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Davis, California

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Honoring bravery through art

The Ellen Hansen Memorial Prize is a mixed-media exhibit of photography, performance art, painting, sculpture, poetry, fiction, comics and film produced by female UC Davis students.

The exhibit is currently being featured at Pence Gallery in Downtown Davis and will continue until May 21.

This is the first year that the exhibit has been hosted by the Pence Gallery,said Margaret Swain, director of the Women’s Resources and Research Center.The Women’s Center is very excited for this collaboration.

The grand prize of $1000 is awarded annually to a UCD female student whose original creative project best demonstrates the bravery and independence of women.

All UC Davis women studentsundergraduate, graduate and professional school studentsare eligible for the prize,Swain said.This year we received 27 submissions.

Ellen Hansen was a UC Davis student who was killed in 1981 while hiking in the Santa Cruz mountains. Her resistance allowed her companion to escape and survive the attack. Her attacker was later identified as theTrailside Killer.In 1986, her father Robert J. Hansen, a UC Davis professor of veterinary medicine, established the award as a tribute to his daughter.

I received an e-mail about the Ellen Hansen Memorial Prize and immediately remembered the young woman who demonstrated the bravery that I sometimes think only exists in legends,said Crystal Haueter, graduate student of fine arts who submitted a work for the exhibit.I always felt that women throughout history have been so silently brave and this story is one of the most heroic. I think it fitting that peopleespecially young womenknow through Ellen’s story the extraordinary capability we women have to face challenges, even those that seem the most frightening imaginable.

What defines the exhibit as a powerful representation of bravery within women is the variety of the pieces submitted. UCD female artists are able to express themselves through the medium they are most passionate for. Honoring the bravery of women, the exhibit captures and reflects a vast range of perspectives on what women’s bravery looks like.

I love the eclecticism of the works we receive,Swain said.

Original creative projects submitted include visual art, literary work and performance pieces.

Entries are judged on their artistic quality as well as how they demonstrate the bravery and independence of women,Swain said. “[They] need not be created specifically for this prize competition, but work must reflect the prize theme.

There is a wide range of media that the exhibit attracts every year, said Swain, and the number of entries in specific categories as enumerated above varies widely. This year, most of the submissions are paintings.

Haueter submitted a painting she entitledCortney Surfacing.

“I chose to paintCortney Surfacingto metaphorically represent the courage of women who rise above the illusions of femininity put forth by society,she said.Cortney is my beloved niece who I admire so much for her independence and courage to be her beautiful self. I chose Cortney as my model for how fitting she is for the Ellen Hansen Memorial Prize show.

Although paintings are the majority of the pieces in the exhibit, literary work is also featured.

Briony Gylgayton, a junior English major, submitted a poem calledLife Gets Smaller.

“I feel the poem I’ve written really does express the strength of women and it just seems like a perfect match [for the exhibit],Gylgayton said.

Her poem is about a specific condition a lot of females have. Vulvadynia, a chronic pelvic pain, makes it impossible for women to have sex, have children or do most things that a woman would do in society’s eyes.

I have the condition myself,she said.As I wrote it I began to understand it wasn’t just my problemnot specifically the pain but just trying to define yourself as a woman beyond having sex with men and bearing children.

The Ellen Hansen Memorial Prize exhibit continues until May 21 at Pence Gallery, located at 212 D St. The award reception where this year’s winner will be chosen by a panel of faculty judges will be held Friday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the gallery.


MARIO LUGO can be reached at arts@theaggie.org.


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