When I first saw Women Who Read Are Dangerous by Stefan Bollman in Waterstones I quickly realised that it was part of the same series as Women Walking. Having a flick through in the shop it struck me how different the two books are.
In my review of Women Walking I wrote about how refreshing not to see women depicted as passive objects. And you would think that the artworks in Women Who Read would show women actively furthering their knowledge. But what you find is that artists over the years have reinforced the idea that leisure not academic achievement is the only reason why women read.
You have to question why some artists have created works in which the women are nude or in a boudoir scenario while reading a book. To be fair, the other scenario is depicting with children in a nurturing situation.
The final image in Women Who Read is the Eve Arnold photograph of Marilyn Monroe reading James Joyce’s Ulysses which the accompanying text questions if she actually read the book or if it was just a prop. An attractive woman also being clever can not possibly be right?
What is this underlying message? Women have no place in the intellectual world.
But is this all historical? I wish it was. Hysterical Literature is a set of YouTube videos with millions of views in which women read from books while getting a “happy ending”. The project creator says:
It explores feminism, mind/body dualism, distraction portraiture, and the contrast between culture and sexuality. (It’s also just really fun to watch.)
In my view his work is just a reminder to all women that their place is back in the bedroom not in the library. There is still such a long way to go. The saying knowledge is power is so true.
The book Madam and Eve by Liz Rideal and Kathleen Soriano is a selection of female artists in which the authors choose a single piece of their work that would fit into the book’s subtitle Women Portraying Women. Some of you may recognise Kathleen Soriano as one of the judges from Sky Arts Landscape or Portrait Artist of the Year programmes.
This book covers over 200 artists mainly from the late 20th century onwards. It makes sense that the art is from this era as the authors wanted to link the works with the rise of the feminist movement during this time period.
I need to add an authors note at this point, that all the works featured are in the “Western” art category. For artists from other cultures to be included would have made a much bigger book and the authors did not want to do that. However, they have not ruled out a follow up volume to cover the bits of the world that are missing.
It has been curious to me why “Western” art is considered far more superior than other regions. Commanding the highest auction prices and best places in art galleries.
Getting back to the book and I have to say there is a lot to take in. Not just because there are so many artists but the variety of what has been created. There is live performance, moving image, photography, sculpture and paintings. Often the pieces are humorous. Sometimes sad or strange. They maybe abstract or so realistic that it touches a nerve. Always thought provoking.
Some of the artists in the book I have heard of before but there are a lot that I haven’t. Which is an aim of the book. To get lesser known names more well known.
If you are new to this site, I have done reviews of books which showcase the work of female creators. You can read them here and here. I have to admit that this is, so far, the best book I have purchased that collates into one publication the work of women artists.
I took advantage of the late night opening at Tate Britain tonight to go around the All Too Human exhibition.
Walking around the exhibition I was struck by how the different artists could manage to depict people in their own unique way. So while some were very realistic there were others that were very abstract.
I will have to read the catalogue or the accompanying notes properly as I didn’t fully understand why the collection included still life and landscapes.
All Too Human – Bacon, Freud And A Century Of Painting Life is on until 27 August 2018.