Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Meet the ‘Bearded Ladies’

The Bearded Lady Project started out as a joke.

Today, its creators are well on their way to a feature-length live-action documentary and a touring art display portrait series, the proceeds of which will go toward a scholarship to support future women scientists. But when Dr. Ellen Currano, University of Wyoming paleontologist, and Lexi Jamieson Marsh, founder of On Your Feet Entertainment, were having dinner in April 2014, the idea of wearing a fake beard while doing field work started out as a lighthearted response to a heavy issue.

Photo by Kelsey Vance

Photo by Kelsey Vance

Looking the part

"You can imagine how shocking and demoralizing it was to hear Ellen even suggest — let alone state — how difficult it was to gain respect in her field for the simple fact that she’s a woman," Marsh says.

The two women joked.

"The only way to gain respect as a field scientist would be to put on a beard!"
Photo by Kelsey Vance

Photo by Kelsey Vance

The more Marsh thought about it, the better an idea it seemed.

Marsh and Currano teamed up with Kelsey Vance, fine art photographer, and began reaching out to women paleontologists to find those willing to don beards for the sake of an art project with a message.

"All of the women who have participated in this project have been an inspiration," Marsh says. "I love reviewing their interviews, finding the common ground as well as where they differ. Being a successful woman can mean so many different things."

Completing the picture

The team previewed the first eighteen portraits from The Bearded Lady Project at the Geological Society of America annual meeting in Denver. Making sure they were displayed properly was a top priority. Vance, who previously worked with American Frame, knew we would be able to bring the right professional finish to the portraits.

Photo by Kelsey Vance

Photo by Kelsey Vance

"The ability to customize every aspect of the frame was very important," Marsh says. "We were working with large portraits, so to have the ability to decide the size, color, and wood type was very appealing."

And with their small team, the fact that they could have the frames shipped to them and just drop the pictures in themselves was a big bonus.

Each portrait is a 24- by-30-inch black and white photograph, and it was important to the Bearded Lady team that the framing match the organic feel of the work. Choosing maple for their custom frames was just the thing.

Photo by Kelsey Vance

"They were a wonderful balance of warmth to bring out the dark colors in the images," Marsh says. "We were beyond thrilled with the end results."

More than bearded ladies

For the Bearded Lady team, American Frame professional custom frames made the difference when it came to people taking the project seriously.

"Yes, we’re putting fake beards on female paleontologists," Marsh explains, "but there is a deeper problem we’re confronting. These portraits are really beautiful pieces of art, and the frames quite literally complete the picture."

Marsh says that the frame choice was driven primarily by focusing on the story they wanted to tell with their images.

"Our portraits were photographed to replicate the historical pictures of paleontologists past," she says. "We wanted something very natural that would not necessarily take focus from the portraits but would complement them."

Photo by Kelsey Vance

Photo by Kelsey Vance

And of course, if you aren’t sure what sort of frames would best complement your images, our experts are happy to offer guidance. We also proposed a winning solution to The Bearded Lady Project team’s slightly more challenging task of deciding how to frame the smaller, full-color images that were included in the show as well.

Not only was the response to the first eighteen portraits extremely positive but The Bearded Lady Project team has also since received multiple requests from museums interested in hosting the full exhibition when it’s complete in early 2017.

Photo by Kelsey Vance

Photo by Kelsey Vance

"I can’t even begin to describe how much of an impact American Frame made on our project," Marsh says. "To partner with such a great company was a dream come true."

Looking for the perfect frames to complete your images? Check out the great selection of metal and wood frames from American Frame, including these on-sale offerings!

Laura Jajko
Laura Jajko is President of American Frame and a longtime contributor to "A Good Frame of Mind." Here, she delights in bonding with others over her love of art and framing. With more than 40 years of practical experience, she brings a unique perspective in a straightforward style that she hopes will spark lots of interesting and relevant dialogue in our online community. Connect with Laura directly here on the blog or follow her on Twitter @LauraJajko.


  1. Nice exhibit. The post mentions that you also framed full color photos. What frames did you choose for them?

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