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Georgia artist aims to educate on women in history

Submitted Photos Jamie Azevedo's collection "Preserving History" is displayed in the Outer Gallery at the Northwest Arts Center until March 27. Azevedo's 5-inch by 7-inch collages give details on individual women who had an impact on women's history in the Outer Gallery.

A Georgia woman will have her artwork on display at the Northwest Arts Center’s walter Piehl Gallery in Minot until March 27.

Jamie Azevedo from Savannah, Ga., put together a large collection of 5-inch by 7-inch collages she titled “Preserving History.”

Back in 2018, Azevedo happened upon the creation of this collection by accident. She had discovered the stories of several women in history who she was never taught about in high school, so she did more research.

In her search, she found stories of two female serial killers from the 1700s and 1800s. One was Gesche Gottfried, who killed her victims slowly with arsenic. In total, she killed 15 people. She was beheaded by guillotine in 1828, being the last person to be beheaded in Bremen, Germany.

The second serial killer was Jane Toppan, who was a nurse in Boston in the 1800s. Her method of choice was poisoning her victims with morphine and atropine. Many of the people that she killed were her patients, giving them small doses of the drugs to keep them in a weakened state so she could “nurture and cuddle with them,” Azevedo said. “I think that’s the most twisted part.” After killing an entire family except the patriarch, Toppan was arrested on suspicion of murder. She tried committing suicide enough times that she was found not guilty by mental disease or defect and was sentenced to life in a mental institution until she died at age 84.

Azevedo said she was on the fence for a while on whether or not she wanted to include those two women in the collection because of their gruesome crimes. She decided, however, that they were part of women’s history, so she balanced it out by including them.

Women who had other, more positive impacts, were the majority of the exhibition, like Harriet Jacobs. She was a slave in the 1800s who ran from her captor and hid in a space the size of a coffin for seven years until slavery was abolished. Azevedo said Jacobs must have had a very strong will to be free to live in that tight of a space for that long.

Charlotte Corday was a female assassin who killed Jean-Paul Marat in his bathtub during the French Revolution. “She believed her country of France was being torn apart by war and people fighting to be free,” Azevedo said. “She killed him in an effort to save her country.” As a consequence of her actions, Corday was put to death by guillotine at the young age of 25.

Another woman who caught Azevedo’s eye in history was abolitionist Prudence Crandall. She was a white woman who opened a school to educate young African-American girls and also hired an African-American teacher named Sarah Harris in 1832. That brought a lot of fear and hatred to Canterbury, Conn., so she subsequently closed the school. Due to her brave efforts to bring education equality to Connecticut, her school was turned into the Prudence Crandall Museum.

Azevedo’s main goal with “Preserving History” was to “encourage people to go to the exhibit, look up more information on the women and get a taste for unearthing more women that we haven’t been taught about in school.” She felt compelled to get the women’s stories out there using paper that had Victorian era patterns, other mixed media and rice paper to give some of the pieces a translucent look and texture. A few of the collages have cyanotypes for backgrounds, as well.

Working on “Preserving History” was a learning experience for Azevedo, as she had never used any other art method besides photography. Having done photography for several years, collage was a learning curve and she plans on reworking her collection, adding and removing some of the subjects. She said she wished that she would have worked bigger. An 8-inch by 10-inch format would have been optimal. However, she’s very happy with how it turned out overall.

Both of her grandmothers were quilters, and their work inspired her to make beauty by piecing together scraps. She wanted to experiment with storytelling through collage. According to a press release, “Azevedo said her ‘relatives, sensitivity, and sense of wonder about the world she inhabited all motivated her to want to be a storyteller.”

Azevedo wanted to thank the Minot Area Council of the Arts for providing the professional development grant. “Their support gave me the opportunity to work on this series and gain important feedback from professionals in the field.”

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