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Community women present evening of art, healing

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Sandy Epstein presents her conceptual art piece about the #MeToo movement at the Her Gift, Her Creation art exhibit and concert on Dec. 3. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

By Bella Butler EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – Onstage at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center, celebrated pianist Klaudia Kosiak holds the attention of the packed auditorium with a performance of Fazil Say’s “Black Earth.” The song is rich with sounds that shake your bones; deep vibrating base and sweet enchanting strings of notes.

Kosiak plays the song not only with her fingers but with her entire body; her chest bends over the keys so that her red gown seems to bleed into the instrument.

“Black Earth” is about loneliness and loss, a fitting song chosen by Kosiak to open the Her Gift, Her Creation concert and art show on Dec. 3. The theme of the exhibition was resilience, a resonant concept after nearly two pandemic years.

Kosiak conceived of the idea for the show two years ago and held the first Her Gift, Her Creation in 2019 before taking a break in 2020 due to the pandemic.

“We have so many talented ladies in this community, and not so many moments to show our talents,” Kosiak wrote in a statement to EBS.  

Before Kosiak stepped on stage, event co-creator Liz McRae welcomed the audience, filled with community faces, with reflection on this past year: a paradoxical experience full of both suffering and beauty.

“Art can simultaneously address these aspects of humanity more completely than most endeavors,” McRae said. “So coming together as a community to honor this moment in time through creativity feels something close to empowerment, or healing or resilience.”

Though resilience is something most have had to embrace in the face of a global pandemic, much of the art shared throughout the evening reflected the resilience of women in circumstances of life beyond the deadly virus. 

Artist Sandy Epstein presented a conceptual art piece to address the #MeToo movement. The piece was comprised of a ballot box, red to symbolize passion and anger and translucent to symbolize truth, with the words #METOO printed on top. Beside it was a stand holding a wheel of red raffle tickets.

“I’m a survivor of sexual abuse and I identify with the #MeToo movement,” Epstein said, her voice confident and emotional. “…Tonight, with you, I take back my power and I shine my light with you as a creative.” Epstein’s vulnerability and piece were met with roaring applause from the audience, which was filled with teary eyes all evening.

Several individual women and groups shared more music from the stage, including the Big Sky Community Chorus’ performance of Brandi Carlile’s “Crowded Table;” Mia Lennon, Jennifer Reed and Marley Schack singing Rising Appalachia’s “Resilience;” and Hanna Powell’s bold performance of Adele’s “Easy on Me,” accompanied by Jennifer Waters dancing, among other touching acts.

Coming off her jaw-dropping performance, Powell said she was filled with pure adrenaline.

“It just really is empowering for all of us to celebrate each other’s talents and bring our gifts forth for people to enjoy,” she said. “I just couldn’t be more honored to be a part of it.”

The show wasn’t just limited to performance art. The event began with a reception in the lobby of the WMPAC, where works from multi-media pictures to ceramics to jewelry were displayed on walls and tables throughout the space, all unique in their style but united in messages of resilience.  

Event attendees view art in the WMPAC gallery. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

Some pieces expressed journeys of healing and strength through mountain imagery, a reflection of the landscape just outside the WMPAC walls. An acrylic mountainscape by Kate Riley was accompanied by an artist statement discussing the first woman to summit Mount Everest.

“This painting is an ode to our landscape, to the women activists fighting to protect our incredible land, and to its delicate ecosystem,” Riley wrote.

Other pieces traveled further, like event co-creator and photographer Jill Bough’s black and white photo “Bringing in the Potatoes,” of two Russian women harvesting potatoes from a field, a moment that tells a larger story of the fall of communism in Russia and women’s role during that period.

After the show, the lobby filled back up with a blend of the artists and audience, the crowd abuzz with praise and gratitude.

“I wished for the audience to be touched, and left WMPAC with incredible emotions,” Kosiak wrote in a statement to EBS. “…I hope we reached everyone’s hearts.”

Ruthi Solari, an attendee, was animated in her praise of the show. “[I feel] cracked open, connected, reminded of the pure essence and the power of female connection and the divine feminine when we allow ourselves to express,” she said.

Though she was moved by many of the performances, Solari said she especially connected with Sarah Mitchell’s solo performance of an original song she wrote for her sister, called “Song for Abby.”

“I did not anticipate it, but I was just streaming tears,” she said.

McRae said the event organizers’ hope was that the evening would provide unity, healing and inspiration to further deepen connections with others.  

“Everyone involved embraced their gifts, hearts and bravery in very beautiful and vulnerable ways,” she said.

The concert performers fro Her Gift Her Creation take a final bow together. PHOTO BY BELLA BUTLER

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