Women in Art | Creation and Exploration

Fascinating, complex, imaginative, and scholarly, these two books aid readers interested in exploring spirituality and social activism in art.

Higgie, Jennifer. The Other Side: A Story of Women in Art and the Spirit World. Pegasus. Jan. 2024. 320p. ISBN 9781639365432. $29.95. FINE ARTS

Prolific writer, artist, composer and College of Psychic Studies member Higgie (Hilma af Klint; The Mirror and the Palette) wrote this collection of reflections and memories exploring connections between women and spirit worlds in historical and contemporary art, how those connections intertwine with nature, and what they teach about the future. Writing in the first person, Higgie takes readers on a journey through her own history of artistic inspiration. Along the way, she discusses well-known artists who were inspired by their belief in the spirit world and introduces lesser-known artists, especially women who were ignored by the art historical canon. Although modernity was believed to be cool, sleek, and rational, modernists were influenced by spiritualism, and artists had a spiritual connection to their media. For Higgie, creating art is about not painting within the lines; instead, creativity requires shaking off prejudice, superstition, and constraining ways of thinking. Thoroughly illustrated, researched, and documented, this book includes endnotes, a bibliography, and a list of illustrations. VERDICT Fascinating and heretical to the art historical canon, this title gives readers the opportunity to learn about the complex history of the spiritual in art and encourages them to let their imaginations roam.—Nancy J. Mactague

Tobin, Amy. Women Artists Together: Art in the Age of Women’s Liberation. Yale Univ. Nov. 2023. 264p. ISBN 9780300270044. $45. FINE ARTS

Tobin is a scholar of art history as it intersects with feminism and political activism. She currently serves as associate professor in the department of history of art at the University of Cambridge. Her book grows from PhD research on collaboration between women artists during the social and politically charged years of 1968 into the mid-’80s. Tobin digs deep into archival collections in North America and the UK, as well as drawing on exhibitions, museum collections, and secondary literature related to art and social activism of the period. Much of the art created during the Women’s Liberation movement was exposed and supported through loose networks of communication and collaboration. While well-known artists like Judy Chicago, Carolee Schneemann, and Ana Mendieta, as well as groups like Women’s Workshop of the Artists’ Union get serious attention, the book is more about the infrastructures that empowered women artists than a survey of all. Tobin describes thriving networks, or “constellations” for consciousness-raising and group exhibitions, correspondence across national borders, and venues for expressing views on sexuality and feminism. VERDICT Deeply researched with extensive endnotes, this is a challenging but worthwhile read for scholars of the art and social activism of the ’70s.—Nancy B. Turner

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