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Books for Youth Art Month

Author John Cech
Air Date 3/31/2003

Books for Youth Art Month Transcript

It’s Youth Art Month, and given that it’s also Women’s History Month, we thought we might combine these two celebrations in books about women artists.

Robyn Montana Turner’s series, “Portraits of Women Artists for Children” is an essential starting point for these festivities. Ms. Turner provides basic introductions for young people to the works of Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, Frida Kahlo, Dorothea Lange, Georgia O’Keeffee, and Faith Ringgold. Throughout these generously illustrated combinations of biography and art history, Ms. Turner reminds us of the key roles that women artists have played in the development, particularly in this century, of painting, photography, and fabric art. She is especially concerned with the struggles that women artists, like Bonheur, Cassatt, Kahlo, and O’Keeffee faced to find the art training that they needed and then to get the recognition for their work that they deserved. Ms. Turner’s books provide an over-view that explains the evolution of each of these remarkable artist’s individual works. And the volumes are all filled with fascinating details, like the fact that the photographer, Dorothea Lange was responsible for picking out that well-known burnt-orange color that the Golden Gate Bridge was, and still is, painted.

Julie Danneberg covers some of the same ground in her Women Artists of the West: Five Portraits in Creativity and Courage. Here we meet Dorothea Lange and Georgia O’Keeffee again, but we also are introduced to the Pueblo potter, Maria Martinez, who is generally thought to be the first Native American artist to sign her work. And we get to know Laura Gilpin, who used the money she made from running a successful turkey farm to pay for her photography lessons back east and took many of the best-known, early twentieth century pictures of the quickly fading landscape of the American West. And then there is the painter, Mary-Russell Colton, who left her career as a zoology professor at the University of Pennsylvania and traveled to the Southwest, where she found her inspiration in the mesas and the Hopi people of Northern Arizona.

Martin Sandler’s Against the Odds: Women Pioneers in the First Hundred Years of Photography is a book for adolescents and young adults that chronicles the amazing work of dozens of women photographers — some famous and a good many undeservedly obscure. These women took pictures that were easily the equal and often far better than their male counterparts, who generally got the plaudits, the plum assignments, and the gallery shows. Yet what a legacy these women artists left, and what treasures for Sandler to bring together in this astonishing exhibition.

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