Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books

The Center for Book Arts is hosting a roundtable on the work of women book artists on May 22nd. Here’s what to expect:

Though artists’ books can arguably trace their origins back to medieval volumes like the Trѐs Riches Heures, contemporary artists’ books tend to reference William Blake as the forerunner to the genre. And since then, the field has produced masters like Dieter Roth, Andy Warhol, Ed Ruscha, and others who transform books into art objects.

The 1970s and 80s are considered by many experts as the golden age of offset printed artists’ books, and though it was a field mostly dominated by men, women were making their mark, too. A roundtable discussion being held at New York’s Center for Book Artson Tuesday May 22 will explore the work of those women creators of offset printed artists’ books, the challenges they faced, and what they hope the future holds for the next generation of printmakers. Participants include Cynthia Marsh, founder of Tennessee’s Goldsmith Press; Rebecca Michaels, a photography professor at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia; and Philadelphia-based book artist, printmaker, and professor Patty Smith.

The panel will be moderated by the Met’s associate chief librarian of the Watson Library, Tony White, whose exhibition, Production, not Reproduction: a Chronological History of Offset Printed Artists’ Books, appeared at Yale in 2006 and at the Center for Book Arts in 2007.

Diane Dias De Fazio, a public services librarian at the NYPL and one of our featured librarians in the “Bright Young Librarians” series, has been instrumental in organizing the event. “The work of Smith, Marsh, and Michaels was featured in both iterations of that exhibition. White also served as guest editor for Volume 25 of the Journal of Artists’ Books,” Dias De Fazio said in an email recently.                                                                                          

 

“I interviewed all three women ten years ago when I was creating a genealogy of offset printers for Volume #25 of the Journal of Artists Books,” explained White. “I learned about where they discovered printing, who they studied with, and who they taught. There are a number of male offset printers who have received more recognition, but who came a generation or so later. With so many women book artists’ and printers, I want to make sure their stories are heard, especially in the contemporary book production environment.”

Though Tuesday’s panel of participants is far from complete, White believes that the women sharing their stories are representative of the experiences others have had.

“In a way, I am returning to a project I started in 2007 to gather and publish the interviews of offset printers,” explained White. “The focus of the program is on women who played important, foundational roles in the field of high speed rotary offset printing. “It is a highly technical and demanding printing process–much less forgiving that letterpress.”

“Women in a Golden Age of Artists’ Books” happens on Tuesday, May 22 at the Center for Book Arts (28 West 27th St, 3rd floor) from 6:30-7:45. RSVP to this event at rsvp@centerforbookarts.org.

Rethinking the Enlightenment

Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too.

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Think of the French Enlightenment, and who comes to mind? Probably Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and their impressive achievements like Candide, the Encyclopedie, and The Spirit of Laws, works that spurred the intellectual and philosophical movement of eighteenth-century Europe. Though the Enlightenment is often considered a male-dominated endeavor, French women played important roles, too. Elite, educated women often held salons–forums hosted in private homes where spirited debate on topics from education to politics accompanied sumptuous meals. (This is France, after all.) Women held court in these salons, selecting topics, curating the guest list, and using the venue to seal their social status. One of the more famous Parisian salonnières was Catherine de Vivonne, marquise de Rambouillet, who ran a salon at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, the first of its kind and which likely inspired Molière’s scathing one-act satire les Précieuses ridicules.
Other women went a step beyond hosting salons and picked up the plume for themselves. Madame de La Fayette, a regular at the Hôtel de Rambouillet, wrote the first French historical novel called La Princesse de Clèves (1678), while the correspondence of the marquise de Sevigné is widely celebrated for its verve and historical significance.
Today, Houghton Library at Harvard University is hosting a symposium on these and other ladies of the Enlightenment called, appropriately, “Rethinking Enlightenment: Forgotten Women Writers of Eighteenth-Century France.” Members of Harvard’s Department of Romance Languages and Literature as well as guest professors from the Universite de Lille and Wellesley College will discuss the works of women who participated in the Enlightenment “but were excluded from its history until recently.” The discussion accompanies an exhibition on view through April 28th, “Rethinking Enlightenment,” curated by Harvard senior and forum participant Caleb Shelbourne, who assisted professor Christie McDonald with research for her forthcoming two-volume work Femme, Littérature. Une histoire culturelle (Paris: Gallimard, 2019). The symposium comes two days after International Francophonie Day, an annual event celebrated by 220 million French-speakers on five continents.

Reexamining Mother’s Day with Margaret Atwood and “The Handmaid’s Tale”

 

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Motherhood means something other than candy and roses in The Handmaid’s Tale. Read about Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic as well as the Folio Society’s illustrated edition–on the Fine Books Blog.