Emerging from the Shadows

Posted by: Maurine St. Gaudens

The groundbreaking 4-volume book Emerging from the Shadows; A Survey of Women Artists Working in California, 1860-1960 reveals in a highly visual presentation the careers of 320 artists with more than 2,400 color images displayed. The books offer an introduction to the women artists; painters, sculptors, graphic artists and printmakers, who called California home. The women profiled were trailblazers and their contributions ultimately opened the door for heartfelt expression and equality for future generations. Their work consists of a broad range of styles spanning the Realism of the nineteenth century to the Modernism of the twentieth century and reflects the styles and movements that have influenced generations of artists, including: Hudson River School, Realism, Plein-Air, Transcendentalism, Surrealism, Regionalism or American Scene Painting, Abstract Expressionism and represented by art created under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), and during the golden age of Disney Animation.

While researching and compiling data for the artist included in Emerging, one overriding question remained: Why are so many of these women still barely recognized for their artistic accomplishments? The stark reality is that until now many of the artists in Emerging have remained unknown or under recognized, often mentioned only as a single line entry in art books and reference guides. The astounding realization is that each of these women led full fascinating lives and their experiences were all encompassing; many lived in a period of time when they were denied the right to vote and in what was, and in many respects still is, a male dominated society. These are individuals who pursued studies at the most distinguished academic and art institutions; quiet often under the leading academics and artists of the day, in the United States and Europe. They exhibited their artwork in highly respected venues throughout the world and won numerous prizes. They counted themselves as members of noted art societies, and they played an important role in a myriad of social, civic and cultural organizations. They were respected amongst their peers and many of them went on to teach future generations of artists. The women selected for inclusion in the Emerging were chosen not only for their artistic merit, but for the role they played in furthering the art culture in California. Intentionally, the lesser known artists are presented in the book alongside their more acknowledged peers. For a number of these artists their work can be found in collections and public institutions, not only in California, but across the country and around the world – – – works that are now finally being given renewed attention and appreciation.

Emerging from the Shadows is a multi-layered visual resource in artist identification, historical perspective and biographical narrative. Now more than ever, it is an important time for women and this book puts into context the achievements made by women in light of societal norms and what was accomplished despite the pressures to conform. For most of the women profiled in Emerging from the Shadows, their acceptance as artists has largely been ignored or forgotten for far too long. It is time for these women to emerge and be recognized and for their own personal shadows to fade – – – Emerging from the Shadows is a first step in doing so.

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