The Arizona Committee   National Museum of Women in the Arts                                       


Arizona Women Artists Pioneering Spirits

Arizona's Pioneering Women Artists-Impressions of the Grand Canyon State. Directory and Catalog

Betsy Fahlman and Lonnie Pierson Dunbier

This book pays tribute to a notable group of independent women artists who called Arizona home in the early twentieth century.  Educated in the finest art schools in America, they deliberately sacrificed more lucrative careers in larger markets, choosing instead to paint the land and people they loved.  The result was a stunning collection of personal and artistic legacies, as colorful as they were genuine. Featured artists include Mary-Russell Ferrell Colton, Jessie Benton Evans, Lillian Wilhelm Smith, Marjorie Thomas, Kate Cory and Claire Dooner-Phillips. Also included is a directory of over 479 women artists active in Arizona prior to 1945.

Published by the Museum of Northern Arizona. 2012

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Lonnie Pierson Dunbier lives in Scottsdale, having moved from Lincoln, Nebraska where she raised her family and centered much energy on the Sheldon Art Museum: Eight years on Board of Directors; 15 years as docent; and co-founder in 1987 and then administrator of the Sheldon’s Statewide Touring Exhibition program, now in its 28th year.  With Nebraska Education Television Network, she was Coordinator of the Nebraska Indian Tribes Oral History Project; scriptwriter for The Picture Show, which was promotional vignettes narrated by Vincent Price about works of art at Sheldon Museum; and curriculum writer for The Getty Project. At the Phoenix Art Museum, she was a docent and Chair of Research, and on Main Street, Scottsdale was a six-year owner of The Taos Gallery. In 2000, she co-founded, which she serves as Research Associate, having developed its initial art database with husband Roger Dunbier from 1991 until his death in 1998. Publications include: A Century of Patronage, (Centennial History of the Nebraska Art Association of Sheldon Gallery); The Artists Bluebook, 34,000 North American Artists; and Augustus Dunbier, Paint for the Love of Color and with Betsy Fahlman, Arizona’s Pioneering Women Artists

Betsy Fahlman is a Professor of Art History at Arizona State University, where she has taught since 1988. She did her undergraduate work at Mount Holyoke College, and graduate work at the University of Delaware, where she earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. A specialist in American Art, her interests include public art, American modernism, the New Deal, and industrial archeology. She has a strong interest in the art history of Arizona, and her books include New Deal Art in Arizona (2009), which explores Federal support for the arts in Arizona during the Depression era, and The Cowboy's Dream: The Mythic Life and Art of Lon Megargee (2002) chronicles Arizona’s original cowboy artist who produced fifteen murals for the State Capitol at statehood. Her publications include Kraushaar Galleries: Celebrating 125 Years (2010), Wonders of Work and Labor: The Steidle Collection of American Industrial Art (2008), Chimneys and Towers: Charles Demuth’s Late Paintings of Lancaster (2007), James Graham & Sons: A Century and a Half in the Art Business (2007), Guy Pène du Bois: Painter of Modern Life (2004), and John Ferguson Weir: The Labor of Art (1997). Discussion of Women Artists

From the AskART(The American Artists Blue Book)database of nearly eighty-six hundred female artists, one-hundred nine women have been identified as "notable" because of high number of book references and/or auction sales showing special marketplace strength.  Click here to for a discussion and listing of these notable women artists.

Shadows on the Mesa-Artists of the Painted Desert and Beyond

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Shadows on the Mesa explores the similarities and differences in the lives, artistic styles, and beliefs of the men and women who considered northern Arizona their favorite region in the early 20th century. Included are Arizona Women Artists Lillian Wilhelm Smith, Kate Cory, Jessie Benton Evans, and Marjorie Thomas.
There are some traits the artists all shared. All were attracted to the state for the geographic or cultural subject matter. None were part of any major colonies or schools. In the case of most, this was by choice rather than lack of opportunity.  They chose to be defined solely by their work instead of their associations or adherence to the latest "isms" or trends in the art world. From a commercial standpoint, their reluctance to do so was more often than not a detriment. But the result in nearly every case was the cultivation of a signature style and a reputation for being fiercely independent that has served their legacies well.  To the end, they remained true to themselves and their visions.

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For further information, please call: Arizona Committee Co-Chair Fran Elliott (928)-301-8057,

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Last Updated: December 18, 2012