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#5WomenArtists: Curator Laura Burkhalter

Posted on Friday, March 31, 2017

Can you name five women artists? Last year the National Museum of Women in the Arts began a campaign to raise awareness about the incredible—oftentimes overlooked—work of women artists. They are reviving the initiative again this year, and to celebrate Women's History Month we've be sharing works of women artists from the Art Center's collections throughout the month.

As part of this campaign, we've asked members of our staff to chose the five women artists in the Art Center's collections that have had the biggest impact on them. Today Curator Laura Burkhalter highlights some of her favorite artists.


Gabriele Munter House with Fir Trees

I’ve always found this painting beautiful, but when I learned the story of its odd color scheme I loved it even more. Münter was forbidden from working as an artist by the Nazi regime, but snuck out under the cover of night to complete her landscapes. Thus this “day” scene was actually painted by moonlight.

Gabriele Münter (German, 1877 – 1962)
Haus Mit Tannen Im Schnee (House with Fir Trees in the Snow), c. 1938
Oil on board
Des Moines Art Center's Louise Noun Collection of Art by Women through Bequest, 2003.338
Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

petah COYNE

Petah Coyne Ariyoshi

I love the fairytale madness of this sculpture. The mysterious small figure whose face remains hidden, the exuberant hair that threatens to overtake everything. When this work was first acquired, I watched the artist meticulously arrange the hair to her liking. My hair was long and dyed bright red at the time, and she threatened to take some for her next work. I would have gladly surrendered it!

Petah Coyne (American, born 1953)
Ariyoshi, 1998
Horse hair, clay, plaster, wire, acrylic, paper and glass
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Purchased with funds from the Ellen Maytag Madsen Sculpture Acquisition Fund, 2002.6
Photo Credit: Ray Andrews, Des Moines


Agnes Pelton Ecstasy

Pelton is a lesser known American Modernist, but I find her floral abstraction as powerful as Georgia O’Keeffe’s (to whom she is often compared). The grey and yellow palette of this work is especially seductive, and its forms seem to move with energy.

Agnes Pelton (American, born Germany, 1881 – 1961)
Ecstasy, 1928
Oil on canvas
Des Moines Art Center's Louise Noun Collection of Art by Women through Bequest, 2003.340
Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines


Barbara Hepworth Bronze Form (Patmos)

If I could take home any work in the museum’s collection, this would be it. I love its form—which has been compared to a skull, a pelvis, or even a cave. The green patina on the bronze makes it seem ancient. It looks perfect from every angle, inviting you to move around and look through it. The rough surface is also very inviting (but sadly impossible to touch).

Barbara Hepworth (English, 1903 – 1975)
Bronze Form (Patmos), 1962–1963
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Gift of the American Republic Insurance Company, 1982.28
Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

jeanne mammen

Jeanne Mammen Karneval

Mammen’s images of Germany between the two World Wars portray an amazing group of independent women. Ladies lunching, socialites, prostitutes, and beach goers. The Art Center has several of these amazing watercolors, but these fabulously dressed partygoers are my favorite. They seem to have walked right out the musical Cabaret.

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890 – 1976)
Karneval (Carnival), 1931
Watercolor and pencil on paper
Sheet (/Image): 18 1/4 x 13 15/16 in. (46.4 x 35.4 cm.)
Des Moines Art Center Permanent Collections; Gift of Dr. Joseph H. Seipp, Baltimore, MD, 1974.97
Photo Credit: Rich Sanders, Des Moines

entirely unexpected