One Hundred Badass Women by Sassa Wilkes Presented by Leslie Petteys in Memory of Her Heroes, Grandmothers Anna C. Petteys & Fannie Christner.

November 5 - January 29, 2023

The opening reception for this exhibit is scheduled to take place on Friday, November 4, 2022, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The passing of beloved Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, was felt by many as the symbolic climax in a year defined by tumult and tragedy. Justice Ginsburg, champion of gender equity and architect of the legal fight for women’s rights, was revered as a cultural and feminist icon. The effects of her death, after serving nearly three consequential decades on the Supreme Court, continue to compound in the lives of everyday Americans.

To honor her life’s work and process the immense loss of such a historic figure, artist Sassa Wilkes determined to paint a portrait of Justice Ginsburg. They worked all night, and, by the morning of September 22, Justice Ginsburg’s characteristic features emerged from an energetic swirl of color, keen eyes glinting behind her trademark glasses. Justice Ginsburg’s distinctive lace collar, represented with gold and silver leaf applied to the canvas, shone out against her black judicial robes. Wilkes realized that there were 100 days left in 2020 and vowed to complete an oil portrait of an inspiring woman each day for the remainder of the year.

“This has been the darkest year I can remember, and I’m turning on the lights.” With this bold declaration, Wilkes embarked on the painting project titled One Hundred Badass Women. As the days passed and the portraits took shape in Wilkes’ studio, it quickly became apparent that an entire community of likeminded people was transfixed by the process, eager to channel their emotions into something cathartic, uplifting, and educational. On social media and beyond, the project became a collaboration between artist and audience, sparking important conversations far and wide. Wilkes bravely offered the community a window into their creative process – a vulnerable place for many artists – and provided an opportunity to learn about the accomplishments of extraordinary women, many of whom remain underappreciated or unacknowledged. In response, supporters provided Wilkes an ever-expanding roster of influential women to research and paint. The 100 canvasses that resulted from this collaboration, presented in total on the gallery walls, serve as a chronological record of this transformative experience.

Currently the Artist-in-Residence at West Edge Factory in Huntington, West Virginia, Sassa Wilkes is working to challenge and expand the cultural understanding of gender in Appalachia. A native of Barboursville, West Virginia, they earned a BFA and an MAT from Marshall University. For the past decade, they have taught art in the Cabell County School District, at Marshall University, and offered art lessons to their community through a private studio.

This exhibit is presented by Leslie Petteys in Memory of Her Heroes, Grandmothers Anna C. Petteys & Fannie Christner.

This exhibit is presented with support from The Isabelle Gwynn and Robert Daine Exhibition Endowment.

This program is presented with financial assistance from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture and History, and the National Endowment for the Arts, with approval from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts.

One Hundred Badass Women by Sassa Wilkes Presented by Leslie Petteys in Memory of Her Heroes, Grand

​Sassa Wilkes, Maya Angelou, 2020. Oil and gold leaf on panel; 11” x 14”. Photo courtesy of the artist.