Fort Collins artist Amelia Caruso (to the immediate right of painting) presented her painting, Details of My Life, to the President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity in commemoration of the Commission’s 20th anniversary. Photo by William A. Cotton, CSU Photography
Amelia Caruso’s intricate and colorful work has brightened Fort Collins transformer boxes and the sets of television shows including Will and Grace and Third Rock from the Sun.
Now, one of the Fort Collins artist’s paintings will be showcased on the Colorado State University campus, as the winner of a statewide competition to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the CSU President’s Commission on Women and Gender Equity. Caruso presented her work to members of the Commission on April 18.
“It is truly touching to know that my work will be displayed on campus,” Caruso said. “This is an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Her piece, Details of My Life, is an acrylic painting on white birch that uses Caruso’s signature circle patterns to speak creatively to the theme of women’s progress and leadership at CSU.
“Mother Earth is a round shape formed by the explosion of the universe,” Caruso wrote in her artist’s statement. “Out of great violence, the form that is still intact is the circle, a cellular form, atomic, life starts anew. Bubbling to the top, forming life, starting over again. Women do form civilization again and again…the roundness of the feminine means that no one is left in a corner. No one is unseen, no one is left outside of the circle. The circle is a shape of inclusiveness, a shape of equality.”
Commission’s work continues
At the presentation ceremony, Zinta Byrne, professor of psychology and interim chair of the Commission on Women and Gender Equity, said the art piece will be a lasting tribute to two decades of work by the CWGE to advance the climate for women and all genders at Colorado State.
“The Commission has a history of looking at what’s missing that might help make CSU the best place for women to work and learn, then doing the background work to recommend how to make it happen,” Byrne said. “It’s the President’s Commission, and President (Tony) Frank has been extremely supportive of positive changes and providing progress reports on our recommendations. We hope the Commission can work ourselves out of a job, but we’re still doing good work after 20 years.”
Byrne mentioned just a few of the recommendations originally made by the Commission that have become part of campus life: Safewalk security escorts, expanding access to parental leave for University employees, installation of lactation rooms and all gender restrooms on campus, sexual assault awareness programs, and ongoing work toward salary equity for female faculty. Learn more at the Commission website.
Caruso’s work was selected from a highly competitive field of submissions because of its vibrant energy and innovative approach to the competition theme, according to the competition jury. The jury noted: “Recalling the contributions of notable women in CSU’s history and present day, the artist draws on the image of a circle – and circles within circles – to illustrate how the force of coming together propels us upward. The skillful mingling of color and shape creates a sort of poetic dance, as circles align, expand, shift, and rise, lifting each other and each contributing to the beauty and power of the whole.”
Part of local art scene
The Commission was pleased that a local artist’s work was selected, and Caruso was a particularly apt choice. According to Dawn Putney, owner of Toolbox Creative and director of the Art Lab in Old Town Fort Collins, Caruso is an inspiration for all artists, especially women and those just starting their art journey.
“She always participates in local shows, and is generous in sharing her experience and knowledge with new artists,” said Putney, who attended the presentation. “She is a critical part of our local art scene.”
When she met with the Commission, Caruso discussed the underrepresentation of women in the arts when it comes to exhibitions and museum collections, as well as the importance of mentoring women artists on how to make a living from their work through licensing and other approaches.
The Grants Committee of the Lilla B. Morgan Memorial Endowment at CSU assisted in the selection of the artwork. The painting will be displayed in the Lory Student Center, with a plaque recognizing Caruso and commemorating the Commission’s 20th anniversary.
Caruso holds a bachelor’s degree in fine art from the University of Cincinnati. She received a check for $5,000 for having her piece selected.