Art Fix Friday: October 13, 2017

The MacArthur Foundation announced the 24 recipients of the 2017 “Genius Grants.” The list includes playwright Annie Baker, painter Njideka Akunyili Crosby, journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, singer-songwriter Rhiannon Giddens, landscape architect Kate Orff, and fiction writer Jesmyn Ward.

Front-Page Femmes

DCist features Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today, NMWA’s new exhibition featuring abstract art by black women artists.

The Art Newspaper interviews feminist artist Judy Chicago as three exhibitions open showcasing her work—including Inside the Dinner Party Studio at NMWA.

Poet Sonia Sanchez pens a new foreword to the re-release of Audre Lorde’s essay collection.

New York Times Magazine profiles actress Frances McDormand about her career and unconventional stardom.

British-Liberian artist Lina Iris Viktor uses digital enhancement and age-old gilding techniques to make large-scale paintings.

The Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery commissions Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley to paint Barack and Michelle Obama’s portraits, respectively.

Artsy publishes “What You Need to Know about Bauhaus Master Anni Albers.”

Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the founders of Rodarte, discuss the fashion industry and movie-making in Refinery29’s UnStyled podcast.

Queens Museum Executive Director Laura Raicovich says, “To be a responsible citizen in a democracy, one has to be involved in a kind of civic engagement. . . . And museums have a huge role to play in that.”

“What is it to stare and be stared at?” asks photographer Catherine Opie.

“As difficult and divisive as [Kara Walker’s] images are, they point to a reckoning that we can no longer afford to ignore,” writes Hyperallergic.

Science fiction writer Nnedi Okorafor has “emerged as one of the genre’s most innovative and visionary writers.”

The installation My Bed by Tracey Emin will return to the artist’s hometown 20 years after its unveiling.

Sanne de Wilde’s photographs in The Island of the Colorblind investigate a small Pacific community where a high percentage of the population has total color blindness.

The Netflix documentary Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold features archival footage as well as in-depth interviews.

In honor of World Mental Health Day, BUST highlights 12 women of color and Native women writers who reflect on their experiences with mental illness.

The Guardian visits Patricia Piccinini’s Melbourne studio.

Bodleian Libraries digitized more than 100 photographs by 19th-century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

The New Latin Wave festival in Brooklyn celebrates contemporary Latinx creativity.

Shows We Want to See

Paintings and works on paper by 83-year-old British artist Rose Wylie are on view at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery.

Hyperallergic interviews Julie Mehretu about her mural HOWL, eon (I, II), at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA).

Diane Tuft’s large-scale photographs—on view at the National Academy of Sciences—show the rapid dissolution of the Arctic landscape.

David Zwirner’s first exhibition dedicated to the work of Ruth Asawa is a “crucial re-contextualization of Asawa’s work which belatedly reassesses her legacy within 20th-century art.”

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Gallery Reboot: Natural Women

The museum’s newly reinstalled collection emphasizes connections between historical and contemporary art. Organized by the themes of the body, nature, domesticity, fabrication, and herstory, each gallery delves into a topic explored by women artists through time and around the world.

The natural world often serves as a source of inspiration for artists. Because of their purported powers of observation, women artists historically were encouraged to render the natural world. Still-life painting was deemed appropriate since it did not require the training needed to render the human body. NMWA’s collection galleries feature women artists from the 17th and 18th centuries who produced precise and imaginative flower paintings, as well as modern and contemporary artists who continue to draw inspiration from the natural world.

Dutch flower painter Rachel Ruysch (1664–1750) gained renown for her meticulous attention to detail and scientific accuracy. Because her father was a botanist she studied his collection from an early age. Ruysch’s education allowed her to put her own spin on the genre of still-life painting. She employed her scientific knowledge in her paintings by including insects and signs of decay. Although each flower is depicted with scientific accuracy, her compositions are imaginative. Ruysch combined blooms from different seasons and locations. In reality, these particular flowers would not have existed in the same arrangement.

Contemporary artist Sharon Core (b. 1965) often uses photography to mirror still-life paintings by well-known male artists and trick the viewer’s eye when presenting them with natural subjects. Core looks beyond traditional standards of beauty. At first glance, Single Rose (1997) appears lovely and delicate, but its velvety petals seem to be constructed from thin slices of meat. The work confronts the expectations of what is and is not considered beautiful in nature—and challenges the traditional subjects depicted by women artists.

Sale Neige (1980) by Joan Mitchell (1925–1992) serves as an abstracted interpretation of nature. The monumental painting’s title translates to “dirty snow” in French. Snow, often romanticized as pure and fresh—not unlike qualities often attributed to women—appears grittier and less pristine in Sale Neige. Vigorous brushstrokes of pale color at the top of the canvas seem to melt onto the more vividly colored lower third. Like many of her works, Sale Neige signifies Mitchell’s memories of or feelings for the landscape. Mitchell extended the scope of Abstract Expressionist painting by applying it to the subject of nature.

Works by these innovative women transcend simple, pleasing depictions of the natural world. See these works online or by visiting NMWA!

Meghan Masius was the spring 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Striking Balance: Fanny Sanín’s Process

Upon first glance, paintings by Fanny Sanín (b. 1938) look impeccably neat. Whether on paper or canvas, the decisive lines and solid colors of her geometric abstractions almost conceal evidence of the artist’s hand. The smooth, precise quality of her work may even evoke associations of computer-generated graphics. The works on view in the special exhibition Equilibrium: Fanny Sanín, however, reveal a different story. Sanín’s refined, finished works are accompanied by preparatory sketches. Through these studies, the viewer can glean insight into Sanín’s artistic process as one of the pioneers of Latin American geometric abstraction.

Fanny Sanín, Acrylic No. 2, 2011; Acrylic on canvas, 62 x 60 in.

Sanín places great emphasis on the role of drawing as a natural extension of developing a painting. “Drawings are the first and most important part of my creation…I used them to plan and reach the image that I would finally love to paint on canvas,” she says. “Color and structure go hand-in-hand in my work. It isn’t until they are both worked out in detail in my drawings that they can have meaning.”

Fanny Sanín, Study for Painting No.2 (1), 2011; Color pencil on paper, 20 x 18 in.

Through her drawings, Sanín closes the gap between a rough conceptualization and the polished, finished product. An initial work in her series of 11 drawings for Study for Painting No. 2, 2011, scarcely resembles the finished painting. Study for Painting No. 2 (1), 2011 contains a much lighter color scheme and is grounded by an hourglass shape in the center of the composition. Throughout these studies, visitors gain an understanding about how Sanín plays with recurring visual components, including her use of horizontal bands and eye-catching red shapes. It is through experimenting with variations on these motifs that she achieves optimal visual balance in both color and form.

Other works in the exhibition are accompanied by preparatory studies, though not as many. Five studies are shown alongside Study for Composition No. 1, each of them with much more similar visuals. The deep blues and bright orange remain consistent, while Sanín focuses on playing with distinct combinations of shape and form instead.

Installation of Fanny Sanín’s Acrylic No. 2 next to 11 of her studies for the work; Photo: Lee Stalsworth

Above all, Sanín seeks to realize her own vision of harmony. Rather than embody or evoke representational subject matter, her forms exist on a plane of pure abstraction, an oasis from any social or political turmoil that may seem to define a generation. Sanín’s art-making methods result in timeless visuals that do not need to reference a particular time or place. Her bold experimentation with abstracted forms and colors shows her commitment to resolving chaos into harmony, finding a point of equilibrium that captures the ideal.

Equilibrium: Fanny Sanín is on view in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery through October 29, 2017.

—Xiaoxiao Meng was the summer 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

American Abstraction—Expanded

Mildred Thompson, Magnetic Fields, 1991; Oil on canvas, 70 1/2 x 150 in.; Courtesy of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia; art and photo © The Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia

NMWA hosts the exhibition Magnetic Fields: Expanding American Abstraction, 1960s to Today, opening to the public on Friday, October 13, 2017.

Mildred Thompson, Untitled (Wood Picture), ca. 1966; Found wood and acrylic, 39 3/8 x 27 1/8 x 2 3/8 in.; New Orleans Museum of Art, Museum Purchase, Leah Chase Fund, 2016.51; Courtesy and copyright of the Mildred Thompson Estate, Atlanta, Georgia; Photo courtesy of New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana

Organized by the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, Magnetic Fields is the first U.S. exhibition to place abstract works by multiple generations of black women artists in context with one another.

Taking its title from a vibrant painting by Mildred Thompson, Magnetic Fields features work by 21 visionary women artists born between the years 1891 and 1981. The exhibition presents abstract art in a variety of artistic mediums, including printmaking, painting, sculpture, and drawing. These works—often incorporating unconventional materials or monumental scale—reveal the artists as under-recognized leaders in abstraction.

Thompson describes her work in the visual arts as “A continuous search for understanding. It is an expression of purpose and reflects a personal interpretation of the universe.” Similarly, artworks on view in Magnetic Fields celebrate each artist’s view of the universe through choices related to form, color, composition, and material exploration. Magnetic Fields re-contextualizes these works within the history of American abstraction.

Candida Alvarez, Puerto Rico, 25796, 2008; Watercolor, pencil, and marker on vellum, 12 x 9 in.; Courtesy of the artist, Chicago, Illinois; © Candida Alvarez; Photo by Tom van Eynde

Thompson’s works are featured alongside art by Candida Alvarez, Betty Blayton, Chakaia Booker, Lilian Thomas Burwell, Nanette Carter, Barbara Chase-Riboud, Deborah Dancy, Abigail DeVille, Maren Hassinger, Jennie C. Jones, Evangeline “EJ” Montgomery, Mary Lovelace O’Neal,  Howardena Pindell, Mavis Pusey, Shinique Smith, Gilda Snowden, Sylvia Snowden, Kianja Strobert, Alma Woodsey Thomas, and Brenna Youngblood. Together with the display of dynamic works by an inter-generational group of artists, an exhibition catalogue helps spark conversation about these artists and their place in history. Magnetic Fields represents a long-awaited milestone in honoring and recognizing the practitioners of abstraction.

Reserve your spot today for a first look at the exhibition during the opening party on October 12, from 7:30–9:30 p.m. Magnetic Fields is on view October 13, 2017–January 21, 2018. 

—Katie Benz is the fall 2017 digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: September 29, 2017

Hyperallergic discusses Ruth Asawa’s woven wire sculptures and calls the artist “a pioneer out of necessity.”

Asawa, whose works are featured in an exhibition at David Zwirner gallery, is the “latest postwar American artist to be rediscovered by an establishment still waking up to its racist and sexist biases,” writes Hyperallergic.

Front-Page Femmes

Hyperallergic discusses the importance of protest art in today’s world, including Fresh Talk speaker Emma Sulkowicz’s acclaimed Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight).

Pat Steir, best known for her Waterfall series, broke her auction record three times this year.

Fashion designer sisters Kate and Laura Mulleavy, known for their acclaimed fashion line, Rodarte, wrote and directed Woodshock—their first feature film. “The parallel between fashion and film reveals itself in Woodshock’s rich tactility,” writes W magazine.

Linda Nochlin’s landmark essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” inspires Dior’s new collection.

artnet interviews Tedi Asher, the neuroscience researcher at the Peabody Essex Museum.

“The skin in the drawings I create was initially an investigation into what skin felt like…how it creates parameters for movement and possibility,” says painter Toyin Ojih Odutola.

The Sixth Annual Feminist Art History Conference, which will be hosted at American University in 2018, is accepting proposals.

NASA dedicates a new research facility after Katherine Johnson, NASA engineer and subject of Hidden Figures.

Illustrator Ellen Weinstein teamed up with (MoMA) for the first children’s book on Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama.

An outdoor sculpture in Germany by Nicole Eisenman was vandalized for the second time.

The New Yorker explores how Nebraska’s landscape influenced Willa Cather.

At the age of 90, Rosalyn Drexler reflects on her career, creativity, and stint as a professional wrestler.

McSweeney’s lists stereotypes for female characters in romantic films and TV shows written by men.

Julie Taymor will direct a film adaptation of Gloria Steinem’s memoir My Life on the Road.

Journalist and Shanghai resident Lenora Chu discusses her book Little Soldiers.

Shows We Want to See

Jenny Holzer’s solo exhibition SOFTER at Blenheim Palace, explores power, conflict, and the aftermath of war.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby “establishes painting as a medium with the capacity for new and multi-dimensional life” with her works on view at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.

Annabeth Rosen: Fired, Broken, Gathered, Heaped is the artist’s first major survey and chronicles over 20 years of her work in ceramics—on view at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

Katharina Grosse’s exhibition This Drove My Mother Up the Wall is “an effective takeover of the environment, it torpedoes, one by one, the assumed limits of painting.”

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

5 Fast Facts: Jiha Moon

Impress your friends with five fast facts about artist Jiha Moon (b. 1973), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

1. Family Dynamics

Growing up as the middle child in her family, Moon had to fight for attention and concentrated on developing her painting and drawing skills to attract notice. Moon’s parents supported her growing talent and continuing artistic education.

2. Citizen of the World

Born in Daegu, South Korea, Moon earned her BFA and her first MFA in Seoul. Although she currently lives and works in Atlanta, Moon has worked and studied all over the U.S., including Washington, D.C., where she began her professional career.

Jiha Moon, Cascade Crinoline, 2008; Ink and acrylic on hanji paper, 41 x 59 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Georgia State Committee of NMWA; © Jiha Moon

3. Paper Preparedness

Moon often works on hanji—handmade Korean mulberry paper. She buys a year’s supply when she visits Korea. Her use of hanji is significant as one way in which she combines artistic traditions from different cultures. Cascade Crinoline (2008), an ink and acrylic work on hanji paper, references classical Asian painting and reflects her interest in animation and cartoons.

4. Mixing Medium

Before she explored abstraction at the University of Iowa, Moon’s early works focused on figures. Moon worked primarily with paint until she started incorporating more collage elements after a residency at the Fabric Workshop and Museum from 2009 to 2010, and began working with ceramics in late 2012.

Jiha Moon, Leia, 2013; Ceramic and glaze, 13 x 8 x 8 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Georgia Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; © Jiha Moon; Photo courtesy of the artist

5. Title Matters

When Moon titles her artwork, she considers information that would help an individual examining the image. Her titles allow viewers to “get into [her] world.” Moon’s ceramic work in NMWA’s collection, titled Leia (2013), references the character of Princess Leia in Star Wars—and her iconic two-bun hairstyle.

—Ashley W. Harris is the associate educator at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: September 22, 2017

Last Sunday’s Emmy Awards celebrated female-driven stories. HBO’s Big Little Lies won multiple awards, as did Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Washington Post writes, “The winning drama series and limited series…focused on issues of women—rather than defaulting to the male point of view—as a vivid way to explore the human condition.” Julia Louis Dreyfus also won her sixth consecutive Emmy for her role in Veep.

Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win for comedy writing for Master of None. The Lily celebrates Waithe’s success and reflects on the black women previously nominated for Emmys.

Vulture and the New Yorker also discuss the triumph of women in television, while the Los Angeles Times points out that an imbalance remains. Only 18% of the 114 nominated writers were women and three of the 25 nominated directors were women.

Front-Page Femmes         

Gillian Wearing reveals her design for the likeness of suffragist Millicent Fawcett for London’s Parliament Square.

Murals by street artist Hyuro delve into social and political controversies.

Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen draws inspiration from science for her “strangely gorgeous garments,” incorporating unusual materials and 3-D printing.

Recent studies suggest that women may become more creative after having kids.

In her documentary The Town I Live In, artist Guadalupe Rosales speaks out about gentrification in Boyle Heights.

New York-based artist and educator Imani Shanklin Roberts created a street mural inspired by South African artist Esther Mahlangu.

Nikon chose 32 male photographers to promote their new camera, claiming that no women photographers responded to the casting calls.

Actress Nadine Malouf plays an unnamed Syrian-American who tells stories of Syria’s civil war in Oh My Sweet Land.

London’s Frieze Art Fair will feature nine radical feminist artists whose work was considered too graphic during the 1970s and ’80s.

Amaka Osakwe has become West Africa’s most celebrated designer.

NPR interviews Danielle Allen about her memoir, centered on her cousin, who was sentenced to a long prison term for carjacking and was shot three years after his release.

Shows We Want to See

MoMA showcases nearly 300 works by Louise Bourgeois, including 265 prints, to show the central role printmaking played in Bourgeois’s practice. The Guardian highlights several prints focusing on issues of patriarchy, sexuality, and womanhood.

Carolyn Case’s paintings in Homemade Tattoo involve abstraction through dots, lace, and mark-making.

The Pre-Vinylette Society at the Chicago Art Department contains a “vibrant display of over 60 women sign painters from nine countries around the world.”

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Gallery Reboot: Domestic Affairs

Beatrice Wood, Gold Chalice, 1985; Earthenware, 12 x 8 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts; Gift of John Deardourff and Elisabeth Griffith; © Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts/Happy Valley Foundation

Beatrice Wood, Gold Chalice, 1985; Earthenware, 12 x 8 7/8 x 8 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts; Gift of John Deardourff and Elisabeth Griffith; © Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts/Happy Valley Foundation

The museum’s newly reinstalled collection emphasizes connections between historical and contemporary art. Organized by the themes of the body, nature, domesticity, fabrication, and herstory, each gallery delves into a topic explored by women artists through time and around the world.

The domestic sphere, with its daily activities and feminine associations, serves as a rich source of inspiration for many women artists. They draw subjects and materials from the domestic realm in order to uphold—or upend—cultural traditions, gender roles, and boundaries between art and craft.

Beatrice Wood (1893–1998), known as the “Mama of Dada,” gained renown for her luminous luster-glaze ceramics. Wood discovered pottery classes in the 1930s, when she wanted a matching teapot for a set of teacups from the Netherlands. Her work in ceramics and in creating a signature luster glaze earned her acclaim. Her works were featured in many solo museum exhibitions and fetched high prices at auction. Wood crafted Gold Chalice (1985) when she was 92 years old.

Angela Strassheim, Untitled (Prayer), 2005; Chromogenic color print, 30 x 40 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Angela Strassheim

Angela Strassheim, Untitled (Prayer), 2005; Chromogenic color print, 30 x 40 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of The Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Angela Strassheim

American photographer Angela Strassheim (b. 1969) portrays suburban life in the American Midwest, while making references to religion and art history. Strassheim was raised in Iowa to a born-again Christian family, whose beliefs she denounced as a teenager. Her photographs’ Christian undertones are presented matter-of-factly, but there is often an unsettling quality to the work. Strassheim’s background in forensic photography also informs her calculated compositions. Her works display recognizable scenes from daily life, but suggest that there is more than meets the eye in family life.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Apron, 1997; Cedar, stain, and graphite, 46 x 28 x 12 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of the Tony Podesta Collection; © Ursula von Rydingsvard

Sculptures by Ursula von Rydingsvard (b. 1942) often take the form of domestic objects, such as Apron (1997). The artist’s medium of choice has been cedar for more than 35 years. Apron represents a traditionally feminine object wrought in a traditionally masculine medium. Like Strassheim, von Rydingsvard uses her family history as inspiration. The subject matter and medium are all carefully chosen. Household objects became dear to the artist when she moved around refugee camps with her family in Europe during and after World War II. In addition, aprons are a symbol of domesticity and comfort in many cultures. 

Women artists explore the theme of domestic affairs in various, unexpected ways. Visit the museum to see these works in the third floor galleries. Can’t visit in person? Browse #GalleryReboot on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more collection highlights.

—Meghan Masius was the spring 2017 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: September 15, 2017

DCist interviews Judy Chicago about her new exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, her visual archive, and the renewed interest in her work and in the feminist art movement.

“It’s really challenging now for young artists, I think it’s really hard to have the long sustained career I have,” says Chicago. “But if my career demonstrates anything, it’s the importance of not giving up.”

Tune in to Judy Chicago’s Fresh Talk livestream at the museum at 4:30 p.m. on September 17, 2017.

Front-Page Femmes 

Shirin Neshat is among the five winners of this year’s Praemium Imperiale award.

New York Times Magazine draws parallels between Marie Cosindas’s early color photography and Rachel Ruysch’s 17th-century Dutch still-life paintings.

“The art world definitely has its own set of issues, and in my opinion there is a tonality in certain of the spaces and institutions that as a black artist you should just be happy to be here,” says Solange.

Alice Walton reveals her plans for a new foundation that will loan works to exhibitions of American art and help shows travel.

Colette Fu crafts the largest pop-up photobook in the world.

Yale University acquired artist and filmmaker Barbara Hammer’s archives.

Kory Stamper, a lexicographer for Merriam-Webster, publishes Word by Word: the Secret Life of Dictionaries.

Rachel Shteir describes her interview with Kate Millett, conducted five days before the writer’s death.

Hyperallergic reflects on the importance of Faith Ringgold’s eight-by-eight-feet mural, For the Women’s House (1971).

Spencer Merolla opened a pop-up bakery serving goods made from coal ash in an effort to spark conversation about climate change.

Tatiana Huezo’s documentary about human trafficking is Mexico’s submission for this year’s Academy Awards.

Arleene Correa, an undocumented art student attending California College of the Arts, discusses the end of DACA and the obstacles she faces.

Patty Jenkins will direct the Wonder Woman sequel.

Author Attica Locke discusses her novel Bluebird, Texas, and the current political climate.

Elizabeth Rosner shares her book Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory, inspired by an event to commemorate the 70th anniversary of her father’s liberation from Buchenwald.

Shows We Want to See

Work in Rachel Whiteread’s exhibition at Tate Britain is “as much psychological as it is physical.”

Julie Mehretu creates two large-scale paintings commissioned for SFMoMA’s renovated atrium. “There is no such thing as just landscape,” says Mehretu. “The actual landscape is politicized through the events that take place on it.”

Karen LaMonte: Floating World, on view at the Chazen Museum of Art in Wisconsin, explores clothing as a metaphor—and as a way to explore the body without depicting it.

Magnetic Fields artist Barbara Chase-Riboud’s series of steles in tribute to Malcolm X are on view at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery.

The Guardian shares a new exhibition of Käthe Kollwitz’s powerful works.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial associate at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Wonder Women: Flappers Meet Underground Comics

NMWA could not host an exhibition called Wonder Women! without featuring several exceptional comics! The first group of objects on view in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center (LRC) are an unlikely trio of comics by women, ranging from a 1920s newspaper, to an underground 1970s feminist comic, to a contemporary collection of dystopian comics with a cult following. Each features powerful women and truly represents their respective eras.

Nell Brinkley, “Kathleen and the Great Secret,” New York Evening Journal, November 21, 1920

Nell Brinkley, writer and artist of the earliest comic on view, brought style, romance, and strong women to the pages of William Randolph Hearst’s newspapers for three decades. Brinkley drew serialized comics in American Sunday magazine, later named American Weekly. “Kathleen and the Great Secret” ran on the cover of American Weekly in 1920 and ’21, featuring a woman who saves her fiancé from villains. Kathleen’s rescue of Jim involved a thrilling journey around the globe. Brinkley’s immense popularity as an illustrator and tastemaker influenced styles of the time. The Ziegfeld Follies featured “Brinkley Girls” dressed in her fashion, and women used hair-curling products named after her.

Left: Trina Robbins, “Girl Fight, issue 2,” 1972; Right: Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, “Bitch Planet, Volume 1: Extraordinary Machine,” Image Comics, 2015

Fittingly, alongside Brinkley are two comic books by Trina Robbins, who also wrote two books about Brinkley’s place in comics history. While Kathleen has a wispy, Art Nouveau style, Girl Fight is angular and boldly colored. The plotlines are extreme and the dialogue is crude, but it is clear that Robbins was making a point: women in comics books can be powerful and sexual beings, not just minor characters or fantasy superheroes. Robbins also co-founded Wimmen’s Comix, the longest-running all-women comic book, which was published from 1972 until 1992.

The futuristic comic Bitch Planet, by veteran comics author Kelly Sue DeConnick and drawn by Valentine De Landro, like Girl Fight, uses extreme stereotypes to make a point about the kind of stories that have traditionally been told about women in comics and B-movies. On Bitch Planet, women are deemed “non-compliant” and imprisoned for refusing to conform to gender expectations back on Earth. This graphic novel collection of the first issues of Bitch Planet include the backstory of hero Penny Rolle, jailed for “wanton obesity,” who defies the patriarchy that tries to punish her self-acceptance. In an interview with NPR in 2015, DeConnick discussed her awe at the comic’s cult following with some fans posting photos of “NC” (non-compliant) tattoos.

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

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