Identity Unknown: Rediscovering Seven American Women Artists
By Donna Seaman
Air Date/Time December 1, 2:00pm (Central)
1st ed., 480 p., hardcover
Who hasn’t wondered where – aside from Georgia O’Keeffe and Frida Kahlo – all the women artists are? In many art books, they’ve been marginalized with cold efficiency, summarily dismissed in the captions of group photographs with the phrase “identity unknown” while each male is named.
Donna Seaman brings to dazzling life seven of these forgotten artists, among the best of their day: Gertrude Abercrombie, with her dark, surreal paintings and friendships with Dizzy Gillespie and Sonny Rollins; Bay Area self-portraitist Joan Brown; Ree Morton, with her witty, oddly beautiful constructions; Loïs Mailou Jones of the Harlem Renaissance; Lenore Tawney, who combined weaving and sculpture when art and craft were considered mutually exclusive; Christina Ramberg, whose unsettling works drew on pop culture and advertising; and Louise Nevelson, an art-world superstar in her heyday but omitted from recent surveys of her era.
These women fought to be treated the same as male artists, to be judged by their work, not their gender or appearance. In brilliant, compassionate prose, Seaman reveals what drove them, how they worked, and how they were perceived by others in a world where women were subjects-not makers-of art. Featuring stunning examples of the artists’ work, Identity Unknown speaks to all women about their neglected place in history and the challenges they face to be taken as seriously as men no matter what their chosen field -and to all men interested in women’s lives.
“Female creators rise in all their splendor and defiance in Donna Seaman’s wonderful new book . . . Seaman [is] an enchanting biographer.” – Washington Post
“Seaman is out to right a grievous wrong but she does so not with shrill arguments but rather with stylish, sensitive and deeply researched prose. “Identity Unknown” is a revelatory, engaging and provocative work.” – Chicago Tribune
“Identity Unknown goes far beyond the more narrow question of criticism in discussing seven women artists whose relative neglect places them in unfair obscurity. No more obscurity for this arty septet! Seaman’s lively portraits make the reader eager to rediscover them, a process helped along by the book’s photos of them and their art.” – Seattle Times