By Darla Shelden, City Sentinel Reporter —
OKLAHOMA CITY – The National Museum of Women in the Arts has partnered with Her Flag, a nationwide art and travel project created by Oklahoma City artist Marilyn Artus. The project celebrates the 100th-anniversary year of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which enshrined women’s right to vote within the text of the U.S. Constitution.
Artus collaborated with a group of contemporary women artists—one from each of the 36 states that ratified the 19th Amendment by 1920—in order to create the large 18 x 26 foot flag that will be installed on the exterior of the museum’s façade along New York Avenue.
Each artist created artwork inspired by this anniversary that Marilyn turned into a stripe.
Marilyn’s original plan was to travel to all 36 states in order of ratification over 14 months, taking 17 separate trips. In a public performance in each Capital City, she sewed the stripe onto the flag with the local artist that made the representing stripe in attendance.
Starting in June of 2019, Marilyn put over 20,000 miles on her car before the end of the year. She arrived in the 25th state to ratify, Oregon, before Covid-19 halted the traveling to make the Her Flag project.
She then began live-streaming the sewing of each stripe from her home in Oklahoma City.
The Her Flag project was completed on August 18, 2020 when Marilyn sewed the final stripe on while live-streaming from Nashville, Tennessee.
A visual artist based in Oklahoma City, Marilyn’s work explores the female experience and women’s issues, according to her website. She has created shows that explore the suffragist era in the U.S., pays tribute to an assortment of women in U.S. history and incorporates many different stereotypes that women navigate through on a daily basis.
“It feels like a dream,’ Artus posted on Facebook. “ Her Flag 2020 has its own page on the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington D.C. It will be hoisted onto the building a little over a month from now.”
Each participating artist created imagery inspired by both the anniversary and her home state.
The artists represent diverse ages and ethnicities, and they explored a variety of themes and subjects, Artus says. “Many artists depicted notable women from the suffrage and civil rights movements in their works.
“Others created scenes that reference the fact that the 19th Amendment did not, in fact, ensure that all women had access to the ballot box.”
Several stripes incorporate portraits of contemporary women and girls, highlighting the legacy of the suffrage movement in today’s social justice activism.
Artus adapted each artwork into a stripe for the flag.
“When I was 14 years old, I took a school trip to Washington, D.C. and visited the Smithsonian Museum,” Artus recalls. “Even though much of it was missing, my strongest memory is of the colossal flag that hung over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the war of 1812. It was the star-spangled banner, and the inspiration for the poem by Francis Scott Key that later became our national anthem.
“Here was a moment in history that I could relate to,” Artus continued. “A woman had created this important thing — it was sewn by her hands, just as a young girl I had watched my mother sew clothes for me.
“To this day my experience at that museum manifests itself in my art making,” she said.
“In 1918, Oklahoma voted on a state constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage,” Duong states, “It passed this amendment allowing women to vote in state elections. Then on February 28, 1920, Oklahoma became the 33rd state to pass the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
“We celebrate the right to vote,” Duong said. “With that right comes freedom of speech, of choice. With that right, our voices can be heard louder. May we protect these rights for women and appreciate the process and the people that got us here.”
Marilyn’s artist statement reads in part: “Being female is my greatest curiosity. It is a never ending resource of joy and heartache that inspires me. My passion is working with materials that are unexpected as a vehicle for fiber making to explore this curiosity.”
For more information about this project visit herflag.com. To learn more about Marilyn Artus, visit marilynartus.com