Art exhibit celebrates women’s role in history
March 31, 2022
Women have played a huge role in history. One local artist, Suzanne Whitaker, has created an exhibition that examines the role women have had in shaping this country’s history, which is on display at the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine in downtown Phoenix until August 31. Earlier, we spoke with Whitaker for more.
In January 2017, just after former President Donald Trump was inaugurated, the United Stated saw a women’s march that drew millions into the streets nationwide. Whitaker took part.
“How did we elect a man like that? And how do we have a system that allowed for the popular vote to be the vote of all people?” she said.
She was angry, but directed those emotions at her art. “It was an opportunity to marry my political interests, my social justice interests, with the fact that I can draw, that I have a fine arts background, and that this was my opportunity and I just could not keep my mouth shut.”
Whitaker received a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and has spent the last four years creating an exhibition that celebrates women in history.
“This exhibition is about women’s strengths and persistence and fortitude. They saw a problem and they went to fix it, and actually in many cases fixed an entire system,” Whitaker said.
Her exhibition includes seventeen portraits of historical women. Some of the women included are former first lady Abigail Adams, suffragette Marjory Stoneman Douglas, influential women like Dolores Huerta, and former Arizona representative Gabby Giffords who was almost assassinated.
There are also women who are close to Whitaker’s heart, like her morality teacher in high school, Sister Louise, who encouraged women to become priests.
She admits that she does not know the history of some of the women in her artwork, but learning their history is what drives her. She wants others to learn about them also.
She uses a variety of mediums to create art, such as a wheelchair to depict Judith Heumann, who advocated for the rights of people with disabilities.
After four years, Whitaker has completed the project, and she hopes it inspires others.