Photography by Jehadu Abshiro.
It takes one step into Valerie Guth Boyd’s foyer to pinpoint two of her hobbies: painting and traveling. Most of the art hanging throughout the home are her original works, and of those, many chronicle personal experiences and expeditions. In the dining room, there’s a picture of a longhorn she created when she moved to Texas. And at the top of the stairs, there’s a painting of Bhutan, a country she visited with her father.
Some of her travels — like to Pensacola and Guam — were just part of the deal for the daughter of an Air Force doctor. But many adventures were by choice. Even before Boyd graduated from Hellgate High School in Montana, she ran on a team that competed in Singapore and participated in a program that took her to Japan. After graduation, she won a scholarship to study Arab world issues in Tunisia.
Boyd attended Mills College in Oakland, California, but spent junior year at the University of Tuebingen in Germany. She received a bachelor’s in German studies and international relations. And then she became a flight attendant on major German routes, to Frankfurt, Munich, Berlin and Stuttgart. What started as a job she expected to keep for a couple years turned into a seven-year occupation, and it came with perks. When she wasn’t jetting around Germany, Boyd might have been studying Spanish in Guatemala or meeting up with friends to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya.
“When we made it to the top, people said, ‘Oh, it’s because you are flight attendants,’” she says. “Like we had been trained in decompressions, which you are not.”
After a few years, she married and continued working as a flight attendant in the United States until she had her son. She took a job at Calligraphy Magazine in Oklahoma. Then the family moved to Minnesota, where her daughter was born.
Her interest in art really began to flourish in Minnesota, thanks in part to painting classes she took at art centers.
“I think it was finally giving myself permission to do it,” she says.
Boyd engaged with art from other angles as well. She became a docent at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and served on the board of nonprofit literary press Milkweed Editions for eight years.
In 2013, the family moved to Preston Hollow for her husband’s job at Aventiv Technologies. Boyd became involved with the Preston Hollow Women’s Club, where she now leads the museum group. And she recently joined the board of Deep Vellum Books.
It was in our neighborhood where Boyd took on the creative project she’s proudest of.
“All in all, it’s been really kind of an empowering accomplishment, especially when you start doing something just because you want to do it, with no real end goal,” she says.
Inspired by a calendar called “Remarkable Women” her mother gave her, Boyd decided to paint 50 portraits of women before she turned 50. But she was completing them faster than she expected, so she expanded her goal to 100 portraits.
She started with author Zora Neale Hurston and then moved on to other famous women. Some figures, such as her professor Moira Roth, were her own ideas. Others, like Ann Richards, were recommendations. As she painted, she included women of different professions, cultures and ages.
The portraits were compiled into a book called Badass Women, which Boyd hopes women will give to each other.
But Badass Women isn’t the end of Boyd’s art journey. For now, she’s working on a series of portraits of men, which she’ll be painting in her second-floor art studio, the room to the right of the painting of Bhutan.
For all those inspired to pursue art, Boyd’s advice is simple: “Do it. Just do it.”
To read more about our 2021 fierce females, click here.