The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the only museum in the world dedicated exclusively to recognizing the contributions of women artists.

Last updated Sept. 10, 2018, noon

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5 Questions with Holly Laws

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Holly Laws
Nominating committee: Arkansas Committee / Consulting curator: Matthew Smith, Arkansas Art Center

Holly Laws with her works in Heavy Metal; Photo: Sarah Baker

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

I am intrigued by the almost infinite variety of processes and techniques associated with metal, as well as the range of metals available to the contemporary sculptor. From fine gold beaten into delicate sheets for leafing to molten iron for casting, one could spend a lifetime discovering new ways of working.

 2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

For the past several years I have been focusing on immersive installations with interconnected objects, using recorded sound and dialogue to explore the repercussions of human actions and interactions. These two works are metaphors for our current sociopolitical climate, and were part of a larger body of work exploring the divisive state of affairs in American politics and the collective interpersonal polarization, splintering, and miscommunication.

 3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

Because I employ so many different materials and methods of construction in my work, I don’t have just one essential tool.  When I’m extruding rubber, my most essential tool is my miniature precision caulking gun. When I’m sewing rawhide, it would be my Japanese screw punch, and when I’m growing alum crystals it would be my kitchen stove and a large enameled pot. This is probably why my house and studio are packed to the rafters with miscellaneous tools and materials.

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Holly Laws, Placeholder, 2017; Cast bronze, found ironing board, and plywood pedestal, 39 1/2 x 54 x 26 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Holly Laws, Placeholder (detail), 2017; Cast bronze, found ironing board, and plywood pedestal, 39 1/2 x 54 x 26 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Holly Laws, Three Eastern Bluebirds, 2017; Copper, steel, mahogany, found ironing board, and plywood pedestal, 50 1/2 x 60 x 28 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Holly Laws, Three Eastern Bluebirds, 2017; Copper, steel, mahogany, found ironing board, and plywood pedestal, 50 1/2 x 60 x 28 in.; Courtesy of the artist

 4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

All the women in my family who came before me are a huge influence. My father’s mother tatted. My mother’s mother sewed clothing for her five daughters and herself. My aunts sewed, did needlework, Ikebana flower arranging, and many other creative pursuits that required a good eye for design and fine motor skills. There were never idle hands. I grew up with everyone around me making.

 5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

Women Artists in Paris, 1850–1900 at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachussetts is great. The exhibition was a stark reminder of the struggles women artists have faced and all the obstacles they needed to overcome to study and to carve out a place for themselves in a male-dominated art world. These women were trailblazers, and marveling at the fruits of their labors was uplifting and empowering.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.


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2018-09-10T12:00:54Z
Artist Spotlight: Alejandra Prieto

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists  working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Alejandra Prieto
Nominating committee: Chile Committee / Consulting curator: Gloria Cortés Aliaga, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

Alejandra Prieto with Pyrite Mirror (2018) in Heavy Metal; Photo: NMWA

Alejandra Prieto’s Pyrite Mirror (2018), on view in Heavy Metal, is over seven feet in height. The metal mirror is made from pyrite—often called “fool’s gold”—resin, and wood. She based her work on mirrors made by the ancient peoples of Central and South America. Because of this connection to the past, Prieto says that her mirror “functions as a contemporary ruin that activates the past in the present, thus making visible the transience of our present time.”

The artist has made several versions of Pyrite Mirror, and each has a unique web of cracks and imperfections. They interrupt the reflection of the viewer observing the piece, and draw attention to the materiality of the mirror. Often, when looking at mirrors, viewers can only focus on their reflection, or the details of the object, one at a time. But with Prieto’s mirrors, the viewer sees both at once. Indeed, the work forces the viewer to confront the mirror as an object, instead of merely examining their own image.

Alejandra Prieto, Pyrite Mirror, 2018; Pyrite, resin, wood, and metal.; Photo: NMWA

The artist often uses coal in her sculptures, and she has also created mirrors out of this material, which was also used for mirrors in ancient cultures. Her coal and pyrite mirrors likewise encourage contemplation on the history and nature of the mirror—now a ubiquitous item, it was once an uncommon luxury. Her other coal sculptures of everyday objects include a chandelier, sneakers, gloves, a belt, shoes, and a carpet. Like her mirrors, these carvings display the artist’s incredible attention to detail and are slightly reflective. Prieto’s surprising sculptures make the viewer reconsider humble materials and aesthetics, as well as the human history of crafting and using objects.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.

—Nana Gongadze is the 2018 summer publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.


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2018-09-07T13:15:36Z
5 Questions with Venetia Dale

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Venetia Dale
Nominating committee: Massachusetts State Committee / Consulting curator: Emily Zilber, editor, Metalsmith (formerly of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

Venetia Dale; Photo: Daniel Portal

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

Pewter was commonplace in colonial homes in the form of practical objects like plates and tankards. Today, pewter is often used to make souvenir spoons, wizard figurines, and other trinkets. I am constantly negotiating this associated space, as kitsch and fantasy meet the colonial American home, when I am making my work. I love both the reverence and sense of play that these associations carry.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

The works Touchmarks: Made in India (2009), As it Comes to Bear (2015), and Between: Kitchenaid Mixer (2017) share a common thread. I took common-but-overlooked objects (Styrofoam inserts, keychains, and plastic baskets) and translated them through material and form. These works, like most I create, use a similar making methodology of fragmenting an object, then molding and casting it in pewter. Once I have a good stockpile of castings, I cut, piece, and solder them together.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

My three-wheel vintage Craftsman bandsaw is my most useful tool. It expedites my process by making quick, straight cuts to my castings. I am fascinated by the way people adapt objects to fit their needs. When I bought this bandsaw on Craigslist, it was outfitted with a DIY motor taken from a treadmill. I fell in love with two disparate objects of use becoming one.

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Venetia Dale, As It Comes to Bear (detail), 2015; Teddy bear keychains cast in pewter, found keychains, and pewter, 38 x 42 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Venetia Dale, As It Comes to Bear, 2015; Teddy bear keychains cast in pewter, found keychains, and pewter, 38 x 42 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Venetia Dale, Between: Kitchenaid Mixer, 2017; Styrofoam cast in pewter, two elements, each 29 x 21 x 8 in.; Courtesy of the artist

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Venetia Dale, Touchmarks: Made in India, 2009; Fragments of plastic baskets cast in pewter, 22 x 22 x 17 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Adam Krauth

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Venetia Dale, Touchmarks: Made in India (detail), 2009; Fragments of plastic baskets cast in pewter, 22 x 22 x 17 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Adam Krauth

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence? 

I am drawn to what people leave behind and what those traces can tell us about our relationships to things and to one another. My work relies on things people use out of delight, need, or convenience. Sometimes tracing one’s habits of buying and throwing away—or imagining why something is made, and how—guide my work.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to? 

In 2013, I visited Ann Hamilton’s installation the event of a thread at the Armory in New York. Hamilton took a spacious drill hall and turned it into a place where intimate yet connected interactions occurred. Objects became facilitators that connected the viewers. It was unexpectedly moving, and that is likely why it has stayed with me.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.


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2018-09-04T12:00:43Z
5 Questions with Alice Hope

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Alice Hope
Nominating committee: Greater New York Committee / Consulting curator: Shannon Stratton, Museum of Arts and Design

Alice Hope with her untitled work in Heavy Metal; Photo: Sarah Baker

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

What I love most about working with metal is the material’s reflectivity. Because I use thousands of metal parts to make my work, there are thousands of points for light to potentially bounce. Consequently, the works notably change, as the light changes.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

I like my work to appear as if it grew itself, as if the materials reproduced and multiplied. This illusion is suggested in some of my installations; the materials seeming to colonize and take over space. The works in Heavy Metal attempt to suggest this colonizing, within the object or grid.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

I’m informed by the layers and levels of seeing. These days my most essential tool is my magnifying glasses, but research and dialogue also intensify my seeing.

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Alice Hope, Untitled, 2017; Steel ball chain, used fishing tackle, and found net, 36 x 30 x 30 in.; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled, 2016; Used Budweiser tabs, 6 ft. diameter; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled (detail), 2016; Used Budweiser tabs, 6 ft. diameter; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled, 2012; Aluminum ball chain and perforated metal, 6 x 6 ft.; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

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Alice Hope, Untitled (detail), 2012; Aluminum ball chain and perforated metal, 6 x 6 ft.; Private collection; Photo by Jenny Gorman

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

Unquantifiable quantities inspire me. I’m deeply moved when looking into a Gaylord box filled with used can tabs, when seeing schools of fish or swarms of insects, or when I’m part of mid-day pedestrian traffic. Perceiving overwhelming numbers of things likens to experiences of the infinite.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

Laurie Anderson’s show at Guild Hall literally had me questioning the ground I stand on. Her work makes me rethink spatial awareness like no other.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.


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2018-08-30T12:50:12Z
5 Questions with Petronella Eriksson

The fifth installment of NMWA’s Women to Watch exhibition series, Heavy Metal, is presented by the museum and participating national and international outreach committees. The exhibition showcases contemporary artists working in metal, including those who create sculpture, jewelry, and conceptual forms. Heavy Metal engages with the fluidity between “fine” art, design, and craft, whose traditional definitions are rooted in gender discrimination.

Petronella Eriksson; Photo courtesy of the artist

Heavy Metal—Women to Watch 2018
Artist: Petronella Eriksson
Nominating committee: Sweden Committee / Consulting curator: Inger Wästberg, independent curator

1. What do you like best about working with metal?

I fell in love with metal as a child, after finding a copper cable that had blown into my parents’ garden. I like its plasticity. Metal is almost like clay, but harder and more precise.

2. How do your works on view in Heavy Metal fit into your larger body of work?

Plant growth has always inspired me. These works are no exception. The containers of the sake pot with cups (2017) and of my Water Lily (2013) are inspired by the fleshy, juicy fruit of yellow water lilies. I added airy, three-dimensional lines, like those found in trees and tendrils.

3. As an artist, what is your most essential tool? Why?

When working with metal you never use just one tool. Some of my most essential tools are my goldsmith saw, my rough titanium-coated file, and my favorite light planishing hammer. But, as an artist, it is all in the eye.

necklace_Water_lily_silver_ lemon_quartz_petronella_erikssonphotograp_ Christian_Habetzeder.

Petronella Eriksson, Water Lily, 2013; Necklace with silver and lemon quartz, 5 1/8 x 15 3/4 x 10 5/8 in.; Courtesy of the artist; Photo by Christian Habetzeder

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Petronella Eriksson, Sake pot with cups, 2017; Silver, 6 x 6 1/4 x 11 3/8 in. (pot); Courtesy of the artist

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Petronella Eriksson, The Forest, 2017; Vessel with silver and wood branch, 4 1/2 x 20 x 2 3/4 in.; Courtesy of the artist

4. Who or what are your sources of inspiration and influence?

In my work I investigate the place of silver in everyday life. For me, the utility of objects is intimately associated with the artistic experience. Function is important. When it comes to the shape of my works, I’m inspired by plants and the way they move, and the way metal really wants to move in the same way.

5. What is the last exhibition you saw that you had a strong reaction to?

It was really not an exhibition at all. I visited one of the few old-growth forests left in Sweden with a skilled botanist. The forest, untouched by humans, is awe-inspiring.

Visit the museum to see Heavy Metal, on view through September 16, 2018. Hear from more of the featured artists through the online Heavy Metal Audio Guide.


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2018-08-25T13:30:29Z
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