Wonder Women in the NMWA Library

This summer the blockbuster film Wonder Woman has already earned more than $724 million. The NMWA Library and Research Center staff could not resist swinging their own golden lasso by presenting Wonder Women!, a celebration of women who are fearless, adventurous, and larger than life. Drawn from the wide-ranging holdings of the library’s special collections, this exhibition features women of both fact and fiction demonstrating great bravery and taking action against the wrongs of the world.

The Wonder Women! exhibition was inspired by the NMWA Library’s recent acquisition of the first regular monthly issue of the feminist Ms. magazine, founded by Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pittman Hughes, which hit newsstands in July 1972. In an effort to visually differentiate Ms. from other women’s magazines, the staff selected an image of Wonder Woman for the cover, fighting for “peace and justice in ’72.”

Cover of the first regular monthly issue of Ms. magazine

The illustration was by Murphy Anderson, a longtime artist for DC Comics. The banner “Wonder Woman for President” likely references Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s bid for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president that year. Anderson also reflects the country’s anxiety about the war in Vietnam as a giant Wonder Woman strides with urgency down a main street in America, rescuing part of the town with her golden lasso, while shielding the street from a raging jungle battlefield placed uncomfortably close behind the shop fronts.

The cover was also timely as a reboot of the Wonder Woman comic book was due to be published in 1973—this time with its first woman editor, Dorothy Woolfolk. Ms. magazine featured Wonder Woman on the cover again for its 40th anniversary issue in 2012. The 2012 issue featured Wonder Woman bounding down Pennsylvania Avenue, the site of famous women’s rights marches for more than a century.

The article inside, “Wonder Woman Revisited” by Joanne Edgar, quotes the character’s originator, Charles Moulton: “Wonder Woman has force bound by love and, with her strength, represents what every woman should be and really is. She corrects evil and brings happiness. Wonder Woman proves that women are superior to men because they have love in addition to force.” The combination of strength and love is apparent in the materials featured in Wonder Woman!, from Judy Chicago shedding the patriarchy of her given name, to lighthouse keeper Grace Darling who risked her life on a night in 1838 to save victims of a shipwreck.

Visit NMWA’s Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center to celebrate the legacy of wonder women!

—Sarah Osborne Bender is the director of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Who Did Simone de Beauvoir Inspire?

In the installation From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir, visitors can consider the influence and intellect of writer Simone de Beauvoir in an interpretation of her Paris studio alcove. Museum visitors can sit at a desk and read works that Beauvoir either read, wrote, or inspired. Beauvoir had an impact on women in her own time and she continues to hold a place of remarkable influence today.

Bettina Flitner, The studio of Simone de Beauvoir, rue Schoelcher 12 bis, Montparnasse, Paris, March 1986; Photograph; ©bettinaflitner.de

Bettina Flitner, The studio of Simone de Beauvoir, rue Schoelcher 12 bis, Montparnasse, Paris, March 1986; Photograph: ©bettinaflitner.de

Cover of Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, 1969

Cover of Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, 1969

Sexual Politics by Kate Millett, 1969

Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics was released in the U.S. in 1970 by Doubleday Books and is frequently cited alongside The Second Sex as an influential feminist text. Millett and Beauvoir became friends late in Beauvoir’s life, and the two spent substantial time together on Beauvoir’s final trip to New York, in 1983.

Beauvoir and Western Thought from Plato to Butler, 2012

This collection of essays delves into Beauvoir’s relationship with Western philosophical thought and her resistance to being defined as a philosopher. This book includes an autobiographical essay by feminist, activist, and teacher bell hooks, who closes with:

“Whereas I was once most attracted to her intellectual partnership with Sartre, I am now seduced by the awareness that no matter what her relationship was to him, or any partner, the true constant in her life was thinking, working with ideas, and being a philosopher in the truest sense of the word.”

Cover of the June/July 2016 issue of BUST

Cover of the June/July 2016 issue of BUST

BUST, “Kathleen Hanna: Rock’s Reigning Feminist,” June/July 2016

Kathleen Hanna helped establish the feminist hardcore punk rock genre riot grrrl, fronted the band Bikini Kill, and took part in the zine scene in the Pacific Northwest and Washington, D.C. When discussing her inspiration for writing lyrics, Hanna said, “I wouldn’t have lyrics if it weren’t for people like bell hooks. I wouldn’t have lyrics if it weren’t for people like Simone de Beauvoir and Shulamith Firestone, and other feminist writers.”

Diaries by Eva Hesse, 2016

Born to a Jewish family in Nazi Germany, Eva Hesse (1936–1970) and her family fled Germany in 1939 for the U.S. Hesse was raised in New York and became an influential artist, working with a variety of mediums. Her diaries include not only ideas and plans for artworks, to-do lists, and accounting ledgers, but also document her illness, brain tumors, and multiple surgeries, which took her life at age 34.

In a few entries from 1964, Hesse transcribed passages from The Second Sex as she tried to bolster her confidence and advance her artistic process. She quoted from Beauvoir, “In boldly setting out towards ends, one risks disappointments; but one also obtains unhoped-for results; caution condemns to mediocrity.”

Visit the installation and peruse these publications along with works that inspired Beauvoir as well as works she wrote. From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir is on view on the museum’s fourth floor through August 16, 2017.

—Sarah Osborne Bender is the director of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. 

What Did Simone de Beauvoir Write?

In the installation From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir, visitors can consider the influence and intellect of writer Simone de Beauvoir in an interpretation of her Paris studio alcove. Museum visitors can sit at a desk and read publications that Beauvoir either read, wrote, or inspired. Beauvoir spent an extraordinary amount of her life writing. Her output included the groundbreaking feminist treatise The Second Sex, for which she is most well remembered. She also wrote novels, essays and articles, a play, daily letters to friends and lovers, and four memoirs. These selected titles provide a glimpse into her remarkable body of writing.

Covers of Simone de Beauvoir’s L’Invitée, 1943 (left) and America Day by Day, 1948 (right)

Covers of Simone de Beauvoir’s L’Invitée, 1943 (left) and America Day by Day, 1948 (right)

L’Invitée, 1943

Beauvoir labored over this first novel, known in English as She Came to Stay, for three years. She studied the techniques of authors such as John Dos Passos, D. H. Lawrence, and William Faulkner to help her construct her characters. The story was inspired by the love triangle between herself, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Olga Kosakiewicz—an important woman in both of their lives for many years. Tenets of Existentialism run throughout the novel.

America Day by Day, 1948

After feeling jealousy at Sartre’s first trip to the U.S., Beauvoir soon arranged her own: a five-month lecture tour that began in New York in January 1947. This book is her travelogue (though comprising recollections from several trips), with characteristically self-centered, but highly detailed and obviously dazzled, accounts of New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Hollywood. Always up for an adventure, Beauvoir visited jazz clubs, smoked marijuana, gambled in casinos, and met and fell in love with Nelson Algren.

Covers of Simone de Beauvoir’s Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, 1958 (left) and Adieux: a Farewell to Sartre, 1981 (right)

Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, 1958

The first of Beauvoir’s four memoirs, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter covers the years of her birth up to age 21. It details her family dynamics and education, her first powerful friendship with Zaza Mabille, her first romantic attempts with her cousin Jacques, and the beginning of her decades-long relationship with fellow philosophy student Sartre.

Adieux: a Farewell to Sartre, 1981

This book chronicles the last ten years of the of Sartre, Beauvoir’s life partner, as well as conversations between the two (which they recorded during their last summer visits to Rome) about Sartre’s work and legacy. Upon publication, Beauvoir was surprised when it was met with outrage from Sartre’s legions of admirers at the unsparing details of his physical decline. Some accused her of taking advantage of having the last word.

Visit the installation and peruse these selections of Beauvoir’s writings along with books she read and works she inspiredFrom the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir is on view on the museum’s fourth floor through August 12, 2017.

—Sarah Osborne Bender is the director of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. 

What Did Simone de Beauvoir Read?

In the installation From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir, visitors can consider the influence and intellect of writer Simone de Beauvoir in an interpretation of her Paris studio alcove. Museum visitors can sit at a desk and read books and magazines that Beauvoir either read, wrote, or inspired. The installation includes a selections of books that Beauvoir read during her youth that helped develop her love of reading and storytelling.

Cover Image of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll showing a young girl crouched in the gras sunder branches while a rabbit in a red coat scurries away from her.

Cover of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll, published by Rand McNally & Company, 1916.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, 1868/1869

Beauvoir read Little Women by the time she was ten. She identified deeply with the character of Jo, the creative and independent March sister. In the first volume of her autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), Beauvoir says that when she was developing The Second Sex, she projected the four sisters of Little Women into adulthood and used their personality types to form some of her ideas.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, 1865

Beauvoir was a voracious reader as a child, a habit fed by her father Georges, who supplied her with a constant supply of high-quality books. She stated in an interview, published in the The Paris Review in 1965, that “English children’s literature [is] far more charming than what exists in French.” Though she began learning English around the age of eight, she likely read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in translation.

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, 1860

In her Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter (1958), Beauvoir recalls reading The Mill on the Floss when she was around 13 years old:

“About this time I read a novel which seemed to me to translate my spiritual exile into words: George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss made an even deeper impression upon me than Little Women. I read it in English, at Meyrignac, lying on the mossy floor of a chestnut plantation. Maggie Tulliver, like myself, was torn between others and herself: I recognized myself in her. She too was dark, loved nature, books and life, was too headstrong to be able to observe the conventions of her respectable surroundings.”

Cover Image of The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, published by Hurst and Company, New York, c. 1911. (left) and cover image of Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann, published by Henry Hold and Company, New York, 1927. (right)

Cover of The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot, published by Hurst and Company, New York, c. 1911 (left) and cover of Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann, published by Henry Hold and Company, New York, 1927 (right)

Dusty Answer by Rosamond Lehmann, 1927

Published when Beauvoir was 19, the novel Dusty Answer was extremely popular with young women—in order to keep re-reading it, Beauvoir had to return the library’s in-demand copy and buy her own. Beauvoir said that she was fascinated by the description of university life and its associated freedoms. Lehmann was influenced by English novelist George Meredith, whose novels Beauvoir also read intensely and used as models.

Visit the installation and peruse these books along with works Beauvoir wrote or inspiredFrom the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir is on view on the museum’s fourth floor through August 12, 2017.

—Sarah Osborne Bender is the director of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. 

What #BeauvoirSays to NMWA

Visitors ask me why the National Museum of Women in the Arts has a dedicated installation to honor Simone de Beauvoir. Beauvoir was not an artist, not a patron, and not a noted art collector—though she did collect books, souvenirs, snapshots, and a few works of art from friends, including Alberto Giacometti. As I gathered research for the installation, I found an interview with Beauvoir from 1984, in which she reflects on the work of emboldened women activists in the late 1960s in Paris. Her comments in that interview made the relationship between NMWA and Beauvoir clear to me.

Installation view of From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Installation view of From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Beauvoir wrote, “[Women] realized that they would have to take their fate into their own hands and separate their battles from the larger revolutionary rhetoric of the men. I agreed with them because I understood that women could not expect their emancipation to come from general revolution but would have to create their own. . . . I realized that women would have to take care of their own problems in ways that were personal, direct, and immediate. They could no longer sit waiting patiently for men to change the society for them because it would never happen unless they did it themselves.”

Installation view of From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

Installation view of From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

I nodded along to these words and reflected on the motivations of NMWA’s founder, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay. Mrs. Holladay and her husband, Wallace Holladay, could have donated their growing collection of art by women to an established museum. Perhaps Mrs. Holladay’s name would appear on a gallery wall and the collection would find a place with—likely be obscured by—notable works by male artists. But instead, the Holladays chose to create a space, a grand museum only blocks from the White House, and name it the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Mrs. Holladay wanted a dedicated space in which to address art world sexism. She took action and for that we are thankful.

Visit the installation From the Desk of Simone de Beauvoir, on view on the museum’s fourth floor through August 12, 2017.

—Sarah Osborne Bender is the director of the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. 

Recent Acquisitions at the LRC: Richenda Cunningham’s Letter

The next time you visit NMWA, come to the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center (LRC) to see new books on art, as well as reference books, artists’ books, and more!

Richenda Cunningham, Temple of Caius & Lucius Caesar, or Maison Carre (from the series "Nine Views Taken on the Continent"), ca. 1830; Lithograph on paper, 13 x 16 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Richenda Cunningham, Temple of Caius & Lucius Caesar, or Maison Carre (from the series “Nine Views Taken on the Continent”), ca. 1830; Lithograph on paper, 13 x 16 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

The LRC recently acquired an original letter from British printer Richenda (Gurney) Cunningham (1782–1855). Her lithographic portfolio of travel prints “Nine Views Taken on the Continent” (ca. 1830) resides in the museum’s collection and was on view in the 2011 exhibition The Art of Travel: Picturesque Views of Europe by Richenda Cunningham.

“Nine Views” consists of nine 13-by-16 inch prints that were drawn by Cunningham and produced by prominent English lithograph printer Charles Joseph Hullmandel. The series includes drawings of landscapes and tourist locales such as Provence and the Rhineland, which Cunningham visited when touring Europe in 1815.

Cunningham was greatly influenced by Romanticism, a pervasive movement sweeping England in the 18th and 19th centuries that encouraged a love of nature and travel. Cunningham’s “Nine Views” could be compared to other popular travelogue-style lithographs  from the time. The artist included visually enticing elements of rugged landscapes for embellishment. Her lithographs were likely produced in the 1820s and 1830s, before lithography became a more commercial practice in the mid-century.

Richenda Cunningham, Villar, Valley of Luzerne, Piedmont (from the series "Nine Views Taken on the Continent"), ca. 1830; Lithograph on paper, 13 x 16 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Richenda Cunningham, Villar, Valley of Luzerne, Piedmont (from the series “Nine Views Taken on the Continent”), ca. 1830; Lithograph on paper, 13 x 16 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Cunningham’s prints were in such high enough demand that they had to be re-printed several times, evident from the letter, which is a response to a request for more prints by a patron, Ms. Thompson. This letter shows Cunningham dealing with her own business transactions as a professional artist. In the letter Cunningham “takes the liberty of charging” Ms. Thompson with two more copies of her prints, then politely invites her to the artist’s home “should any circumstances lead [Ms. Thompson] into our neighborhood.” This letter is both a business record and a piece of personal correspondence, helping us to better understand the daily interactions of a woman artist in the 19th century.

Letter from Richenda Cunningham to Ms. Thompson. Dated September 21, 18--. Betty Boyd Library & Research Center, National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Letter from Richenda Cunningham to Ms. Thompson. Dated September 21, 18–. Betty Boyd Library and Research Center, National Museum of Women in the Arts.

The LRC is always thrilled to acquire primary source material concerning artists represented in the museum’s collection. This letter is particularly interesting because there is so little known about the details of Cunningham’s life.

All are welcome to view this letter in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. If you’re touring the museum’s exhibitions, the library is open to the public and makes a great starting point on the fourth floor. In addition to beautiful books and comfortable chairs, library visitors enjoy interesting exhibitions that feature archival manuscripts, personal papers by women artists, rare books, and artists’ books. Reference Desk staff members are always happy to answer questions and offer assistance. Open Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–5 p.m.

—Lauren Redding is the spring 2017 intern in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Dead Feminists Live Again

Bold Broadsides and Bitsy Books is on view in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center (LRC). From the public nature of broadsides to the intimacy of a tiny handmade book, the LRC revels in contrasts of delightful collection items.

A visitor studies broadsides in the NMWA Library and Research Center; Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

A visitor studies broadsides in the NMWA Library and Research Center; Photo: Francesca Rudolph, NMWA

“Bitsy Books” refers to a charming selection of miniature artists’ books from the LRC’s collection. Miniature books, defined as books no larger than three inches in height, width, or thickness, communicate a sense of whimsy and intimacy from their size alone. The handcrafted quality of artists’ books enhances this sense, creating an intimate experience for the viewer. The “Bitsy Books” included in the exhibition vary in content, structure, and material.

The “Bold Broadsides” represent a 21st-century interpretation of a much older medium. Broadsides can be traced back to 17th-century Europe as precursors to modern-day posters and billboards. In the U.S., broadsides are perhaps most famous for their use as “Wanted” signs by 19th-century law enforcement agencies. The broadsides featured in this exhibition celebrate the lives of remarkable women from history. Called the “Dead Feminists,” these works are a collaboration between printmaker Jessica Spring and illustrator Chandler O’Leary. Each broadside highlights one woman’s achievements through an iconic quote paired with a corresponding illustration.

Peace Unfolds for Hiroshima survivor and pacifist Sadako Sasaki; © Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring

Peace Unfolds for Hiroshima survivor and pacifist Sadako Sasaki; © Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring

Spring describes their process as “a mix of traditional and contemporary letterpress processes…Our series is completely hand drawn by Chandler, using original illustrations and typography…then I print [the broadsides] by hand on a 1960s Vandercook Universal One printing press.” Spring selects women to feature and writes the colophon for each. O’Leary creates an illustration in pencil, refines it, and re-draws it in ink. At this stage, Spring creates the photopolymer plates needed for printing. Both artists sign and package the finished prints, and O’Leary launches the work online.

Sarojini Naidu sings her Nightsong; © Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring

Sarojini Naidu sings her Nightsong; © Chandler O’Leary and Jessica Spring

Not only stunning as visual works, each broadside highlights a relevant social justice issue. For example, the fight for marriage equality prompted Spring and O’Leary to create Love Nest, featuring a quote from activist Emma Goldman. Nightsong, honoring Indian heroine Sarojini Naidu, implores an end to domestic violence. Through the Dead Feminists Fund, Spring and O’Leary donate a portion of the series’ proceeds to nonprofits that align with the social issues they address.

In October 2016, Spring and O’Leary also released a letterpress book compilation of the series titled Dead Feminists: Historic Heroines in Living Color.

Visit NMWA’s Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center through March 17, 2017 to see Bold Broadsides and Bitsy Books. Located on the museum’s fourth floor, the LRC is open Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–5 p.m.

—Lydia Hejka is the fall 2016 intern in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts

Photographer Lori Grinker Documents Life “Afterwar”

The next time you visit NMWA, come to the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center to see new books on women in the arts, as well as reference books, artists’ books, and more.

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Cover image of Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict by Lori Grinker

Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict
Lori Grinker
(de.MO Design Limited, 2004)

On November 11, many nations around the world will observe Armistice Day, or Veteran’s Day, a holiday first created in 1919 to commemorate the end of World War I—known in its day as “the war to end all wars.”

As Veteran’s Day approaches, 97 years since its first observance, it is sobering to reflect on the many conflicts that continue around the world. Photographer Lori Grinker employs portrait photography and first-person testimony to chronicle the lasting traumas experienced by male and female soldiers in her poignant book Afterwar: Veterans from a World in Conflict.

Grinker highlights veterans from both sides of wars in the 20th and 21st centuries, spanning more than 30 countries and five continents. Within 23 sections—one section for each conflict—Grinker assembles her subjects in an ideologically-alternating arrangement. In a chapter on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, only one page separates the portrait of a Intifada fighter from that of an Israel Defense Forces veteran. The effect is startling and powerful. Ideologies become irrelevant. Grinker, who received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, manages to evoke something different and unique with each portrait, capturing post-war trauma in many enigmatic iterations.

Arafat Jacoub, Intifada (Palestine), participated 1989–1990 (left) and Yossi Arditi, Israeli Defense Army, served 1971–1988 (right); All photos: Lori Grinker

Arafat Jacoub, Intifada (Palestine), participated 1989–1990 (left) and Yossi Arditi, Israeli Defense Army, served 1971–1988 (right); All photos: Lori Grinker

Grinker writes that her works “originate from the personal but…speak to our commonalities.” She says, “ultimately, my work is about the ephemeral transcendence of everyday experience.” Perhaps the real power of this book is its suggestion that human beings have more that unites than divides them. Viewed in this way, Grinker’s powerful and elegiac perspective elevates Afterwar from journalistic account to artistic testimony.

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Penny Kettlewell, U.S. Army (Vietnam conflict), served 1966–1971; Photo: Lori Grinker

All are welcome to view this book in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. If you’re touring the museum’s exhibitions, the library is open to the public and makes a great starting point on the fourth floor. In addition to beautiful books and comfortable chairs, library visitors enjoy interesting exhibitions that feature archival manuscripts, personal papers by women artists, rare books, and artists’ books. Reference Desk staff members are always happy to answer questions and offer assistance. Open Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–5 p.m.

—Lydia Hejka is the fall 2016 intern in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

See and Be Seen: Diane Arbus

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know,” said Diane Arbus (1923–71), who obsessed about the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own. Six decades after she left commercial fashion photography and began her artistic career, many of Arbus’s previously unknown secrets and photographs have finally been published.

Created to accompany an exhibition at The Met Breuer, the catalogue diane arbus: in the beginning (Yale University Press/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016) showcases photographs from 1956–1962, providing a prelude to the best-selling monograph from Arbus’s 1972 retrospective. Featuring over 100 images, an essay by curator Jeff Rosenheim, and notes from the museum’s archive of her personal papers and negatives, the catalogue focuses on the first seven years of Arbus’s oeuvre. Featuring children, society ladies, carnival performers, and eccentrics, these early photographs depict the development of her famously striking and evocative style.

Arthur Lubow’s meticulously researched and revealing biography Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (HarperCollins, 2016), published just weeks before the opening of the Met exhibition, provides a similar look behind the curtain shrouding the artist’s mysterious life. In 85 short chapters based on interviews, archival research, and careful study of her work, Lubow describes Arbus’s personal history, philosophy, and approach to photography.

Arbus’s art centered on a profound desire to “not only see her subjects but to be seen by them.” She often talked for hours with people she found interesting before photographing them, charming them into revealing their secrets, hopes, and dreams, waiting for the perfect shot that captured the essence of their personalities. Though plagued by illness, depression, and financial insecurity throughout her life, her inventiveness and creativity made her, as a teacher once noted, “totally original.”

“I do it because there are things that nobody would see unless I photographed them,” said Arbus in a 1968 interview. Through the vivid detail of this biography and the catalogue of dozens of previously inaccessible early works, a full portrait of one of the most celebrated and provocative artists of the 20th century can be seen at last.

All are welcome to view these books, which will be available soon in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. If you’re touring the museum’s exhibitions, the library is open to the public and makes a great starting point on the fourth floor. In addition to beautiful books and comfortable chairs, library visitors enjoy interesting exhibitions that feature archival manuscripts, personal papers by women artists, rare books, and artists’ books. Reference Desk staff members are always happy to answer questions and offer assistance. Open Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–5 p.m.

—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

“Puzzle de Brasil”: A Topographical Tourist Map

While the 2016 Rio Olympic Games encourage development in Brazil and bolster the country’s worldwide reputation, NMWA’s Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center (LRC) is showing a work that also revels in Brazilian pride. Priya Pereira’s artist book Puzzle de Brasil, originally published in 2001, is on view in Priya Pereira: Contemporary Artists’ Books from India. This moveable puzzle book celebrating Brazilian culture is on display in the LRC until November 18, 2016.

Book artist Priya Pereira

Book artist Priya Pereira

Pereira’s Puzzle de Brasil explores the country’s most notable cultural, political, and ecological wonders through interactive screen-printed and hand-sewn cardboard flaps. Printed on each flap is a boldfaced word or icon illuminating aspects of the Brazilian experience. In particular, Pereira references Brazil’s love of football (soccer) by including the Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) logo. Viewers can detect mentions of Ipanema and the Metropolitan Cathedral, as well as illustrations of the samba and anacondas.

When handling the book, readers often devise their own methods of unfolding the complex, layered flaps. When lifted and manipulated in certain ways, Puzzle de Brasil’s moveable components can create a flat or three-dimensional artist’s book. With its cardboard base adorned with long strands of colored text and raised flaps, the book serves as a topographical tourist map—representative of Brazil’s complex geography. In this way, the work’s structure portrays the country as a mix of flatlands, jungles, mountains, and rivers.

Priya Pereira, Puzzle de Brazil, interior, 2001; Artist's book published by Pixie Bks

Puzzle de Brasil, interior, 2001; Artist’s book published by Pixie Bks

Pereira’s choice to embellish her work with blue, yellow, and green mirrors the colors of the Brazilian flag. Three overarching “tiers” each correspond with one of the flag’s three colors. The interactive book encourages readers to unfold the flaps in a blue-yellow-green order. Pereira says, “Open left to right, right to left, north to south, or vice-versa. One clue: follow the colors of Brazil—blue, yellow, and green to make it easy for you.” Pereira’s vibrant and complex book reveals some of Brazil’s cultural treasures and allows viewers to develop a deeper appreciation for the country.

Visit NMWA’s Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center to see a selection of Priya Pereira’s books. Located on the museum’s the fourth floor, the LRC is open Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–5 p.m.

—Emily Benoff is the summer 2016 Library and Research Center intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.