ST. GEORGE — A group of St. George-based artists called The Red Dirt Girls are having their first group show, “The Red Dirt Girls: Peace’d Together,” opening Friday in the Sears Art Museum at Dixie State University.
Kirsten Holt Beitler told St. George News that it is an important development in the group’s two-year history, as the Red Dirt Girls strive for unity in a time filled with divisiveness.
Beitler, who grew up in St. George, said she’s been working toward this goal for a long time. She fell in love with painting in sixth grade.
“I attended Dixie College,” she said. “As artists, we really had to earn our space there.”
As she learned her craft, Beitler said that she admired the work of Frida Khalo, the Mexican painter who was married to muralist Diego Rivera. Beitler said Khalo broke down boundaries to tell her story of her life in a bold, personal way.
For Beitler, who called her work “story-driven,” Khalo’s work was revelatory.
“I’m really into using the human form to tell stories,” she said.
When the Sears Art Museum was built at Dixie State University, Beitler said she knew she would show work there one day.
“So it’s a very personal triumph for me,” she said.
Jenna Mae Lineweaver, one of the other Red Dirt Girls, grew up in Chico, California, but she’s called St. George home for six years. Lineweaver graduated from BYU with a degree in oil painting, but she still employs literature in her work. She did a series of paintings that were inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden,” for instance.
“I love his story about the table and the moth that emerges from it,” she told St. George News. “I love stories of transformation and how, when we’re in the right conditions, we blossom.”
Lineweaver said the Red Dirt Girls create that kind of environment. As she explores themes of identity, change, transformation and becoming, Lineweaver said she feels her work manifesting in the world.
“It’s a very supportive environment,” she said. “It’s amazing how interconnected we are and how our roles as women keep changing. Sometimes we offer help, other times, we seek it out.”
Miriam Rawson, who worked for many years as a quilter, said that painting has always been a love of hers. So much so, she said, that she felt she had to leave it alone when her four children were born.
“I knew it would be challenging to give myself fully to my work while still being fully present for my kids,” Rawson told St. George News.
Like the rest of the Red Dirt Girls, Rawson focuses on women in the world and the challenges they face. Rawson uses a mixture of realism and magic to tell the stories of the Lebanese Women Warriors, who fought on the frontlines during Lebanon’s civil war. Rawson is also drawn to the women who established the Pinkathon, an international even meant to raise awareness and funds for breast cancer research.
“Through my paintings,” Rawson said, “I want people to see the best in people. I want to clear the dark clouds, so the sun can shine through. Really, I’m an optimist.”
Peg Wheeler took up painting after working for 50 years in graphic art. Wheeler said she likes to hand-paint letters into her compositions.
“I love the impressionists,” Wheeler said, “but I gravitate to artists who have a strong graphic sense.”
Wheeler said that this will be her first show – and she’s thankful for the opportunity. But, she added, she’s more thankful for the support and companionship she receives from the group.
“Since I joined the Red Dirt Girls, I’ve made two new friends,” she said. “It’s that, and the encouragement they give, that keep me going.”
While each artist works individually, they all said they’re striving for unity within their work and their communities.
“There’s a lot of hate in the world,” Lineweaver added. “But we’re all interconnected, bound together by humanity. Through our work, we’re pushing for love, acceptance and peace in place of hate and divisiveness.”
The exhibit will open with a panel discussion and artist reception featuring local bluegrass group Red Dirt Girls (no connection to the artist group) from 6-8:30 p.m. Friday.“Peace’d Together” will be on display Oct. 1 through Jan. 14. The museum is located at 155 N. University Ave. Admission to the exhibit and opening events is free.
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