As the Glasgow Women’s Library continues to acquire more books, I will attempt to highlight some of the recent additions that I found very intriguing. There are three books in particular which have joined the library and are striking explorations of the historical contributions made by women to the art world. I hope to paint a picture of what these books are, and why you may be interested in reading them.
The first book I’d like to introduce is ‘Angels of Anarchy: Women Artists and Surrealism’, a far-reaching survey of the women who contributed so significantly to the surrealist movement. Published in collaboration with the exhibition of the same name at the Manchester Art Gallery back in 2009, this book brings the reader to an incredible space which would otherwise be unreachable. Both a feast for your eyes and mind, the tangibly important and enchanting art is accompanied by insightful essays from a variety of contributors, the book as a whole being edited by Patricia Almer. This book celebrates women’s existence in a discipline where women have been historically overlooked, and their contributions unrecognised. Though undeniably interesting to the art history enthusiast, it’s also accessible to a more casual reader like myself, with quite a few shorter essays and, of course, the stunning quality of the images of the art itself.
The second book I’d like to introduce is ‘Against the Odds: Women Pioneers in the First Hundred Years of Photography’ by Martin W. Sandler. This is another book which seeks to fill in the historical gap which has come about from the omission of women’s contributions, in this case focusing on the work of women photographers. A great example of a thoughtful and balanced book, ‘Against the Odds’ is a tasteful blend of visually stunning photographs and captivatingly told stories about the photographers. As someone who loves photography, I found myself drawn in by the unique perspective of the women who created these photographs, moments in history which I had previously experienced in photographs predominantly through the male gaze. This experience made me very present to the value of books such as these, and for this reason, I would recommend at least dipping your toe in the water of this intriguing piece of work.
The final book I would like to talk about is ‘Kathleen Petyarre: Genius of Place’, featuring Petyarre’s work and essays by Christine Nicholls and Ian North. Kathleen Petyarre (1940-2018) was an Australian Aboriginal artist born on Atnangkere country in Central Australia who has been recognised as one of the greatest Australian artists of the past century. This book emerged from six years of conversation between Christine Nicholls and Kathleen Petyarre and tells the inseparable stories of Petyarre’s life and of her work. Petyarre’s life was extraordinarily interesting, and the tone of the writing is one of utmost respect, making it a fascinating and enjoyable read, brought together beautifully by Petyarre’s works of art. This is not only a great book because of the thoughtful work which has gone into putting it together, but also because of the space it creates to celebrate the art of not just a woman, but of an Australian Aboriginal woman. This perspective may seem distant, both culturally and geographically, however looking at this book I didn’t feel distance but actually the opposite. I felt welcomed into a world I was totally unfamiliar with seen through the rich perspective of an artist.
It strikes me that visual art has held a hugely valued and revered creative space for a very long time, but unfortunately, as with a lot of history, women’s contributions to this space have been largely overlooked. These books are a part of adjusting this imbalance. They also happen to be incredibly interesting and thoughtful pieces of work which I would highly recommend giving a look. These books are available in our lending library, please feel welcome to visit and even become a member, so you can take lovely books like these home with you.