Kathryn McMahon is proud of her plein air award won at the Women Artists of the West National Exhibition. It would be a mistake to underestimate the accomplishment. In a sense, such a mistake would be emblematic.

Lead Image: “The Cove at La Jolla,” by Kathryn McMahon, 2015, oil, 8 x 10 in. Winner of the Allen Award for best plein air painting at the 45th National Exhibition of the Women Artists of the West

The bias against women in the art world is evident in the statistics study after study have produced, so it’s logical that women would band together in associations for solidarity and support. There’s always a concern that this could be seen as ghettoizing women artists, so the notion of dividing by gender is a somewhat contentious one. But taking a look at the Women Artists of the West, to consider one group, shows an organization of strong artists, period.

“These women can compete with any top male artist in the country,” says McMahon. “They just banded together because women have been underrepresented. These women artists are also members of organizations such as Oil Painters of America. And I, for example, am a member of the American Society of Marine Artists.”

Also, although “West” is in its name, the organization has members from across the United States, and Canada. “It started in California, and they’ve just kept the name,” explains McMahon. “It’s a national group.” And finally, many of the members are strong plein air painters.

All of the qualifiers in the particulars of McMahon’s win start to fall away when examined more closely, just as the qualifiers so often put on art produced by women do as well. States signature member McMahon succinctly, “The Women Artists of the West are a well-established organization, and I just like to be associated with great artists.”

Other winners at the group’s 46th annual national exhibition include Victoria Castillo, who won Best of Show with “The Orchidist,” Laurel Lake McGuire, winner of the Fine Art Connoisseur Publisher’s Award for “Solitude,” and PACE instructor Jane Hunt, Best Landscape for “Around the Bend.” See the full list of winners here.


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