The Wyoming Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts is thrilled to announce the selected artist for the upcoming Women to Watch exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, D.C. Sarah Ortegon, from the Wind River Reservation, was selected to have her work featured in the 2024 NMWA biennial exhibit, a first for a Wyoming woman artist. Ortegon’s art includes painting, beadwork, and performance dance, shaped by her Shoshone and Arapaho heritage.
After reviewing artist nominations from Wyoming curator, Dr. Tammi Hanawalt, the NMWA curator, selected Ortegon based on her expression and interpretation of the exhibit theme “New, Future, and Alternative Worlds.” Ortegon’s work is inspired by history, the environment, and visions of a new world.
“With the ever-haunting reality of climate change and our rights as Indigenous people being chipped away to this day… I believe that the way forward is to continue to heal, through movement, through connecting to our original ways of being, and through community gatherings and teachings,” says Ortegon.
The piece that Ortegon visions for her exhibit submission is a 20” x 60” painting on canvas capturing four different jingle dresses, seeming as if they are dancing without a physical body, but capturing separate movements. Each dress will depict a different season to reflect the landscape found across Wyoming throughout the year.
“It’s important to be expressive in my own way to my relation to the past, as an indigenous woman, and bringing it into the future. I imagine the future world is inclusive of nature and Wyoming’s landscapes have colors unlike any other and this exhibition could show us how to come back to ourselves as human beings. Women have been creating since the beginning of time, even if they aren’t represented in museums. I believe that women have a connection within ourselves of creating life instead of destroying it.” says Ortegon.
After the COVID-19 pandemic, Sarah reflected on the Spanish flu that swept through the world one hundred years ago and reached many Indigenous communities. That was when the vision of the jingle dress had come to the Ojibwe/Anishanaabe people to bring healing to families, and later becoming a dance for many Native communities.
While Ortegon will be representing Wyoming women in the NMWA exhibit, the process of getting to Washington D.C. has been a celebration of all women artists in Wyoming, particularly for the five Wyoming Women to Watch: artists Katy Ann Fox, Leah Hardy, Jennifer Rife, Bronwyn Minton and Sarah Ortegon. Each of these five artists are creating groundbreaking work representing a range of media from throughout the state. This is the first time the newly formed Wyoming Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts has sponsored Wyoming artists to be nominated for the national exhibit, with a view toward uplifting all art being created by Wyoming women.
“Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to be in a video about women artists in Wyoming or featured on a podcast with Wyoming Humanities. The experience this has provided has been beyond compare! I am so thankful for all the Wyoming Committee has done and is doing with this project,” says Wyoming Women to Watch nominee, Jennifer Rife.
The Wyoming Committee will host a live panel event and film screening with all the nominated Wyoming Women to Watch Artists on April 13th at 5:30 pm at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Curator, Dr. Tammi Hanawalt will facilitate a discussion with Ortegon and fellow nominees on their personal sources of inspiration and creativity, as well as how Wyoming impacts their art. The evening will be introduced by District Judge and Former Wyoming First Lady, the Honorable Nancy Freudenthal, and concluded by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Megan Degenfelder. A dessert reception with the artists will follow the presentation. The event is free and open to the public. More information is available at wynmwa.org/events.
Donations to the Wyoming Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts will underwrite live events with the artists around the state, fund digital outreach to every corner of Wyoming, provide artist honorariums and fund Ortegon’s participation in the national exhibition next spring. Tax-deductible, charitable donations can be made out to the Wyoming Women in the Arts Fund and sent to the Committee’s fiscal sponsor, the Wyoming Women’s Foundation.
For more information about the artists, live panel event, or the Wyoming Committee please visit https://www.wynmwa.org/.
The Wyoming Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts exists to further the mission of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; advocate for women artists and curatorial professionals in Wyoming and serve as National Museum of Women in the Arts ambassadors.