Frederik Meijer Gardens ‘Zoom In’ on women artists for Women’s History Month

Allison Rafferty

GVL / Katherine Vasile

Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park celebrated the final week of Women’s History Month by dedicating one of their “Zooming In” events to women’s history. 

On Thursday, March 25 from 2:00-3:00 p.m., the park hosted an event titled, “Zooming in on Women Artists at Meijer Gardens.” 

Curator of Arts Education Amber Oudsema said “Zooming In” events are live and interactive virtual visits to the Sculpture Park, gardens, and galleries with the park’s educators. 

“These programs are free to register and invite learners of all ages to practice looking closely, thinking deeply, and asking questions to make discoveries about art and horticulture in the world around us,” said Oudsema. 

While there are a large number of women artists in the Meijer Gardens collection, Oudsema chose a few to highlight for the Women’s History event for specific reasons, whether it be breaking artistic barriers or shedding light on the experiences of womanhood. 

“These three artists made highly-unique works that were groundbreaking in the Modern and Contemporary art world for various reasons,” said Oudsema. 

The artists and their artwork that were selected for the event were Louise Bourgeois who created “Spider” (1997), Beverly Pepper who created “Galileo’s Wedge” (2009), and Kiki Smith who created “Sleepwalker” (2002-2008).

GVL / Katherine Vasile

“Louise Bourgeois made art that was highly personal, exploring childhood trauma and her role as a daughter, wife and mother,” said Oudsema. 

She said Kiki Smith was selected because she creates work that connects with bodily functions of women, humans’ subconscious nature and wild animals. 

Beverly Pepper’s work was selected because she crafted large-scale metal sculptures during a time when women sculptors were expected to create small-scale “feminine” work.

During the event, Oudsema discussed the lives and works of these artists who had a lasting impact on the Feminist Movement and the art world. 

“They inspired viewers to think about the role of the women in their lives and in society in general” Oudsema said. “They also inspired the next generation of artists to incorporate these ideas into their own work.”

While these artists’ work was all labeled as part of the Feminist Art Movement by art critics, Oudsema said that it is worth noting that all three have said that they do not necessarily consider themselves to be feminists.

Attendees could register for the event online, and Oudsema said that Frederik Meijer Gardens hopes viewers decided for themselves what the significance was behind each work of art. 

Oudsema said she enjoys having discussions with those in attendance and seeing what connections they are able to make to the art. 

“In these programs, we use inquiry-based methods to look at artwork so the viewers make a personal connection in addition to hearing the historical context,” said Oudsema. 

Oudsema said she believes it is important for events like this to be held because looking at artwork from multiple different perspectives is important to understand the intentions of the artists, as well as the historical context in which the works were created. 

“Zooming In” events are held once a month and can be found on Meijer Gardens’ website along with the recordings of past events.