Shelly Bunde

Adams County


Billings County


Cavalier County


Walsh County


Artist Statement

This is a series of 53 acrylic and collaged paintings depicting fictional women from every county in North Dakota. Each is pieced with a county map and most have vintage cloth and other storytelling scraps collaged in. Any resemblance to an actual person is purely coincidental and should be celebrated.

The portraits include a story in 2 or 3 lines, the sort of tidbits one might recall about a character from one's childhood. Every woman or girl but one is identified by her husband's, father's, grandfather's, or ever father-in-law's name. Sometimes a little more information can be gleaned from her surname, like the "nationality" of the husband (and thereby roughly identifying if the family is Catholic or Lutheran). A husband's livelihood sheds light on what likely filled the wife's day, "Oh, that's Mrs. Anderson. He farms west of town."

As a girl growing up in North Dakota in the 1970s, I was unaware that there was a "women's movement" happening. But I observed that the women around me were all makers and doers, very busy raising children, doing chores and, in their "spare" time, running clubs and making crafts of every imaginable kind. They worked hard, whether in town or on the farm--sometimes running the town and the farm! Still, the only mention they got next to their recipes in the church cookbook was, "Mrs. Lyle Olson," for example.

My mother used to say of a certain strong and confident woman in our town, "Well, you can tell who wears the pants in that marriage!" It put such a fantastic picture in my head.

These paintings recall the little snippets that are sometimes all one's memory can churn out from a fuller biography or perhaps all that was ever learned: "She's the one who knit all those slippers for you kids." "She's the one who had 14 kids--one every year at harvest time!" "She's the one who left and never came back."