The developing, traveling, and historically minded handiwork of Marilyn Artus and 34-and-counting fellow female artists was displayed virtually to the world from Charleston on Friday, June 26.
Artus launched her project, called “Her Flag,” last year as a wide-scale, celebratory art banner, a work-in-progress to honor the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The flag is making its way across the United States, growing stripe by stripe and state by state.
West Virginia, the 34th state to ratify the amendment, was represented by the 34th stripe sewn onto “Her Flag” on Friday. The addition of the stripe was live streamed by Artus to Facebook from the Four Points by Sheraton in Charleston on Friday morning.
Savannah Schroll Guz of Weirton designed the 34th stripe of the flag. She attended Friday’s live streaming program to add her stripe.
“I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to represent the state of West Virginia in this amazing project, which has brought together and promoted the talents and messages of so many women. Ultimately, I hope the visual narratives Marilyn Artus is piecing together will reach outward to embolden others and, in this approaching election year, remind women in the United States of our collective power and abilities,” Guz said prior to Friday’s event.
Artus calls “Her Flag” her love letter to all the men and women who worked to pass the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. She uses the art piece as a platform to encourage women to exercise the right they fought for a century ago.
Along with Guz, the women artists Artus chose to collaborate with each currently lives in one of the 36 states that ratified the 19th Amendment. Each of the three dozen artists designed one stripe for the 36-stripe flag.
When completed later this summer, “Her Flag” will measure 18 feet tall by 26 feet wide.
Artus began the cross-country process in June 2019, months prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, which curtailed her personal visits on Feb. 28 in Salem, Oregon, with 25 of the 36 stripes finished. She adapted her efforts by live streaming events on Facebook and Instagram from her home studio in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. In recent weeks, she has resumed traveling to each state to join with the participating artist, continuing to live stream the events as well.
“I am on a mission to make sure that every woman I come in contact with over this 14-month adventure is registered to vote and gets out in 2020 to put that registration to use,” Artus said.
“But celebrating this anniversary isn’t just about women. This was a fight. It took Democrats and Republicans and men and women and Black, White, and Native Americans working together to get this amendment passed.
“‘Her Flag’ is a not a political piece of work,” she said. “Rather, [it’s] a powerful, positive symbol used to educate and celebrate this truly momentous American anniversary.”
The first step of the project occurred on June 10, 2019, in Madison, Wisconsin. That date coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Wisconsin Legislature passing a resolution toward ratifying the 19th Amendment. Following the West Virginia addition this week, the 35th stripe is slated to be added on July 17 in Olympia, Washington. The final stripe is scheduled to be added on Aug. 18 in Nashville.
Plans to display the completed flag are still being developed, according to Artus.
Artus worked as a designer in the gift industry for 13 years. She became a full-time visual artist in 2008. She has been using the American flag in her recent works and has created tribute works to Susan B. Anthony, Victoria Woodhull, Gloria Steinem, Ida B. Wells, Candy Darling and Beyoncé.
Guz, a mixed-media artist, has created works found in private collections in New York, San Diego and other locales.
Along with her involvement in Weirton’s cultural renaissance, Guz works at the Top of WV Convention & Visitors Bureau and the Weirton Area Museum and Cultural Center in the Northern Panhandle.
More information about the “Her Flag” project can be found online at www.herflag.com