Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists

donnaseamanbydavidsiegfried-1Call it the case of the disappearing sculpture for that’s what started Donna Seaman on her quest to chronicle the lives and works of the seven female artists featured in her just released book, Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists
(Bloomsbury 2017; $35).

“I remember going to the Chicago Art Institute and seeing this large sculpture they had at the end of the corridor,” says Seaman who grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York but not lives in Chicago. “But then she disappeared.”

The sculpture was by Louise Nevelson, who at one time had quite a following in the U.S., but like the six other 20th century females artists featured in Seaman’s book are almost forgotten despite their talent.

Intriguingly, though I had heard of Nevelson, I didn’t recognize any of the other names when I first started reading Seaman’s fascinating book. But reading about Gertrude Abercrombie and seeing her strikingly haunted paintings, I realized my mother had one in her study. But though I loved that painting, I only remembered the male artists whose works hung in our home such as Chagall’s “The Rabbi of Vitebsk” and Winslow Homer’s “The Gulf Steam” (all prints I assure you) and not this one? Was it a male thing?

Could be says Seaman, one of Chicago’s best known book critics and editor of adult books at Booklist, a book-review (and now online) magazine that’s been published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years.

“It’s about who’s writing history,” she says. “Women weren’t written about in a critically relevant way. Newspapers were interested but not the critics. And so these women disappeared.”

While doing her extensive research (Seaman acknowledges her obsessiveness) she asked museum curators to bring out the works of Lois Mailou Jones that had been tucked away in storage for who knows how long.

“They hadn’t seen them before,” she recalls. “And they kept saying these are wonderful.”identityunknown_hc_cat-1

Though Seaman chose most of the artists she highlighted—Joan Brown, Leonore Tawney and Ree Morton–because she liked their work, her essay on Christina Ramberg was much more personal.

“I knew Christina,” Seaman says. “She died very young. The moment she became ill, we knew she wasn’t going to be around very long and I knew someday I would write about her.”

With a Master’s degree in English from DePaul University, one might expect Seaman to be more focused on lost women writers, but her mother was a visual artist (in fact Seaman is traveling to Vassar College last this spring where her mother has a showing of her work) and at one time, she considered becoming an artist as well.

Earning her BSA at Kansas City Art Institute where she was a sculptor major, Seaman says she was only one in her class who loved her liberal arts classes.

“I loved libraries and I have a passion for reading,” she says. “Despite getting into shows and selling my works, I realized that my stronger skills were in editing and writing.”

This skill subset—art and writing—is perfect for giving these artists their identities back.

Ifyougo:

What: Donna Seaman Book Launch Party for Identity Unknown.

When: Wednesday, March 1 @ 7 p.m.

Where: Swedish American Museum, 5211 N. Clark, Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: 773-769-9299; Donna Seaman has several other Chicago events coming up. To learn more, visit donnaseaman.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness

Finding a sense of peace and contentment in her life by eating healthier and follow a menu of plant basedblissfulbasil_frontcover of Vegan meals, Ashley Melillo began blogging while earning her graduate degree in school psychology.

Eating whole food helped Melillo deal with the anxiety and stress of her life. And she shares her food philosophy and the recipes she’s created not only on her blog, Blissful Basil, but also in her new cookbook, Blissful Basil: Over 100 Plant-Powered Recipes to Unearth Vibrancy, Health & Happiness (BenBella 2016; $21.95).

It’s not easy, says Melillo who also earned a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies
.

“There are no quick fixes,” she says about incorporating both physical exercise and a wide variety of plant-based foods into our diet.

Indeed, one wholesome smoothie such as her Energizing Carrot Cake Smoothie, Get Glowing Strawberry Mango Chia Pudding or her Cheesy Herb or the Sun-Dried Tomato Good Morning Biscuits, won’t turn our lives upside down health-wise. But it’s all a step in the right direction to achieving physical, mental and emotional well-being.

“I think it’s tempting for many of us to want to think otherwise but it’s necessary to build up good habits,” she says. “It’s a matter of making small but good choices every day. It’s a way to taking care of all aspects of your health—cognitive and physical.”

Of course, as a psychologist, Melillo recognizes that it’s most difficult to make these changes at those times in our lives when we most need to do so.

“It’s when some of these emotions are most at their peak and when you feel almost too overwhelmed to try taking the steps to move forward, that’s when it’s the hardest,” she says. “But it’s the hardest things that push up forward and end up being the best things for us. But it’s important to make ourselves do so–to start chipping away at our anxiety or stress or depression. By taking that one step, oftenswift-sweet-potato-coconut-curry-srgb we can go on and take another and another and ultimately alleviate some of those overwhelming feelings.”

For Melillo, sticking with a whole foods plant-based diet doesn’t mean not allowing herself a little flexibility. But there are also other fixes too. Want something sweet? Try a vegan dessert such as her Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars, Enlivening Lemon Bars, Peanut Butter Cookies and Cosmically Fudgy Cacao Tahini Brownies. Hankering for a pizza? Melillo has a variety
of pizzas such as her White Pizza with Garlic Herb Oil, Mozzarella and Puffy Potato Crust.

“I think it’s important to have an element of self-compassion and understanding,” she says. “If you know you’re craving something that’s maybe not the thing that makes you feel greatest, but it just is what you’re feeling that you want to eat in that moment so like a vegan cookie or more processed vegan pizza something like that.”

Realizing that many people aren’t ready to go totally plant-based or Vegan or know much about, Melillo offers a glossary of terms, recipes for pantry items to keep on hand and helpful symbols—colored circle noting whether recipes are free of gluten, grain, soy, nut, oil, refined sugar and if they’re raw.

Melillo asked meat lovers to taste test the recipes in her book because she wanted them to be appealing not only for those already committed to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle but to all those who pick up her cookbook or read her blog.

“I really want everyone to love the recipes in this book,” she says.

Ifyougo:

What: Ashley Melillo talk and book signing

When: Thursday, February 16, 7:00 p.m.

Where: The Book Cellar, 4736-38 N Lincoln Ave Chicago, IL

Cost: Free

FYI: (773) 293-2665; bookcellarinc.com