth and Blake, an esteemed collage artist in her own right, spent three months working with over 60 local artists who were invited to contribute portraits to the project. It measures 20 feet in length and 8 feet in height.
Haworth gleaned inspiration for the project after visiting Europe for one of her exhibition openings. The idea began in 2009, when she said “it was time to do another civic mural — as a companion piece to SLC Pepper — in some other location in the city.”
After various delays, the project resumed in 2016, with fundraising assistance from philanthropists Gerayln Dreyfous and Diane Stewart.
Too add to the mural, photographer Lynn Blodgett created portraits of the artist participants. This recognition of participants in relation to famous women from history is meant to celebrate community members devoted to equality, according to information from the museum.
“Lynn's photos are a testimony to the trust and the heart of the project," Haworth said. "When you look at the men and women who gave their time to make the mural happen, you see tenderness.”
In each panel, various women share the composition. While many of the figures are rendered in Haworth’s signature darkly outlined stencil, there is variety in the illustration of each woman.
For Blake, the task of assembling stencils made by various contributors was a challenge.
"I really enjoyed the collaborative aspect of the project," she said. "As an assemblage artist, I am primarily focused on how things fit together. With 'Work in Progress,' I shifted my focus to also include the figurative component … (assembling) the stencils of so many people, each one with unique style and character."
“Work in Progress” celebrates collaboration and diversity, accentuating what UMOCA’s press release calls “the diverse contributions women have made to our lives in a range of fields including but not limited to: science, math, the arts, technology, and social, political and domestic activism."
Viewers will likely be engaged and challenged as they navigate the rich visual landscape of the individual panels. Even for the most historically literate, a challenge exists in recognizing more than a few of the famous women depicted.
If you go …
What: “Work in Progress” at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art
When: Through Jan. 14; Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday, 11 a.m.- 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; closed Sunday and Monday
Where: Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, 20 S. West Temple, Salt Lake City
How much: Admission is a suggested $5 donation
Scotti Hill is an art historian based in Salt Lake City. She has taught courses in art history at Westminster College and the University of Utah, and currently works as a writer and curator.