ILLUSTRATING HBO’S GAME OF THRONES TAROT | INTERVIEW WITH CRAIG COSS

© 2018 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc

In HBO’s Game of Thrones Tarot award-winning fine artist, illustrator and storyteller Craig Coss, alongside author and thirty-year tarot practitioner Liz Dean, brings the world of Westeros to life through the vivid and atmospheric depictions of recognisable characters and scenes on each card.

The beautifully rendered and wholly original set melds the tradition of the tarot with the deep archetypes of Game of Thrones. Each card, from the Major Arcana to the Cups, Coins, Spears and Swords of the Minor Arcana, offers a rich and meaningful experience. Fans of the hit HBO show can pore over a treasure trove of beloved characters, scenes and stories depict in a style both surprising and true to the world of Westeros. The deluxe box contains 78 cards and a hardcover guidebook which explains the symbolism of each card and how to use them in a tarot reading.

Are you interested in finding out more about the two worlds colliding? Read our interview with illustrator Craig Coss below…

Q. How did you get into art and illustration? 

A. I grew up in a family of artists, designers, and storytellers—three or four generations on both sides—so I was raised to develop an eye for proportion and beauty, pencils, paint, and narrative. I’ve done paid illustration work since I was a teenager, starting with watercolors for my little sister who had her own hand-painted earring business in high school. I studied art and philosophy in college, and you could say that my work for the past three decades has been about expressing philosophy through visual art. In the past few years, I’m folding my interest in narrative into the mix. Both stories and visual imagery have been used to teach recondite subjects for centuries, and the idea of telling such stories—visually—intrigues me.

Imagine a village elder has some sort of profound or mystical experience, but because it was too abstract or too weird, her immediate family or friends can’t grasp her meaning. So she encodes her teaching into the symbols of a myth or fairy tale, or weaves it into a carpet, or carves it into the legs of a table. Maybe she sings a nursery rhyme or develops a card game that, if interpreted in a certain way, might point someone who notices it back to her profound experience. In all of these examples, the thing she makes might survive her—and survive even her great-grandchildren. Eventually—perhaps generations later—someone in her village might notice the teaching encoded in her work, and catch her hidden meaning! And in the societies that believe in reincarnation, that person might even be the same soul who encoded the teaching in the artifact or tradition in the first place—so in effect, she sent a little reminder to her future self! (So you can see why, in those societies, it might be a good idea to make such a thing.) It is with this spirit that folk arts have been created since prehistoric times, all over the world, and the resulting artifacts and traditions are imbued not only with beauty, but with deep teachings that even transcend conceptual meanings; such teachings might find resonance with our hearts, but cannot be understood by our thinking minds, because they’re too profound—little Zen koans, woven into a children’s game! Knowing that visual art and story can be used in that way keeps me striving not only in my work as a fine artist and illustrator, but in my life.

Q. How did this project come to be? 

A. It was a true collaboration. Chronicle Books asked Liz Dean to author the book that will accompany the deck, and then asked me to illustrate the cards. I’d wanted to do a tarot deck since I was a kid, and I knew the TV show. My wife Michelle is a huge fan and encouraged me to go for it. Liz and the team at Chronicle had a good idea for which characters they wanted to see on the Major Arcana cards, but few ideas for the Minor Arcana. I suggested that we pair the traditional meanings of the Minor Arcana cards with a character, moment, or scene from GoT that best fit the meaning for each and every card. It required that I watch the first six seasons three times over to find the most ideal possible pairings. It seemed so crazy and I wasn’t even sure that it could be done well. But I had a hunch to try. It came together piece by piece—an elaborate puzzle of narrative. New puzzles and constraints came up along the way, and several times I thought that we might lose certain pieces that would compromise the whole. But with Liz, Michelle, and Chronicle’s help, we were able to bring together two narratives—GoT and the traditional tarot—so that they inform and build upon each other. If you know the series well, the divinatory meanings tap into the power of that mythology, and can bring a wellspring of meanings into any tarot reading. And if you come from a background in tarot, you might see the TV series with new eyes. I think we’re all very pleased with the result.

Q. Have you always been a Game of Thrones fan? 

A. I’m a bit of a Luddite and stopped watching TV entirely in 1988, when I went to college. But when I recently got my MFA in Visual Narrative at SVA, I had to facilitate an online conversation with my peers about unusual plot arcs in long-form stories. Right away, HBO’s Game of Thrones came up in the conversation, but because I was out of the loop, I had nothing to say and couldn’t facilitate. I turned to Michelle and asked her if she wanted to binge-watch five seasons with me, and she was thrilled. So Game of Thrones was literally the first TV show I’d seen in over twenty-five years! I thought it was very synchronistic that I was asked to illustrate this project. If it had been for any other TV show, I’d have had to turn it down.

Illustration by Craig Coss. © 2017 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc
Illustration by Craig Coss
© 2018 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. GAME OF THRONES and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc

Q. Which character or card was your favourite to illustrate and why? 

A. I have so many favorites that it’s hard to chose. Some cards paired up with traditional Tarot meanings so closely that at times it was uncanny. But I think The Fool was my favorite card to create. Peter Dinklage is a brilliant actor, and I love his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister. Liz felt strongly that The Fool is a card about following intuition and taking tremendous risks— about trusting in the Grand Order of things that’s beyond the intellect’s understanding. It’s about stepping out of the world of the ego and into a world ordered by something greater. Accordingly, Liz wanted to depict Tyrion freeing a dragon in Meereen. I loved the idea! But she also wanted to include the number zero on the card—something I felt strongly not to do. The Fool has been my favorite card since I was ten years old, and I knew it was the keystone of the entire deck. We fought it out, and eventually I gave in and agreed to number it zero. And then it came to me: the number zero, historically, came from India. It was connected to the early Buddhist concept of the empty mind—a state of consciousness without an ego or identity called Dhyāna, the origin of the word Zen. The Hindus used that sign—the circle to indicate nothingness or emptiness—in a new method of mathematical notation, and thus Hindu-Arabic numerals were born. I wanted to show that history visually in the card, and it came to me to depict the zero as the reflection of Tyrion’s head in the eye of a dragon: a visual pun. In that way, the zero in the card hints that The Fool is connected with the dragon’s eye, but also with the state of surrender to that consciousness. And that’s the state of inspiration that seizes us from another world and allows us to think out of the box, to take risks, and bring something new into the world. Liz’s insistence on the inclusion of the zero sparked the inspiration for the composition of the whole card, and Tyrion—with Dinklage’s beautiful expression while holding aloft a flame in the middle of an Ouroboric dragon—brings a wealth of emotional and symbolic associations to the card. The Fool is a great example of how discussions between Liz and I gave birth to ideas that we could never have come up with alone.

Q. What was your process for creating the artwork? 

A. My original idea was to hand carve woodcuts for every card, to scale, just as all of the late medieval Marseilles tarot decks were created. The art director, Michael Morris, loved my coloured woodcut prints, but there just wasn’t time to cut the wood for seventy-eight cards, print them, hand watercolor them and make any revisions that might be needed. So I invented a way to create a woodcut look digitally and made an analogue/digital hybrid for each card. The technique was still labor-intensive, but it made revisions far easier than having to cut new woodblocks and re-paint them. That said, three of the cards in the final set are scans of those woodblock prints. If I did my job well, they won’t be easy to spot.

Q. Are you interested in the world of tarot itself?

A. My father gave me my first set of tarot cards when I was ten years old. He had no idea what they were but he saw them at a garage sale for a dollar and knew I’d love the artwork. I saw in those cards a world of symbolism, mythology, and magic the likes of which I’d never seen before. I read about their use as an oracle, which fascinated me as a kid. But the most powerful aspect of the tarot for me was the idea that archetypes were represented in the Major Arcana and narratives were represented in the Minor Arcana. That’s some heavy-duty mojo: Death, Angels, the Devil—they were all there on these cards. And I realised early on that they were nothing to take lightly. Later, I learned that they were the oldest playing cards in Europe, the progenitors of the playing cards we use today. When travelling in Romania, I saw a friend’s mother using cards to divine whether we should all travel to Istanbul on a certain day or not. Even though she was using ordinary playing cards, she was using them to help us, to make sure we travelled safely.

I’m intrigued by the use of tools that generate apparently random results  (e.g. dice, runes, tea leaves, cracks in tortoise shells, or cards) for oracular purposes by people all over the world, since prehistory. It’s our way of saying, “I don’t know what to do, which way to go, or what choice to make.” We’re asking for help, and letting a higher power or the Great Mystery that controls the so-called “random” events in the universe intercede and possibly help us. To me, there’s something beautiful in that trust that we can have, whether you call it faith or psychological projection. And in my experience with oracles such as the I Ching, the greater one’s trust that a useful response might come through such tools, the more accurate the results can be.

People can make an oracle out of almost anything that they don’t feel that they control, but the tarot is the most visually beautiful and evocative tradition of divination I’m aware of. Even if you think the whole oracular thing is hogwash, the images are undeniably beautiful and powerful; for that reason, I’ve collected tarot decks since I was a kid.


HBO’s Game of Thrones Tarot is out now, find out more here!

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Craig Coss is an award-winning San Francisco Bay Area fine artist, illustrator and storyteller with an MFA in Visual Narrative from the School of Visual Arts. He’s the author of The Goddess Coloring Book: Traditional Images to Contemplate & Color. When he was given his first tarot deck at age ten, he knew it would point him in the right direction.

Visit his website or follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

Liz Dean is a tarot practitioner of thirty years’ standing and the author of four tarot decks and ten books, including The Ultimate Guide to Tarot and The Art of Tarot. She reads and teaches tarot at Psychic Sisters within Selfridges, London, and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

Visit her website or follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO #DRESSLIKEAWOMAN? | VIDEO

For Women’s History Month and to celebrate the publication of DRESS LIKE A WOMAN: WORKING WOMEN AND WHAT THEY WORE by ABRAMS Books, with essays by ROXANE GAY and VANESSA FRIEDMAN, we asked you to send in photos of what it means to you to #DressLikeAWoman!

Now, for International Women’s Day, we’re delighted to release the entries we’ve received!

And that’s not all…

We’d love to keep the conversation going and will be adding in any further entries until the end of March 2018! Tag us @abramschronicle on Instagram or Twitter or email us

BOOKS FOR PROGRESS | IWD & WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

It’s not long now until International Women’s Day (8th March) AND March is Women’s History Month, so we’ve been getting in the mood (are we ever not?) and have rounded up some recent books to empower, inspire and educate: books for progress!

Watch our video above and then scroll down for some inspiration… 


1. DRESS LIKE A WOMAN 

What does it mean to dress like a woman? This book turns that question on its head by sharing a myriad of interpretations throughout history. It’s a comprehensive look at the role of gender and dress in the workplace and contains essays by renowned fashion writer Vanessa Friedman and feminist writer Roxane Gay.

Find out more

2. BYGONE BADASS BROADS

It’s Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls for grown-ups, based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular Twitter series of forgotten trail-blazing women. There are witty bios and in-depth stories of women who dared to step outside of traditional gender roles for their times. With stylish and bold illustrations by Petra Eriksson.

Find out more

3. 200 WOMEN

This landmark book was published in October last year to rave reviews and proceeds go to organisations nominated by the women featured. Alongside photographic portraits by acclaimed photograph Kieran Scott, each of the 200 Women answer the same five questions and provide a snapshot of female life around the globe. Interviewees include Margaret Atwood, Jane Goodall, Roxane Gay, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many more from all walks of life.

Find out more

Visit the official 200 Women website

4. BAD GIRLS THROUGHOUT HISTORY & LEGENDARY LADIES

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Ann Shen’s brilliant Bad Girls Throughout History has been capturing hearts since 2016 but it never goes out of style and even has its own stationery range. Her next book comes out this April and looks set to do the same. Legendary Ladies is a lushly illustrated and empowering look at goddesses from around the world and an homage to the mighty women within us all.

Find out more 

5. YOUNGER READERS

There’s no shortage of inspiration on hand for younger readers – from toddlers to teen and beyond. This is just a small selection with some recent favourites.

Little Feminist Board Book Set – the Little Feminist range from Galison Mudpuppy includes a Board Book Set, a 500 Piece Family Puzzle and Playing Cards! All feature illustrations by Lydia Ortiz, and text by Emily Kleinman. These are bright, colourful and inspiring baby books featuring incredible women from history and from the modern day. Find out more

Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty (illus. David Roberts) – these two characters have earned their places among the most beloved children’s characters and have inspired countless kids and adults to follow their dreams. They are great for the classroom and downloadable teacher’s guides and activities are available. 2018 is also the UK Year of Engineering, which Rosie Revere is very excited about. These rhyming picture books are perfect for ages 4-8, and each also has a linked Project Book for Science and Engineering related activities. Find out more

Lumberjanes: Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki (illus. Brooklyn Allen) – the hit graphic novel series from BOOM! Studios now has whole new adventures in middle-grade novel format. Welcome to Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types! The series stars all types of girls: gay and straight, trans- and cisgendered and celebrates friendship, adventure and general hilarity! Book 2 is coming in May. Find out more


COMPETITION

Colour in a Bygone Badass Broads colouring sheet (download here) and email or tag us on Twitter or Instagram to be in with a chance of winning a book bundle of Bygone Badass Broads, 200 Women, Dress Like a Woman and Bad Girls Throughout History! (UK & Ireland Only) 

There’s also a downloadable Bygone Badass Broads protest sign here!  


Find all these books and many, many more on our website!

COOK BEAUTIFUL | STYLE YOUR WINTER TABLE WITH ATHENA CALDERONE

Athena Calderone cooks with internationally acclaimed chefs, hosts stunning dinner parties for luxury publications, and showcases it all on EyeSwoon, an online destination for food, fashion, and design. And in Cook Beautiful, she’s revealing the secrets to preparing and presenting gorgeous meals. Included are 100 seasonal recipes with step-by-step advice on everything from prep to presentation—from artfully layering a peach and burrata salad, to searing a perfect steak. Organised by season, each section ends with a menu for entertaining and ideas for table decor. Following in the tradition of EyeSwoon, this book is where design meets food, where culinary tradition marries food styling, where home chefs become experts. These are beautiful, tasteful dishes to make for friends and family, with advice that will inspire you to create visually stunning, and still wholly delicious, culinary masterpieces.

The following is an extract from Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone (ABRAMS Books)


THE WINTER TABLE

Rather than mourn winter’s waning light, embrace the darkness with lush, moody décor and a warm, cosy vibe. Here, saturated grey linen, rumpled for added texture, serves as the backdrop for simple black ceramics, mismatched brass candlesticks, and a rambling arrangement of delicate flowers and ferns. A handmade touch—no matter how small—is the best way to add warmth to a table. For this meal at home with friends, I made ink-stained paper menu cards, adorning them with fragrant eucalyptus leaves. The overall feel is intimate, refined, and just a little decadent—like the perfect winter meal. 

N o . 1 

O N  T H E  M E N U

There are few things more festive than handwritten menus—even when they’re not actually written by hand. Rather than hiring a calligrapher, select a scrolling script font and pop some pretty paper into your printer. Here, I used watercolour paper, tearing the edges and dabbing on watered-down ink, which bleeds to form a subtle, organic pattern.

N o . 2 

W E L L  S E A S O N E D

During citrus season, I love to flavour sea salt with a blend of zest and herbs. My recipe not only livens up roast fish or poultry, it also serves as a mouth-watering memento of the meal for guests to take home.

N o . 3 

D A R K  M AT T E R

We change our wardrobes with the seasons, so why not our dishes? These days, investing in darker, moodier place settings for winter isn’t particularly pricey. Chic—and cheap!—pieces can be found at stores like West Elm, CB2, and even IKEA.

N o . 4 

L E T  T H E R E  B E  L I G H T S

A matched pair of candlesticks in the middle of your table can feel a little predictable. Instead, add visual interest—and set a casual, modern mood—with an odd-numbered grouping of vintage finds in a variety of heights and styles. Dark-colored tapers are an especially cosy touch on cold nights.

N o . 5 

S P I C E  T H I N G S  U P

Whole spices like nutmeg, allspice, star anise, and cinnamon are too beautiful to keep hidden away in a drawer. And, especially during the holiday season, their sweet, warm scents feel festive without being overpowering. Here, I used the sculptural little gems to decorate a side table, alongside spicy sachets that guests can use at home to simmer mulled wine.

N o . 6 

P R I Z E  R I B B O N S

Words to live by: Never pass up a spool of pretty ribbon. If you keep some on hand, you’ll find many lovely ways to use it, from holding together cutlery to binding bouquets—and, of course, tying up presents. Velvet varieties add elegant texture and subtle sheen to winter décor.

N o . 7 

W R A P  S TA R

Gauzy linen, available at most fabric stores, can serve as a beautiful and unexpected alternative to wrapping paper. Simply cut or tear a large square—leaving the edges unfinished—place a gift in the centre, and form a loose knot on top, tucking in a few green sprigs for a decorative touch.

N o . 8 

C I R C L E  O F  L I F E

Get the look of a handmade wreath without the hassle of starting from scratch by purchasing the simplest evergreen option from your local market or nursery and embellishing it with seed pods, ornamental berries, feathers, sprigs, and other foraged finds.

N o . 9 

S AY  C H E E S E

When artfully composed, a cheese plate can double as table décor. The most inviting platters feel abundant, so fill in vacant areas with fresh or dried fruit. The cheeses themselves should look natural and gooey. Break up any pristine wedges by hacking off a few messy chunks and let soft cheese sit at room temperature until properly runny.


Cook Beautiful by Athena Calderone is out now, find out more here.

200 WOMEN | Alicia Garza

9781452166582_3D (1)Interviews with 200 women from a variety of backgrounds provide a snapshot of female life around the globe. Interviewees include: • Jane Goodall, conservation and animal welfare activist • Margaret Atwood, author and winner of The Booker Prize • Roxane Gay, author and feminist • Renée Montagne, former host of NPR’s Morning Edition • Alicia Garza, activist and co-founder of Black Lives Matter • Alfre Woodard, award-winning actor and activist • Marian Wright Edelman, head of the Children’s Defense Fund • Lydia Ko, professional golfer and Olympian • Dolores Huerta, labor activist, community organizer, and co-founder of the National Farm Workers Association • Alice Waters, chef, author, and food rights advocate • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author and Macarthur Foundation fellow.

Each woman shares her unique reply to the same five questions: What really matters to you?, What brings you happiness?, What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?, What would you change if you could?, and Which single word do you most identify with?

With responses ranging from uplifting to heartbreaking, these women offer gifts of empowerment and strength – inviting us to bring positive change at a time when so many are fighting for basic freedom and equality. Each interview is accompanied by a photographic portrait, resulting in a volume that is compelling in word and image—and global in its scope and resonance. This landmark book is published to coincide with an interactive website, building on this remarkable, ever-evolving project. A percentage of the originating publisher’s revenue from book sales will be distributed to organisations nominated by the women featured in the book.

The following is an extract from 200 Women Who Will Change the Way You See the World, edited by Ruth Hobday, Geoff Blackwell, Sharon Gelman and Marianne Lassandro, photographs by Kieran Scott.


© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
© 2017 Kieran E. Scott kieranscottphotography.com
Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza was born in Carmel in California, USA. She is an activist and organiser based in Oakland, California. In 2013, Garza co-founded Black Lives Matter (BLM), an ideological and political organising network campaigning against anti-black racism and violence. In 2016, she and her two BLM co-founders were recognised in Fortune’s World’s 50 Greatest Leaders. Garza is the director of special projects for the National Domestic Workers Alliance. She is also an editorial writer, whose work has been featured in publications including The Guardian, The Nation, The Feminist Wire, Rolling Stone and Huffington Post.

Q. What really matters to you?

I want to be able to tell my kids that I fought for them and that I fought for us. In a time when it’s easy to be tuned out, it feels really important to me to be somebody who stands up for the ability of my kids – of all kids – to have a future.

The other thing that really motivates me is wanting to make sure we achieve our goals. As I was coming up as an organiser, we were told we were fighting for something we might never see in our lifetime. I’m just not satisfied with that; I think change can happen much faster, but it requires organisation, and an understanding of power and how we can shift it from its current incarnation. We need to transform power, so that we’re not fighting the same battles over and over again. This is what I wake up thinking about every single day. And every night when I go to sleep, I’m thinking about how we can get closer to it tomorrow.

Women inspire me to keep going. My foremost in influence was my mother; she initially raised me on her own, having never expected to be a parent at twenty-six. She taught me everything I know about what it means to be a strong woman who is in her power. I’m also very much in influenced by black women throughout history. I’m inspired by Harriet Tubman, not only for all the work she did to free individual slaves – which, of course, was amazing – but for everything she did to eradicate the institution of slavery, the alliances she built to do so and the heartbreaks she endured in pursuit of her vision. And it’s not only women in the United States who inspire me. In Honduras in 2016, Berta Cáceres was murdered while pursuing her vision of ecological justice and a better life for the people in Honduras being preyed upon by corporations and the United States government.

Black Lives Matter has been a big part of my activism. When it came onto the scene, there was a lot of pushback; people responded by saying, ‘All lives matter.’ I think the intensity of these reactions against Black Lives Matter is a testament to how effective our systems are in isolating these kinds of issues – they make them seem as though they impact individuals, as opposed to entire communities. The all-lives-matter thing is simultaneously fascinating and infuriating to me, because it’s so obvious. Obviously all lives matter; it’s like saying the sky is blue or that water is wet. But, when people say, ‘Actually, all lives matter,’ it feels like a passive-aggressive way of saying, ‘White lives matter.’

People seemed shocked that police brutality was an issue, but I thought, ‘Um, where have you been?’ The police are supposed to serve all communities, but instead, they aren’t accountable to black communities in the same way they are to white communities. The United States is rooted in profound segregation, disenfranchisement and oppression in pursuit of profits. And it feels like the country is being powered by amnesia.

Q. What brings you happiness?

My community – absolutely. This includes both of my families, blood and chosen – because my family is also my friends, the people I’ve been through things with. These are the people who stand with me, support me and love me. They are the people who feed me, and we just let each other be, because we understand each other.

Q. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

I’d call it capitalism. There is nothing on earth that makes people as miserable, that kills people as avidly and that robs people of their dignity so completely as an economic system that prioritises profits over human needs. Capitalism prioritises profits over people and over the planet we depend on. There are millions and millions of people living on the streets without homes because of capitalism. And there are millions and millions of people suffering from depression and other emotional and mental afflictions because of it – because the things we are taught should drive us and make us happy are unattainable for the majority of people on this planet. Capitalism shapes every understanding you have of who you are and of what your value is. If you have no monetary value – if you can’t sell something that you produce in this economy – then you are deemed unusable, unworthy and extraneous. There is no other force in the world that is so powerful and that causes so much misery for so many people.

Q. What would you change if you could?

I would start with all of the people who are suffering right now. I would give whatever is needed to every mama who is living in a car with her kids and is trying to figure out how she’s going to make it another day – if not for herself then for the people who depend on her. I would give to all the people who are dying in the deserts right now, trying to cross artificial borders pursuing what they think will be a better life here in the United States – if I had a wand I’d make it so that that journey was easier and that there wasn’t punishment on both sides. In fact, I would ensure that no one ever had to leave their homes in pursuit of survival – they would have everything that they needed right there at home.

The other area I would work on is within our own movements. I spend a lot of time thinking about how we could be clear about what we’re up against and how we each fight it differently; I think about how we can advance our goals without tearing each other up along the way. So, if I could wave a wand, I would also change some of the suffering of organisers and activists in our movements who are tired and burned out, who feel disposable and don’t feel seen.

Q. Which single word do you most identify with?

Courage. It takes real tenacity to be courageous.


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200 Women is out from 31 October, find out more here. You can view the official project website here, which includes the trailer and additional extra media content. Follow 200 Women on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

A GLORIOUS FREEDOM | INTERVIEW WITH CHERYL STRAYED

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The glory of growing older is the freedom to be more truly ourselves—with age we gain the liberty to pursue bold new endeavors and worry less about what other people think. In this richly illustrated volume, bestselling author and artist Lisa Congdon explores the power of women over the age of forty who are thriving and living life on their own terms. Profiles, interviews, and essays from women—including Vera Wang, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Julia Child, Cheryl Strayed, and many more—who’ve found creative fulfillment and accomplished great things in the second half of their lives are lavishly illustrated and hand-lettered in Congdon’s signature style. The perfect gift for women of all ages, A Glorious Freedom celebrates extraordinary lives and redefines what it means to gain wisdom and maturity.

The following is an extract from A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon.


Cheryl’s famous memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail was published when she was 43 years old. It took her two and a half years to trace the steps, challenges, and revelations she faced during her three-month, 1,100-mile hike from the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Northwest onto paper—and about two minutes for the finished book to land on the New York Times bestseller list. In the months following, Cheryl experienced instant fame—from Oprah’s Book Club 2.0 to the film adaptation championed by Reese Witherspoon and Nick Hornby, Wild went, well, wild. It is an international bestseller and a recipient of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award and the Oregon Book Award. Cheryl is also the author of the New York Times bestsellers Tiny Beautiful Things and Brave Enough. Her first novel, Torch, was published in 2007. Her essays have been published in the New York Times Magazine, the Washington Post, Vogue, and Tin House, among others, and her work has been selected three times for inclusion in the The Best American Essays. She anonymously authored The Rumpus’s popular Dear Sugar advice column from 2010 to 2012, for which she now cohosts a podcast. She currently lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

AGF_interview_cherylstrayed2


Lisa: You worked for many years at writing, and it wasn’t until just a few short years ago, in your early 40s, you published the book that made you a household name. I encounter a lot of young artists who imagine that if they just concoct some magical formula they can have “instant success.” How would you describe the role of purpose, work, and patience in your own journey?

Cheryl: I was a successful writer long before Wild was published. What happened with Wild wasn’t “success.” It was crazy lightning striking. I’m always taken aback when people imply that I achieved success in my 40s. In fact, I had a pretty steady upward career trajectory as a writer, and all of that came about because, as you say, I showed up each day to do the work. I began publishing in my 20s. By the time I was in my early 30s I had won many awards and grants, and was publishing in respected magazines, and I’d earned my MFA in creative writing. In my mid-30s I sold my first novel to a major publisher and it was broadly reviewed and sold well. Meanwhile, I was continuing to publish essays in prominent places and I was also teaching writing.

I was known in the literary community. Then Wild happened and with that came fame and a much broader international audience. It was astounding and glorious, but it didn’t, for me, mark the beginning of the sense that I’d arrived as a writer. I was already there and I’m still here—working my tail off. That’s the magic formula: work.

Lisa: One of the most life-changing lessons I’ve learned over the past ten years is the power of embracing all of my life experience, and this is something you write about as well. Why is this idea of owning and learning to love all of your experience (even the stuff that makes us cringe or that would normally make us feel shame), why is it so important?

Cheryl: I’ve long believed our mistakes and failures teach us as much as our victories and successes. When you acknowledge the full spectrum of your possibility—as both someone who can be great and as someone who is sometimes not so great—you can bring the full force of your humanity to everything you do.

Lisa: What for you is the best part of getting older?

Cheryl: Feeling more secure about who I am. Feeling stronger about being okay with disappointing people. Putting up less of a facade. Being gentler with myself and others, too.

Lisa: What do you think is the relationship between forgiveness and the ability to age joyfully?

Cheryl: I’ve written about forgiveness a lot and it all pretty much boils down to the fact that when you can’t forgive people who have harmed you (or forgive yourself for the harm you’ve done to others) you stay locked in that struggle. Forgiveness is, to me, really acceptance. Accepting that what’s true is true. It’s saying, this is the way it was and onward we go.

Lisa: What are the three greatest lessons you’ve learned in the last ten years?

Cheryl: 1. Saying no is one form of saying yes. 2. Our ideas about famous people are projections of who we are, not a reflection of who they are. 3. Everyone struggles. Everyone hurts. Everyone wants to be told it’s all going to be okay.

Lisa: What advice do you have for women who fear getting older?

Cheryl: The fear of getting older is about the false notion that one’s power was rooted in the things that youth offers us—namely, beauty. My advice would be to see that for the lie that it always was. Our power is never about how pretty we are. Our power is about how we live our lives. Start living it.


A Glorious Freedom by Lisa Congdon publishes on 03 October 2017. Find out more here. 

See the stunning book trailer here

Visualising Spheres of Knowledge

The Book of Circles Cover

In The Book of Circles, his companion volume to the popular Book of Trees, Manuel Lima takes us on a lively tour through millennia of information design. Three hundred detailed and colourful illustrations cover an encyclopedic array of subjects, drawing fascinating parallels across time and culture.

Here are a few of the spectacular images from The Book of Circles:

William Billings, Musical score for the song “Connection”, 1794 Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
William Billings, Musical score for the song “Connection”, 1794
Credit: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University

Frontispiece to The Continental Harmony (1794), a book by William Billings containing dozens of psalm anthems and hymns. Billings was a prominent early American choral composer. This illustration represents the score for the tune “Connection” as a four-stave, circular piece of music, which starts at the top of the outermost ring and works its way to the centre.

 Dave Bowker, One Week of the Guardian: Wednesday, 2008 Credit: Dave Bowker
Dave Bowker, One Week of the Guardian: Wednesday, 2008
Credit: Dave Bowker

Part of a series of experiments exploring how to visualise the content of the Guardian newspaper in an artistic and engaging way, a diagram showing the popularity of fifty-four news articles. The concentric circles group articles into colour-coded categories (e.g., life and style articles are shown by orange, technology by cyan, and science by blue), with the least popular category positioned in the centre. Word counts for each article are noted within speech bubbles.

Nicholas Felton, Feltron 2007 Annual Report, 2008 Credit: Nicholas Felton
Nicholas Felton, Feltron 2007 Annual Report, 2008
Credit: Nicholas Felton

Pie chart displaying the statistics for an average day of the author, plotting various data such as number of emails sent, miles run, or cups of coffee consumed. Between 2005 and 2015, information designer Nicholas Felton meticulously documented his daily activity to create his Personal Annual Reports, compilations of information graphics that give an overview of each year, set out in the style of corporate reporting. The project is an exploration of how to graphically encapsulate the activities of an entire year, as well as how we can glean data from rapidly changing technology

Anna Filipova, Lineage of Sin in the Bible, 2009 Credit: Anna Filipova
Anna Filipova, Lineage of Sin in the Bible, 2009
Credit: Anna Filipova

Chart measuring time through sins, as described in the Bible, displaying an inverse relationship between longevity and sin. Longevity decreases from Adam (the first man) to Moses at the same time that sin increases. The outer ring, read counter clockwise, moves through the major events of the Old Testament. Relevant biblical verses that reveal someone’s age are cited, and the average age for an epoch is shown underneath (coloured rings).

Ernst Haeckel, Drawing of an ophidea, 1904 Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Ernst Haeckel, Drawing of an ophidea, 1904
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lithograph of an ophidea, a type of echinoderm similar to a starfish. Ernst Haeckel was a German biologist who published a series of detailed lithographs, Kunstformen der Natur (Art forms of nature), over the course of five years. These images of microscopic biology have been hugely influential on both the arts and science.


Click here to find out more about Manuel Lima’s books.

Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order)

It is a sad truth that there is still a gender bias in the art world. The facts speak for themselves: an audit of the art world in 2013 showed that every artist in the top 100 auction sales was a man, and just 8% of public art in central London was created by women(1). During Frieze week, the busiest time in the art calendar, a mere 33% of solo shows were by women(2). Between 2007 – 2014 the Tate Modern granted women artists solo exhibitions only 25 percent of the time(3).

To put it plainly: works by women artists are still worth far less than similar works by men from the same generation and location.

BUT things are changing and Chronicle Books are adding their voices to the battle cry of groups like the Guerrilla Girls with a new book; Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order).

Historically, major women artists have been excluded from the mainstream art canon. Aligned with the resurgence of feminism in pop culture, Broad Strokes offers an entertaining corrective to that omission. Art historian Bridget Quinn delves into the lives and careers of 15 brilliant female artists in text that’s smart, feisty, educational and an enjoyable read. Replete with beautiful reproductions of the artists’ works and contemporary portraits of each artist by renowned illustrator Lisa Congdon, this is art history from 1600 to the present day for the modern art lover, reader and feminist.

The following is an extract from Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order):

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER
© 2017 by Lisa Congdon.

PAULA MODERSOHN-BECKER


I love waking in my studio, seeing my pictures come alive in the light. Sometimes I feel it is myself that kicks inside me, myself I must give suck to, love . . .

—ADRIENNE RICH, “PAULA BECKER TO CLARA WESTHOFF”


IT IS A TRUTH universally acknowledged that the annus mirabilis of twentieth-century Modernism occurred, quite specifically, in 1907 in the city of Paris, making way for everything that was to follow.

Every movement loves a start date. But, of course, Modernism was well underway before 1907. The Romantics had already depicted a world devoid of organized religion, but soulful and sublime; Realists had given us the heroism of everyday life (“How great and poetic we are in our cravats and our patent-leather boots,” said Baudelaire); the Impressionists faithfully captured on canvas the play of light across skin, field, water, and air; and Post-Impressionists took such facts to the unseen world of spirit and emotion, what Symbolist (and proto-Expressionist) Edvard Munch called, “the soul’s inner pictures.”

So what happened in 1907 that branded it ground zero of twentieth-century Modernism?

One of the oldest things in art: the female nude. As painted by two men.

In the spring of 1907, former Fauve bad boy Henri Matisse showed his Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra), an unclothed woman in the odalisque tradition (reclining, Orientalizing, sexualized) reduced to disjointed color, line, and form.

As if summoned to a duel, Picasso answered by painting Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, a shocking and disorienting brothel scene credited with ushering in Cubism. “The contest for the supremacy of the avant-garde was being fought in the arena of the female nude, painted large in scale,” writes Cubism scholar Natasha Staller. Contest is certainly le mot juste in this case.

Yet that contest was underway before 1907. The previous year, a nude as groundbreaking as those by Matisse and Picasso had already been painted, by a woman. In Paula Modersohn-Becker’s Self-Portrait, Age 30, 6th Wedding Day, the unclothed subject is the artist herself. Standing life-size, she stares out at us, comfortable and impassive. From the waist up she wears only an amber necklace that rests between her small breasts. Her left hand holds a kind of skirt or drapery around her waist, while her right rests—protectively? meaningfully?—above her protruding belly.

It’s painting as manifesto, not one brushstroke less so than Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. In a New Yorker interview, art historian Diane Radycki describes Modersohn-Becker as “the missing piece in the history of twentieth-century Modernism.”

“Cézanne is the father of us all,” is a line attributed both to Picasso and to Matisse. Certainly it’s true he fathered them both.

It’s equally true that Modersohn-Becker is mother to an alternative strand of Modernism: psychologically probing, personally brave, flagrantly and unrepentantly female. Think Frida Kahlo and Alice Neel, Ana Mendieta, Kiki Smith, Nancy Spero, Cindy Sherman, Catherine Opie, and countless more. The list is eminent and long.

* * * * *

I like to picture Modersohn-Becker in a cold Parisian flat, in the spring of 1906. She’s waited until the light is good, but sun in May is weak at best. She’s stripped to the waist, chilled, and alone but for her camera. She’s left her husband, her parents, and her sisters behind in Germany. She is there, in a foreign city, because she has no choice. This is where she first saw Cézanne, Gauguin. Where the ancient art of the Louvre—Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman—waits for her every day. The Old Masters are there, too, of course. And in the galleries, so much that’s new. Something entirely fresh is happening in art; she must be part of it.

She’s painted nudes for years, German peasants, even old women and young girls, from the village of Worpswede. Here in Paris, it’s not so easy. Models are a professional lot. They must be paid—in francs, not in trade or promises—and, just now, she has no money.

But what luck, she has herself with her. She smiles and adjusts the light, the lens, and steps back. She varies the tilt of her head, takes one photo with hands to necklace, another with them resting across the flat plane of her stomach. She plucks small flowers from a jar on her bedside table, the first buds of spring, and holds them before her as she stares into the camera.

She develops the film, likes what she sees.

As soon as she wakes each morning, she paints. Paints all day while the light lasts. She forgets to eat. The work is enough; it sustains her. Though she grows thinner, in paint she grows fuller. She gives herself a wholesome round belly, big with promise. She is as full of potential as a bud in spring.

When she’s done, she steps back. She knows she’s becoming something at last. Never again will she apologize when saying she is a painter.

She signs this self-portrait P. B. Though she notes the day as her fifth anniversary (or sixth wedding day) of marriage to Otto Modersohn, that’s done now. She uses only the initials of her maiden name: Paula Becker. I made this.

A friend from home, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, stops by soon after, catching sight of the new work. He eyes his friend’s swollen belly on canvas with concern. Rilke believes art must trump life. A child would be a disaster.

He should relax. Paula Becker is not pregnant.

* * * * *

Modersohn-Becker painted the first female nude self-portrait in Western history. It is true that Artemisia Gentileschi likely used her own body as the model for her Old Testament heroine in Susanna and the Elders, but that’s not the same thing. In Self-Portrait, Age 30, Modersohn-Becker is her own heroine. She is artist, subject, object, metaphor, nature, and actor.

Compare the not-pregnant, but pregnant-looking artist, here, to her flourishing forebearers in paint: Botticelli’s famous curving Venus in La Primavera, for example. The goddess is not with child, but is part of a (nearly) baffling allegory pertaining to the fertility of all creation. Or consider the female half of The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait by Jan van Eyck. On seeing it (if you have not, trust me), the inevitable first question is, “Why is the bride pregnant?” She’s not. Round-bellied women, believe it or not, were considered the most beautiful.

Though revolutionary, Modersohn-Becker is more than aware of the past. She is Botticelli and his Venus, Jan and his full-bellied bride, in a cold Parisian garret in spring, procreative as all hell.

By the time Modersohn-Becker painted her first nude self-portrait at the age of thirty (she went on to do six more), she’d been grappling seriously with art for a good decade, ambitious from the start.

When I was twenty-two, I read this, written by the artist in 1897 when she was my same age: “I walk along the boulevards and crowds of people pass by and something inside me cries out, ‘The beauty I have before me, none, none, none of you have.’” By the time I read those words, I was in love with New York and in love with the idea of writing, though I’d done little outside the academic.

In a course on German Expressionism, our professor, Gert Schiff, had shown one of Modersohn-Becker’s nude self-portraits and mentioned he’d put a volume of her translated letters and journals on the “class hold” shelf in the library. At the break, I raced upstairs, found the book, and moved it to “my” chair in a study room. Books on class hold could not be checked out.

I spent the next week at my boyfriend’s place on the Upper East Side so I could get to school early and get dibs on the book. Mornings I waited on the cold sidewalk for the building to open, vainly warming my palms on cardboard to-go cups of too-milky tea. Once in my chair upstairs, I devoured Modersohn-Becker’s words, wanting to know, in order to re-create, her recipe for making oneself an artist.

* * * * *

It was her diaries and letters, not her paintings, that first made Modersohn-Becker famous. Rilke, her close friend, refused to act as editor and begged his own publisher not to release them: “For where do they let us learn that this accommodating creature, who met the demands of family communication so compliantly and cooperatively, would, later, seized by the passion of her task, renouncing all else, shoulder loneliness and poverty?”

Where else but in the paintings themselves?

Though the writings don’t always pertain directly to her art, I’m so glad they were revealed. They give us the backstory, and all the conflicted emotion behind that story.

Modersohn-Becker’s father (named—unfortunate in our Harry Potter age—Woldemar) had insisted she train as a governess. There’d be no hinging hopes on marriage, much less the utter fantasy of art. But his driven daughter snuck in art training when and where she could. She never had her father’s blessing (“I don’t believe you will be a divinely inspired artist of the first rank—it would have shown in you well before this”), but then neither did Cézanne.

On her own, Modersohn-Becker discovered the artists’ colony of Worpswede near her hometown. It had been founded in 1889 by two art students, Fritz Mackensen and Otto Modersohn, as part of an embrace of a naturalist movement romantically fixated on nature and the ennobling qualities of shoveling ox dung and burning peat.

It was in Mackensen’s drawing class for his female students that Paula Becker met the sculptor Clara Westhoff in 1899. The young artists became intimate friends, working together, dreaming, talking, planning. They were soon joined by the poet Rilke, who seemed a little in love with them both (“I am with you. Am gratefully with you both, / Who are as sisters to my soul.”). But it was Clara he married.

In Modersohn-Becker’s Portrait of Clara Rilke-Westhoff, painted in 1905, just a year before her flight to Paris and breakthrough self-portrait, she depicts her friend all in white, a dramatic contrast to her dark hair and the red rose she holds to her chest. The rose was Rilke’s flower, used often in his poems. His wife looks out of the picture to her left, her face a mask of forbearance and longing.

The painting illustrates how crucial ancient art was to Modersohn-Becker’s burgeoning late style. Her figures are simplified, monumental, and timeless. But they also demonstrate her grasp of Modernism’s penetrating psychology, its flatness and powerful form married to mysterious symbol.

Becker often used flowers in her portraits of women, archetypes of nature, of beauty, of femininity, but also mysterious in the way they are often held up for the viewer, a secret sign we sort of understand, the way we comprehend things in dreams.

* * * * *

Modersohn-Becker’s visits to Paris began on January 1, 1900. In the first six months, she wrote effusive letters back to Worpswede, entreating others to come experience the transformative new art there. Several Worpswede artists came, including Otto Modersohn, eleven years her senior and one of the colony’s founders. His sick wife, left abed at home, died three days after he arrived. Three months later, he and Paula Becker were engaged.

Otto Modersohn is sometimes painted as the bad guy in the story of his artist wife, but he loved and admired her. She had a studio outside their home in Worpswede (as did he), painting from nine in the morning until seven at night, with a two-hour break midday for family lunch, prepared by a cook. She had more support than most women artists, of any era. But even with that and with yearly visits to Paris, she struggled. A rural art colony, Worpswede looked backward while Modersohn-Becker saw the future. “She is understood by no one,” wrote her husband, who tried to understand.

While working on her Portrait of Clara Rilke-Westhoff, Modersohn-Becker wrote her mother, “That one is so terribly stuck when one is married is rather hard.” Rilke-Westhoff herself later wrote, “Paula threw one piece of peat on the other through a little squeaking door in the kiln, as one tear after another rolled down her cheek while she explained to me how very important it was for her to be out ‘in the world’ again, to go back to Paris again.

“‘When I think of it, the world’—she said.”

In early 1906, just days after Otto’s birthday, Modersohn-Becker fled Worpswede, intending never to return.

* * * * *

In letters from Paris she begged Otto not to try to win her back. At the same time, she asked for money. As a married woman, she had none of her own.

Practical necessities were a constant problem—food, heat, model’s fees—but still, her art flourished. After only a few months in Paris, she broke through to a powerful new style. Shortly after painting the life-size Reclining Mother and Child II she wrote her sister Milly, ecstatically, “I am becoming something—I am living the most intensely happy period of my life.” Then she asked Milly to send money.

Traditionally, a reclining nude is a come-hither sign of sexual availability, whether cloaked in mythology (Titian’s Venus of Urbino, say) or Orientalizing romanticism (Ingres’s Grande Odalisque) or straight-up prostitution (Manet’s Olympia). In these and hundreds (thousands?) of similar works, a nude woman stares undefended at the viewer, welcoming his gaze. It is impossible to presume the viewer is anything but a man; it is presumed for us.

But in her Reclining Mother and Child, Modersohn-Becker broke with three thousand years of convention. Her mother and child face each other, oblivious to any viewer. They do offer sensuality, but it’s one of food and touch and warmth and animal love. For each other.

Equally groundbreaking, Modersohn-Becker does not fear a woman’s body or what it’s made for. Her monumental mother reclines with breasts, navel, and pubic hair exposed. Her hairstyle and features are undifferentiated, masklike, in imitation of ancient or non-Western sources. She is as timeless as the Venus of Willendorf, which is about how far you have to go back—the Paleolithic—to find a frank and frankly unsexy pubic view.

In addition, the artist has entirely reimagined the nursing mother and child. Not as Virgin suckling a holy (male) child, or as earthy peasant wearily opening her blouse, but as Woman, Mother, Nude offering sustenance and love, and getting those in return from a child whose sex we do not know.

Modersohn-Becker’s nude mothers are powerful and protean, also natural. As artists are. As this artist and woman is.

Critics have sometimes sensed a conservative streak in Modersohn-Becker’s mother and child paintings, an obsession with womanhood’s being bound up in motherhood. But Modersohn-Becker’s vision has a feminist core. She wants it all: art and child.

We don’t know whether the artist was pregnant when she made Reclining Mother and Child II, but she likely was. If not quite yet, then soon.

* * * * *

I remember the very moment I saw Modersohn-Becker’s work for the first time, sitting near the front of the Institute’s lecture space, in the mansion’s former ballroom. Professor Schiff was a few feet away, peering into his notes at the lectern. He’d fought on the German side in World War II, was captured by the French, and then came to New York, where he lived among the bohemians at the Hotel Chelsea. A few years ago I read this by Patti Smith in her memoir Just Kids, from when she lived there: “Occasionally I would bump into Gert Schiff, the German scholar, armed with volumes on Picasso.” I smiled, picturing Schiff just as he was at the lectern twenty years later, hunched over a text on art, rumpled, wry, impassioned.

A slide of Modersohn-Becker’s Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace popped up, many feet high beside him, the crystal chandeliers and mirrored gilt walls of the room disappearing behind a woman’s pale torso. Schiff glanced up, looked startled, then gave a sigh—of what? Recognition? Admiration? I followed his gaze. An ample nude seen from the waist up, body turned toward us, her eyes cast somewhere to our right. She stands before a sky-blue background filled with vines and flowers. She wears an amber necklace—warm gold against peach skin—and in her pulled-back hair are three small pink flowers. She holds two similar flowers against her chest, the one in her left hand turned upward between her breasts.

“They are,” Schiff said beside her, “nearly the same color and shape as her areolas.” His German accent slipped softly on the s’s.

It looks so clinical written down, but sounded beautiful to me then. Unlike every other nude we’d seen in the course, she was sensual but not sexual, brimming with health and strength. So unlike her Nordic and Germanic peers, slashing, sultry nudes as she-wolves and sex objects, devourers and meat.

I was stunned by the painting, trying to take notes, but not wanting to look away. When Schiff said it was a self-portrait, I almost dropped my pen. When he said that here, this artist was pregnant, I did. Somehow, I hadn’t known such a thing was possible. I didn’t know you could have a child and make great art, I really didn’t. Maybe not entirely a surprise that I didn’t know. Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace is the first pregnant nude self-portrait in history.

Years later, when I was teaching a yearlong Survey of Modern Art course at Portland State, I lingered on Self-Portrait with Amber Necklace with my students, in a lecture hall ten times the size of the old mansion ballroom where I’d first encountered it. Like Schiff, I pointed out the small flowers and the artist’s nipples and how she was, like nature, lovely, generative, eternal. I mentioned the child inside her, and the work without. I glowed at the lectern with admiration for such a woman.

When grading finals, where the painting had been one of the slide IDs, more than one student parroted back what I’d said about it, then added comments about the nipples and flowers like, “Which is weird,” or “I still don’t get why anyone would do that,” or “Maybe being pregnant made her act strange.” I went back and made a small stack of the exams with such comments. They were all male.

* * * * *

Otto Modersohn showed up in Paris unannounced, just a week after his estranged wife had completed her Self-Portrait, Age 30, 6th Wedding Day, signed with just the initials of her maiden name. She was painting Rilke’s portrait—another model she didn’t have to pay for, like herself—when Otto burst in.

In the beginning she resisted his entreaties, but then, finally, she took him back. Who knows why? Money? Loneliness? Love for him?

They lived together in Paris through the summer before moving back to Worpswede. Modersohn-Becker had by then created a handful of revolutionary nudes, including her two self-portraits and the monumental Reclining Mother and Child. And she was well along in her first pregnancy.

Before leaving France that fall, she could have seen exhibitions by Rousseau, who was her neighbor, as well as Courbet, Cézanne, Gauguin, Rodin, Derain, and Matisse. She might have seen the latter’s incendiary Blue Nude just as she was packing up her own revolutionary nudes for her return to a small German art colony still fixated on the previous century. But she was untroubled, certain of her breakthrough.

She did write a chilling letter to her sister Milly in November: “I look at it this way: if the good Lord allows me to create something beautiful once more, I’ll be happy and content just as long as I have a place where I can work in peace, and I will be thankful for what part of love comes my way. As long as one stays healthy, and doesn’t die young.” Possibly no surprise that a woman coming near to giving birth in that era might think of death.

* * * * *

Later that same month, Modersohn-Becker gave birth to a daughter, Mathilde. Photographs show a beaming mother and screaming baby, both healthy and thriving.

The mother and artist kept telling visitors: “You should see her in the nude!”

As was common practice, the new mother was put on two weeks of complete bed rest. After one week, she complained of leg pains. After two, she was allowed up. She braided her hair, weaving roses in it, and asked for her daughter. Suddenly she was in pain. She raised one leg, then collapsed. Her last words: What a pity.

Text copyright © 2017 by Bridget Quinn.


 Broad Strokes: 15 Women Who Made Art and Made History (in That Order) is on sale 7th March 2017, order your copy today.

Broad Strokes


1. The Guardian 2013: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/the-womens-blog-with-jane-martinson/2013/may/24/women-art-great-artists-men

2. Guerrilla Girls: https://www.timeout.com/london/blog/how-sexist-is-the-art-world-really-frickin-sexist-actually-111016

3. ARTnews: http://www.artnews.com/2015/05/26/taking-the-measure-of-sexism-facts-figures-and-fixes/

You Are Here: NYC

You Are Here: NYC

Maps are magical.

Every graphic, like every story, has a point of view, and New York is rife with map-making possibilities, thick with mythology, and glutted with history. You Are Here: NYC assembles some two hundred maps charting every inch and facet of the five boroughs, depicting New Yorks of past and present, and a city that never was. A Nightclub Map of Harlem traces a boozy night from the Radium and the Cotton Club to the Savoy and then the Lafayette; Wonders of New York pinpoints three hundred sites of interest, including the alleged location of Captain Kidd’s buried treasure; the Ghostbusters subway map plots the route from Astral Projections Place to Stay Puft Street; and a rejected proposal of ornate topiaries illustrates a Central Park that might have been.

Take a peek at a few of the maps included in this unique tour of NYC.

Jerinic-constellation-map
Katarina Jerinic: Brooklyn Constellations, 2007
Jack Shepherd: You Are Here
Tanner Greenring and Jack Shepherd: the Ultimate Nerd Guide to New York City, 2011
Paula Scher: You are Here
Paula Scher: High Line, 2005

You Are Here: NYC – Mapping the Soul of the City by Katharine Harmon is out now | Princeton Architectural Press

 

Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk | Labels are for Canned Peaches, Not People.

Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk

Labels are for Canned Peaches, Not People.

The following is an expert from Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk by Danielle Krysa.

Labels are sticky. They’re great for organizing your cupboard; but when people put clingy, hard-to-remove labels on themselves, it can prevent creative growth. And sometimes labels have incorrect information! That’s why what’s inside the can matters. Your inner critic may have slapped on any number of labels: “Imposter,” “Just a Mom,” “Cubicle-Dweller,” “Self-Taught Amateur,” “Art School Dropout.” It’s time to get some warm, soapy water and start peeling those limiting labels off, so that we can see what’s actually inside.

WARNING: THIS LABEL MAY STOP YOU BEFORE YOU START.
Before we talk about the contents of the canned goods, let’s take a closer look at some of the most common labels. These are a handful of the stickiest culprits who, for some misguided reason, think they get to cover the entire surface of the can. Well, I’m sorry, but labels can’t have that kind of real estate. You can be more than one thing at a time! You’re not “just” a mom, a student, an accountant, a retired schoolteacher. You’re so many things— including creative. Let’s take a peek at the fine print:

Inner Critic_pans

“I’m a parent.”
This is big. But wearing this very important label doesn’t mean that you can’t be other things, too. Being a parent can be all-consuming. It can also be—it will also be—exhausting. And when you’re consumed and exhausted, it’s likely that your art practice or even all your creative urges will get pushed to the back burner. It’s difficult to find time and energy for creative pursuits when you have your parental label on, but you will be a happier parent and a better one if you give yourself time and space to be a creative person, too. The key in this situation is speed! You don’t have time for huge creative projects (don’t worry, you will again), so finding quick hits of creativity is what you need. An Instagram a day is a great place to start, because let’s face it, you probably have your phone out to take zillions of photos of those sweet little faces in your life. (There is a list of thirty jump-starter ideas in chapter 8 if you need a little help deciding what to photograph each day.)

Another thing that your artist’s soul will thank you for: one hour a week that is just for you. Not one hour to catch up on errands, or sleep, but one hour to feed your creative needs. Ask your partner to stay with the kids, or get a sitter. Now leave the house! Spend that weekly hour in a place that inspires you creatively: a gallery, a beautiful bookshop, an artsy café, the beach. Bring a notebook and jot down any thoughts that come to mind. As the kids get older, these outings can happen more frequently and last longer. And then, when you emerge from the sleep-deprivation stage, you won’t be starting from scratch— you will have enough of these inspiring hours under your belt that when you do have a bit more time, you’ll be ready with an entire notebook full of starting points.

“I work in a cubicle.”
This just in: You can be a creative person who also works in a cubicle. It’s true. All sorts of people have “non-creative desk jobs” and are insanely creative the minute the clock strikes five. Whether you enjoy your day job or not, making time and space to be creative will bring you joy. You are probably tired at the end of a long day, and the weight of your “I work in a cubicle” label may be dragging you down, but it should not be used as an excuse. It’s as simple as this: If you want to create, make time to create. Schedule it. Use the program you book meetings with to book creative meetings with yourself. Thirty minutes a day, one hour a day, whatever you can fit into that week. Mark Bradley-Shoup, a practicing artist and lecturer at the University of Tennessee, has some really smart advice for his students who are about to graduate. He tells them that, even once they have a full-time job, they also need to treat their studio practice like a job. It’s not frivolous; it’s important. He advises them to block off as many hours each week as can fit into their schedules, and then commit to being in the studio for that amount of time. No excuses. You show up on time for your desk job every day, and you need to show up on time for your creative life, too.

“I live in a tiny town.”
Hey, me too! And also, who cares? Thanks to the Internet, the world has gotten a whole lot smaller. Publishers in New York can find you through your blog, and galleries in Paris can find you through your Instagram feed. I have to be honest: For a long time, I worried that I wouldn’t be taken seriously as an artist or curator unless I lived in a cool loft in Brooklyn. As much as I love New York, that delusional excuse isn’t even close to the truth. Can you imagine if every creative person in the world lived on the same corner of the planet? Different places give different perspectives. No matter where you are, own that perspective, and see it as a strength.

“It’s too late.”
You don’t have to drop everything you’ve been doing for the last however many years, go back to college, write the next great fiction novel or paint a masterpiece for the Louvre by next week. Start by adding thirty minutes of creativity to each day. That may mean one drawing per day, one photo per day, or even plating the perfect meal each evening—whatever it is, make a tiny bit of time for this new creative endeavor. It may lead to an entirely new life that you didn’t even know was waiting for you.

“I’m a fraud.”
No matter what field you’re in, you may feel this way; it doesn’t apply only to the creative world. Any time you push yourself to do something new, something out of your comfort zone, you run the risk of feeling like a fraud or an imposter. What if people do find out that you weren’t trained at the best culinary school in France? You just happen to be really good at making pastry. And this is not just an issue for self-taught people, either. Someone with a BFA in painting might feel like a giant imposter if he/she decided to take up photography, or wedding planning, or even art curating. I was walking around with a giant “Imposter” label on my forehead when I curated my first few shows. I don’t have a PhD in curatorial studies; what if someone found out? They did.

No one cared. I worked hard and loved what I was doing, and, slowly but surely, the imposter label slid right off (maybe it was all the sweat). Ask for help, or fake it till you make it—either way will work. If you love what you’re doing, keep doing it. Eventually you’ll become an expert.

These are a few of the most common labels that we slap on and may have a hard time seeing beyond; but, as you will see, there is so much more to each of us than these one-liners. Acknowledging, and owning, these labels is the first step in transforming them from creativity-halting excuses into a fascinating part of your unique story: You may be a parent from a small town who is also an insanely talented painter, or a self-taught musician who works in a cubicle by day and plays in blues clubs at night. Decide which part of the fine print you’re proud of and which bits are slowing you down. This is a description of you, after all. Make sure that all of your information is included and correct.

FRAUD

Your Inner Critic Is a Big Jerk: And Other Truths About Being Creative by Danielle Krysa | Chronicle Books | Out Now.

Your Inner Critic is a Big Jerk