BY NANCY MOYER

Local women who have assumed leadership roles are being recognized in a unique exhibition of artworks on display at the South Texas College Library Galleries. Organized by Patricia Ballinger, STC Assistant Art professor, and Gina Otvos, Art Gallery associate, “100 Women,100 Words” is a mixed-media exhibit comprised of works by South Texas women who have contributed or made an impact in the Rio Grande Valley.

In conjunction with Women’s History Month, it honors women from various backgrounds and professions in a most unusual format. The exhibit begins in the Downstairs Gallery and south hallway and ultimately moves upstairs where many other works are displayed in the Library study area.

The gallery continues the “100 Women” project initiated by

Dr. Christina Wilson, Dean of the School of Arts and Letters at McMurry University in Abilene. After developing interest in women’s leadership qualities that ran deeper than a photograph and a bio, her project took on a sociological/psychological aspect. She selected women and asked them to write one hundred words about themselves and to accompany their statement with artwork. Wilson sees these images and words as artifacts of the women leaders in our state that reveal their thoughts.

“Although very few are actually trained in art,” she explained, “we wanted to know who they are, what they thought about themselves, what was important to them and what they did. Those are the things that we really set out to do.”

Art, along with writing, was regarded an effective means of achieving this objective. “100 Women, 100 Words” continues the heart-felt views and values through the eyes of women who have achieved leadership roles.

Future plans — in order to permanently represent Texas women’s culture for posterity — include documentation in the form of a historical catalog. “100 Women” ultimately grew to recognize 140 women for the RGV exhibit, with 270 women currently representing the state total.

The art works and the words are equally fascinating. This is not your typical portraiture experience in which the art reflects the subject’s face. Participants used a 6-by-6 foot canvas, collage materials from their own work, pasted photographs or fabric, or anything that represented something meaningful about themselves or reflected their interest to create a painting.

The canvas was intended to visually explain their stories, personal or professional, and to communicate whatever was considered important to their identity; the 100 words expressed a deeper perception. As a result, there is a wide variety of information. Good, satisfying stuff.

Artworks range from artistically informed to a photo album style, while the writing includes poems, thoughts, and histories. These artifacts are to the point and reflect an unpretentious honesty and a passionate awareness.

Intense in their devotions and vocations, one might notice that compassion and personal strength is a recurring theme. Some women tell of disappointment and struggle in their work, yet an unflagging persistence is felt.

Some have faced and overcome obstacles. Others have successfully navigated a shift in their life’s direction. Many of the writings are powerful and evoke a thoughtful pause before continuing on to the next work.

The project is a textbook of guideposts illuminating the human spirit. And it also makes for very good art.

It is focused on the feminine sex, however everyone should be able to relate to this exhibition and perhaps learn something. Attend the official Reception at STC on March 1 or just plan a leisurely visit. There’s plenty of time.

Nancy Moyer, professor emerita of Art, UTRGV, is an art critic for The Monitor. She may be reached at nmoyer@rgv.rr.com.