Women in the MOA

 In MOA Features
Minerva Teichert, "Queen Esther"

Minerva Teichert (1888-1976), “Queen Esther,” 1939, oil on canvas, 65 x 48 inches. Brigham Young University Museum of Art.

Each March, we celebrate Women’s History Month. The celebration of Women’s History Month began in 1987 to recognize and celebrate women and their often-forgotten contributions in various fields, both past and present. 

Women have always been present in the art world, but they have historically been excluded and underrepresented in the art history canon. When many people think of the best-known artists, most of them are men. Here at the MOA, we strive to create an environment where everyone is represented, either in the art or through the artist. To celebrate Women’s History Month, we would like to highlight a few of the many talented women artists whose works are featured here.

Minerva Teichert is one of the most prominent women in the MOA, and a well-known artist in the church. She grew up on her family’s ranch in Idaho, and was inspired by the scenes and landscapes she saw there from a young age. She loved to sketch throughout her childhood, and her parents were always supportive of her creativity. It wasn’t until the age of 14, when Teichert went to San Francisco to work as a nursemaid, that she visited an art museum for the first time. When she got back home to Idaho, she decided to save up money to study art out east. She studied at both the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League of New York and was one of the top students in her class. Teichert found a way to keep painting. In the early days of her marriage when she couldn’t afford supplies, she used scraps of wood and paper. Later on as a busy wife and mother of five children with no studio, she always found time for her painting. Teichert’s mother was a suffragette, which influenced her advocacy for women’s rights throughout her life. This can be seen in her art, which often focuses on women, as well as western themes and the scriptures. 

Elizabeth Catlett, a recent addition to the MOA collection, grew up in Washington D.C. Her grandmother was formerly enslaved and her mother grew up in the slums of D.C., which gave Catlett an awareness of the suffering of Black Americans from a young age. She spent much of her early career as a teacher before moving to Mexico in 1946 with an interest in the art produced after the Mexican Revolution. As Catlett was immersed in Mexican culture, she recognized similarities among African American and Mexican people’s experiences. She spent the remainder of her life in Mexico, and even became a Mexican citizen. Much of her work depicts the Black-American experience and shows solidarity with the Civil Rights movement, often focusing on the experiences of black women and their roles in that movement. 

Dorothea Lange is an American photographer who grew up in New York City. As a young girl, she caught polio, which left her with a limp. Her family was also abandoned by their father when Lange was 12, forcing them to move to a poorer area. These struggles inspired and informed Dorothea throughout her career. She began working as a portrait photographer, but felt pulled to documentary photography. At the height of the Great Depression, she left her studio and joined the Resettlement Administration in California to document the lives and struggles of the rural poor. Lange never saw her work as “art” and instead hoped that it would be a catalyst for social change. 

This month and always, we hope you will take the time to learn more about women like these and be inspired by their stories. You can find more information about these women and others in our “Women in the MOA Tour,” featured on the BYU Museum of Art app.

Guest post by Marketing Intern Kensi Bassett

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