Sculpture Revisited: Alison Saar’s Prints

Sculptor and printmaker Alison Saar (b. 1956) often carves wood, which led to her attraction to the woodcut printmaking technique. She makes most of her prints after her sculptures, using them to revisit and reevaluate her three-dimensional imagery. Printed against spare backgrounds, Saar’s figures retain a sculptural quality despite their two-dimensional format.

“One of the main things that I like about printmaking is that it’s accessible to many people,” says Saar. “And I also view it as what I call a ‘palette’ cleansing. My sculptures take a lot of effort, and my hands are usually tired at the end of all of that, so printmaking offers a chance to sit back and look at the piece one more time and make any changes that I want to, or just re-think the work graphically.”


Left to right: Pallor Trick, 2013; Cast bronze, stone, and silk, 14 1/2 x 5 1/2 x 6 in; Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver / Pallor Tricks, 2004; Etching and collograph on paper, 29 1/2 x 28 in; Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver

In the sculpture Pallor Trick (2013) and related print Pallor Tricks (2004), Saar deftly alludes to the subjects of racial identity and societal definitions of beauty. The titles feature a play on words, referring to the notion of a parlor trick, an illusion meant to entertain guests. In each work, the female figure stands with a white sheet draped over her head as if playing a game of hide and seek. Saar plays a trick of her own, using the word “pallor” to draw attention to the translucent white sheets that partially veil the figures’ dark skin.


Left to right: Snake Man, 1994; Woodcut and lithograph on paper, 33 1/2 x 42 1/2 in.; NMWA, Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in honor of the artist; Photo by Lee Stalsworth / Snake Charmer, 1985; Wood, tin, paint, and found objects, 21 x 26 x 14 in.; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution; Joseph H. Hirshhorn Purchase Fund and gift of Merry Norris, 1993

Saar created Snake Man (1994) several years after completing her sculpture Snake Charmer (1985), also on view in the exhibition. Inspired by Saar’s encounter with a snake charmer, this bust-length figure with blank eyes resembles an ancient statue. The figure, who daringly holds a snake in his mouth, may represent a shaman. Although serpents are seen as sinister by many cultures, this snake, balanced between the man’s teeth, suggests equilibrium between good and evil. Against a spare background, the print’s figure resembles the freestanding sculpture, becoming a potent distillation of Saar’s three-dimensional form. Saar created the dynamic texture in the image by printing from a discarded piece of cracked linoleum.

Saar’s prints, and the sculptures on which they are based, focus on individual life experiences as well as broader cultural prejudices. Her figures draw viewers to reflect on gender, race, and identity, subjects that resonate powerfully in today’s world.

Visit the museum to see Alison Saar In Print before the exhibition closes on Sunday, October 2, 2016.

Opening This Friday: NO MAN’S LAND

Large-scale paintings and sculptural hybrids reveal the expressive range of women artists in NO MAN’S LAND: Women Artists from the Rubell Family Collection, on view from September 30, 2016, to January 8, 2017.

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

Isa Genzken, Schauspieler, 2013; Mixed media, 72 1/4 x 18 1/2 x 10 1/2 in.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts is collaborating with the Rubell Family Collection (RFC), Miami, to realize a new vision for the exhibition that opened at the RFC’s space in December 2015. The exhibition features 37 women artists whose aesthetically diverse work addresses wide-ranging intellectual and political themes. Although women historically had limited access to training and opportunity in the traditional fields of sculpture and painting, the title of the exhibition suggests “a space free from the rule of any sovereign power” where women artists are able to adapt and modify these mediums.

The highly focused selection of paintings and sculptures emphasizes the female body and the physical process of art-making. Ever since the feminist art movement of the 1960s and ’70s, these two themes have become prevalent avenues for experimentation, play, and subversion.

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.

Mickalene Thomas, Whatever You Want, 2004; Acrylic, rhinestone, and enamel on panel, 48 x 36 in.

During the feminist art movement, women artists claimed ownership over visualization of the body. Artists in NO MAN’S LAND explore this history and experiment with the expressive potential of the female form. Some artists, including Cecily Brown and Mickalene Thomas, adapt the art-historical theme of the odalisque by transforming its typically passive character. Others such as Hayv Kahraman use portraiture as a space for self-expression. Many of the works on view signify broader ideas about culture, gender, and ethnicity.

For artists in NO MAN’S LAND, the physical process of making is key to developing meaning, exploring intellectual conundrums, and conjuring psychological experiences. Painters and sculptors eliminate hierarchies among mediums by disrupting conventional ideas about women and handcraft. Historically defined as “women’s work,” handcraft remains a gendered topic in art. Artists including Analia Saban, Rosemarie Trockel, and Shinique Smith focus on unconventional materials or labor-intensive techniques. They upend tradition to suit their aesthetic and intellectual purposes.

Visit the exhibition before the public during the opening reception on September 29, 2016. See the full calendar of events for NO MAN’S LAND.

—Francisca Rudolph is the fall 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: September 23, 2016

The recently announced MacArthur Genius Award recipients include 12 women.

Hyperallergic shares their highlights on the artists receiving the “genius grants,” including sculptor Joyce J. Scott, video artist Mary Reid Kelley, writer and artist Lauren Redniss, and art historian and curator Kellie Jones. The Washington Post discusses recipients’ reactions and NPR interviews theater artist and educator Anne Basting. The Huffington Post discusses the difficulties with the word “genius.”

Front-Page Femmes

Joan Carlile’s Portrait of an Unknown Lady (1650–55) is Tate Britain’s earliest work by a female artist. Hyperallergic and the Art Newspaper discuss how the painting was previously believed to have been painted by a man.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture displays a dress sewn by Rosa Parks. She was carrying the dress when she was arrested on the bus in 1955.

artnet shares five interesting facts about Alma Thomas on the anniversary of her birth.

Kate Nichols talks about combining old artistic traditions with cutting edge nanotechnology.

Frieze art fair commissions Julie Verhoeven to create a work where the artist and guest stars will act as bathroom attendants.

The Seattle Art Museum awards Wendy Red Star the $15,000 Betty Bowen Award for 2016.

Cindy Sherman and Annette Messager have been awarded the Praemium Imperiale.

Ana Mendieta’s legacy is explored through the work of contemporary artists in a new exhibition.

The Creators Project shares works by women that “express the vulnerability inherent to being a girl on the internet.”

Set designer and artist Raquel Rodrigo installs colorful, macro details of cross-stitch embroidery on building facades around Madrid.

Hai-Hsin Huang’s playful paintings in A Museum Show depict museums “not only as a place where artifacts are displayed, but also where people display themselves.”

“In Art This Fall, Women Win in a Landslide,” remarks the New York Times. The Observer writes that museums are showing an “unusually large number of high-profile surveys of works by women artists.”

Artsy discusses why all-female group shows are still needed and talks about women artists who championed sexually explicit art in the ’90s.

Charmian Carr, who played Liesl von Trapp in The Sound of Music, died at the age of 73.

The New York Review of Books highlights Maya Lin.

Eva Hesse’s diaries are “a fascinating and compellingly human document.”

Shows We Want to See

Camille Henrot’s small sculptures and works on paper are on view in Luna di Latte at the Museum of Contemporary Art Donnaregina (MADRE).

Spelman Museum of Fine Art hosts Africa Forecast: Fashioning Contemporary Life featuring works by 20 black artists, including Amy Sherald and Zanele Muholi. Fifteen of the works on view are on display for the first time.

Cindy Sherman: Imitation of Life at the Broad presents a survey of Cindy Sherman’s work through the lens of Hollywood.

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

5 Fast Facts: Alison Saar

Impress your friends with five fast facts about sculptor and printmaker Alison Saar (b. 1956), whose work is on view in Alison Saar In Print through October 2, 2016.

Alison Saar (b. 1956)

Alison Saar with her works in NMWA’s exhibition Alison Saar In Print

Alison Saar with her works in NMWA’s exhibition Alison Saar In Print

1. All In the Family

Saar grew up surrounded by art, thanks to her mother, the renowned collagist and assemblage artist Betye Saar, and her father, Richard, an art conservator and painter. Saar’s opened her eyes to art making and deepened her interest in other cultures.

2. Past Lives

Saar often incorporates found objects into her artwork. She credits childhood visits to Watts Towers with inspiring her practice by showing her that anything could have a second life. She enjoys working with materials that have a history.

3. By Any Other Name

Because Saar’s work often explores dark or disturbing themes, she adds levity by incorporating wordplay and double entendres into the titles of her works. She relates this method to the blues. “They’re playing these heart-wrenching songs, but there’s also some humorousness to them, some sort of escape,” says Saar.

Alison Saar, Tango, 2005; Woodcut on paper, 25 3/4 x 38 3/4 in.' Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver; © Alison Saar

Alison Saar, Tango, 2005; Woodcut on paper, 25 3/4 x 38 3/4 in.’ Courtesy of the artist and L.A. Louver; © Alison Saar

4. Two Worlds

Saar cites her identity as a biracial woman as an influence in her artistic practice. She often tackles the concept of duality in her work—themes like freedom versus oppression and humor mixed with despair.

5. Bring Your Own Background

When asked how people should interpret her work, Saar replied, “Just look at it.” She believes that she only does half of the work on each piece. The viewer completes it by bringing his or her own history and perspective to the interpretation of Saar’s art.

Visit the museum to see Alison Saar In Print before the exhibition closes on October 2, 2016.

—Hannah Page was the summer 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: September 16, 2016

artnet shares a list of ten exhibitions featuring the work of groundbreaking female sculptors.

The list includes “Ruth Asawa, who came to renown for her intricately-woven wire sculptures, to Colombian artist Doris Salcedo, who literally shattered the earth with her 2007 sculpture.”

Front-Page Femmes

Yoko Ono asks women to participate in her next project by sending a photograph of their eyes along with “a testament of harm done” for being a woman.

Dutch photographer Rineke Dijkstra debuts two videos at Milwaukee Art Museum.

Nailah Lymus founded the modelling agency Underwraps, in part to “dispel the received idea that glamour and Islam are incompatible.”

Ruiz-Healy Art hosts an exhibition of Graciela Iturbide’s work, including the Mexican artist’s iconic photographs.

Inspired by Sarah Forbes Bonetta, a 19th-century Egbado princess, contemporary artist Heather Agyepong re-imagines Bonetta’s life through a series of photographs.

The Getty Research Institute acquires the Harmony Hammond’s archive.

Chiharu Shiota constructed a “twisted network of tangled red yarn that rises from a collection of skeletal boats.”

Alex Prager shows her newest film, La Grande Sortie.

Charlotte Moorman, known as “the topless cellist,” is the subject of two exhibitions.

Denver-based artists Trine Bumiller, Sandra Fettingis, and Ashley Eliza Williams discuss the impact of Women of Abstract Expressionism.

Elisabeth Condon uses a paint-pouring technique, a splashed-ink method found in early 10th-century Chinese painting and post-World War II abstraction.

Angel Catbird, Margaret Atwood’s new comic book, “gleefully capsizes all the usual notions” of superhero comics.

Writers and editors explored what it means to be a woman in the literary world at an Emily Books event.

Carla Hayden became the first woman and the first African-American sworn in as the Librarian of Congress.

Saturday Night Live casts Melissa Villaseñor, the show’s first Latina cast member in its 41-season history.

The fall theater season consists of “a rich handful of plays by black women addressing issues reverberating through American culture.”

The Guardian analyzed the gender diversity of roles behind the lens for Emmy-nominated television shows to find that only a small percentage of credits went to female filmmakers.

Kirsten Johnson’s film Cameraperson is a “non-narrated montage of moments from the hours of footage Johnson has shot over her lifetime.”

Shows We Want to See

The Washington Post calls Hung Liu’s Daughter of China, Resident Alien the “centerpiece” of six new exhibitions at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center.

The Whitney Museum of American Art features more than 50 works by Cuban-born painter and sculptor Carmen Herrera, including some that have never been shown, in the artist’s first solo exhibition in almost 20 years.

A new exhibition shows how Helen Frankenthaler created innovative works throughout her life.

Hyperallergic writes that Marilyn Lerner’s masterful colorist paintings are “not like anything else being done.”

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

Modern Makers: Handmade Habitat

Inspired by the Makers Mart at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA), the Modern Makers series highlights local women makers and their diverse companies.

Amina Ahmad, owner of Handmade Habitat; Photo: Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry, NMWA

Amina Ahmad, owner of Handmade Habitat; Photo: Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry, NMWA

Company: Handmade Habitat
Maker: Amina Ahmad

Artist and chandler Amina Ahmad owns Handmade Habitat, an all-natural soy-candle and beauty-goods company specializing in products that uplift and inspire the soul.

Ahmad studied environmental science at the University of Maryland. Passionate about building the creative community in the D.C. metropolitan area, Ahmad is also the co-founder of the Unofficial Hand Lettering Society of Silver Spring. When not in her studio, Ahmad often strolls through her neighbors’ gardens in Takoma Park with her dog, Rosie.

How did you get started?
My business started a few years ago. I originally made bags and clothing. Then one year, I experimented with candle making for Christmas gifts. I ended up really liking it and started incorporating it into the existing business.

What inspires you? 
I am inspired by nature. I am really inspired by artists and a lot of the other work that I see in the world. I’m also inspired by my own yoga practice, which helped me discover what I really value in my work. 

What does the creative process look like for you?
I start with a concept—something that I want to incorporate into my own life. That’s how it has always been. I started making things that I wanted, whether it was a bag, a new dress, or oven mitts.

What does the word “maker” mean to you?
I think a maker has a really wide definition. . . . Making is a core part of my identity. I come from a very D.I.Y family. If there is a problem, you troubleshoot it first with whatever is available before you buy something to fix it.

Limited-edition NMWA Frida Candle by Handmade Habitiat; Photo: Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry, NMWA

Limited-Edition NMWA Frida Candle by Handmade Habitat; Photo: Adriana Regalado and Malik Cherry, NMWA

How do you see your company evolving?
I think it would be really nice to be able to build a community around the brand that has a lot of the elements of presence, mindfulness, and artistic introspection.

What is your favorite work from NMWA’s collection?
Definitely Frida Kahlo’s self-portrait. I love that there is a Frida in D.C. . . . She provides a lot of power in her images. I think that the museum really shows that there is so much power in being a woman.

What inspired the limited-edition NMWA product?
While walking through the museum, I have the overwhelming feeling that femininity and art are not powerless. The works of art show that there is so much power in being a woman today and at every point in history.

Browse products by Handmade Habitat on the Museum Shop’s website, including the limited-edition Frida Candle, inspired by NMWA’s own Frida Kahlo painting. Browse #NMWAMakers on Twitter to see more creations.

Art Fix Friday: September 9, 2016

A new installation by Liz West floods a long hallway with a series of rainbow-colored, gel-filtered lights.

The project, called Our Colour, is located at this year’s Bristol Biennial. The work changes from a “deep violet to an ecstatic red, allowing one to traverse through an immersive collection of colors.”

Front-Page Femmes

In an interview with JuxtapozNicole Eisenman says, “I like awkward. That feels like a position I occupy a lot of the time.”

Nan Goldin’s work is on display in Inside, an exhibition in Reading prison.

Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter convened in the New Museum’s lobby in response to the institutionalized violence against black lives.

After imagining a woman who could “carry her home on her back and travel anywhere in the world,” Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao designed “dress tents.”

Hyperallergic raves about Jessica Stockholder: The Guests All Crowded Into the Dining Room.

The Guardian describes comedian Amy Schumer’s The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo as “inspiring.”

Australian artist Joanna Lamb explores the idea of the home and suburbia in her art.

A never-before-published story by Beatrix Potter, called The Tale of Kitty in Boots, has been released.

Female war poets Bejan Matur and Maram al-Masri create a “devastating but richly composed verbal landscape that it is at once epic and intensely human.”

Sabaa Tahir, a former Washington Post editor, writes dystopian fantasies inspired by headlining news.

Jessica Albarn creates electric ink drawings of spiders, crickets, and bumblebees.

“Even if you’re familiar with artist Kara Walker’s signature shadow puppets, you’ve probably never seen them looking as cheerful as they do in electro-pop artist Santigold’s new music video,” writes Hyperallergic.

Broadly explores the challenges for women hoping to succeed in the Cantonese pop music industry.

Actress Sarah Paulson discusses her role as Marcia Clark in the television series The People v. O.J. Simpson.

The Alice Initiative could help promising female directors. Forty anonymous film executives curated a list of emerging women directors to “push inclusion forward behind the cameras.”

Director Ava DuVernay talks about her work on Queen Sugar and says, “It’s important for us to really interrogate the meaning of black lives by watching black lives unfold in a way that’s unhurried, that’s purposeful, that’s intentional.”

Shows We Want to See

More than 40 drawings by Maggi Hambling are on display at London’s British Museum. In an interview with the Telegraph, Hambling says, “Great art inhabits that territory where life and death cohabit.”

Françoise Grossen Selects at the Museum of Arts and Design features “large-scale, suspended rope forms constructed of knots, loops, braids, and twists.”

Hyperallergic describes the work in We Run Things as “inventive, expressionistic figuration that is approached in a unique fashion by each artist.”

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

Brush Up on Your ABC’s: NMWA’s Teacher Institute

This year marked the seventh Art, Books, and Creativity (ABC) Teacher Institute at NMWA. For one week this past July, 18 teachers from New York to North Carolina came to NMWA to explore ways to combine the arts with other classroom subjects.


ABC participants; Photo: Casey Betts, NMWA

The ABC curriculum encourages growth in students’ visual literacy and critical thinking through the creation of artists’ books. It also incorporates the cultural contributions of women artists and provides teachers with resources to help them integrate the visual arts into their classrooms.

Participants began this year’s program with a visit to the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center (LRC), where they were able to view a selection of artists’ books from the museum’s collection. After seeing examples of the different techniques, participants buckled down to create their own books.

A tunnel book creation (left); Carol Barton assists with paper folding techniques (right); Photos: NMWA

A tunnel book creation (left); Carol Barton assists with paper folding techniques (right); Photos: NMWA

Over the course of the week, participants created a portfolio of artists’ books and writing samples to use as future classroom models. Highlights included the opportunity to learn pop-up techniques from paper engineer Carol Barton. Attendees also experimented with printmaking methods by designing journal covers inspired by the exhibition Alison Saar In Print, currently on display in the Teresa Lozano Long Gallery. Over the course of the week, the teachers also learned the basics of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS), a method of facilitating discussions about art that encourages close looking and engaged thinking.

ABC participants practice Visual Thinking Strategies in the galleries; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

ABC participants practice Visual Thinking Strategies in the galleries; Photo: Emily Haight, NMWA

At the end of the week, teachers brainstormed ways to adapt the presented book formats for students of varying ages and abilities. Each teacher completed the program by submitting a lesson concept that incorporated one of the book forms for their own classroom. Ideas ranged from using accordion books to compare French and English fairy tales to flag books examining the similarities between ancient and modern symbols.

These creative lesson concepts showed the many cross-curricular applications of the ABC curriculum and left the participants excited to adapt the ideas for their own classrooms. One teacher commented, “The course gave me wonderful ideas to use in my classroom. It introduced me to new concepts, and got me excited to use more art and creativity in my classroom.”

To access the free curriculum, visit the ABC website. To learn more about the annual ABC Teacher Institute, check out NMWA’s Teacher Institute page.

—Hannah Page was the summer 2016 education intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: September 2, 2016

Last Sunday, more than 700 women artists gathered outside of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles for a group photo. The Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Artsy shared the story. The Art Newspaper called the event a “wake-up call that women artists still have a long way to go. It’s not a question of making history—it’s a question of fighting it.”

Artist Kim Schoenstadt began the project, Now Be Here, by emailing 200 of the city’s artists, who in turn forwarded the email to others. The gathering was, in part, inspired by Hauser Wirth & Schimmel’s current exhibition Revolution in the Making: Abstract Sculpture by Women, 1947–2016.

Front-Page Femmes

Frances Morris, the head of Tate Modern, says the art world is “still a boys’ club.”

Hyperallergic examines Betty Tompkins’s “striking and unapologetic” works.

NO MAN’S LAND artist and Turner Prize nominee Helen Marten discusses how her assemblages defy easy categorization.

Hyperallergic discusses the “raw tenderness and explicit sexuality” in Catherine Opie’s intimate photographs.

Multimedia artist Wendy Red Star talks about contemporary Native American art, her artistic practice, and collaborating with her daughter.

As part of Simone Leigh’s The Waiting Room, the Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter collective unites against “institutionalized violence that continues to plague black communities.”

Juxtapoz shares Erika Lizée’s “ominous and mysterious” trompe-l’oeil installation.

Amber Cowan fuses fragments of vintage glass to create complex vessels and sculptures.

“Random items in Fluxus spirit exemplifies that everything is art” in Alison Knowles’s exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

The Art Newspaper and the Guardian explore Björk’s new exhibition.

In her series “Doubles,” Miranda Barnes explores the friendship between black twin girls.

Olek yarn-bombed a two-story house in Finland with pink crochet.

Costume designer Sandy Powell discusses working with Martin Scorsese, her favorite designs, and her early inspirations.

The New Yorker explores the life and work of piano prodigy Yuja Wang.

Ileana Cabra’s first solo album contains “folk-inspired ballads and infectious Latin jazz standards.”

New Marvel Comics covers show “a diverse field of heroes for the covers.”

Imbolo Mbue’s debut novel, Behold the Dreamers, depicts a “country both blessed and doomed” during the global financial crisis of 2007 and 2008.

The New Yorker shares Bernadette Mayer’s poetry.

NPR shares an interview from October, 2015 with author Gloria Steinem.

Shows We Want to See

Her Crowd: New Art by Women from Our Neighbors’ Private Collections at the Bruce Museum showcases works by established and emerging women artists, including Yayoi Kusama, Kiki Smith, Betye Saar, Dana Schutz, and Tara Donovan.

Visitors wander through a “cardboard labyrinth” to view photographs of hundreds of visitors to the Perth Amboy home in Rachel Harrison’s installation at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

The Norwegian city of Bergen hosts seven exhibitions and events showcasing Lynda Benglis’s works throughout the year.

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

See and Be Seen: Diane Arbus

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know,” said Diane Arbus (1923–71), who obsessed about the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own. Six decades after she left commercial fashion photography and began her artistic career, many of Arbus’s previously unknown secrets and photographs have finally been published.

Created to accompany an exhibition at The Met Breuer, the catalogue diane arbus: in the beginning (Yale University Press/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2016) showcases photographs from 1956–1962, providing a prelude to the best-selling monograph from Arbus’s 1972 retrospective. Featuring over 100 images, an essay by curator Jeff Rosenheim, and notes from the museum’s archive of her personal papers and negatives, the catalogue focuses on the first seven years of Arbus’s oeuvre. Featuring children, society ladies, carnival performers, and eccentrics, these early photographs depict the development of her famously striking and evocative style.

Arthur Lubow’s meticulously researched and revealing biography Diane Arbus: Portrait of a Photographer (HarperCollins, 2016), published just weeks before the opening of the Met exhibition, provides a similar look behind the curtain shrouding the artist’s mysterious life. In 85 short chapters based on interviews, archival research, and careful study of her work, Lubow describes Arbus’s personal history, philosophy, and approach to photography.

Arbus’s art centered on a profound desire to “not only see her subjects but to be seen by them.” She often talked for hours with people she found interesting before photographing them, charming them into revealing their secrets, hopes, and dreams, waiting for the perfect shot that captured the essence of their personalities. Though plagued by illness, depression, and financial insecurity throughout her life, her inventiveness and creativity made her, as a teacher once noted, “totally original.”

“I do it because there are things that nobody would see unless I photographed them,” said Arbus in a 1968 interview. Through the vivid detail of this biography and the catalogue of dozens of previously inaccessible early works, a full portrait of one of the most celebrated and provocative artists of the 20th century can be seen at last.

All are welcome to view these books, which will be available soon in the Betty Boyd Dettre Library and Research Center at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. If you’re touring the museum’s exhibitions, the library is open to the public and makes a great starting point on the fourth floor. In addition to beautiful books and comfortable chairs, library visitors enjoy interesting exhibitions that feature archival manuscripts, personal papers by women artists, rare books, and artists’ books. Reference Desk staff members are always happy to answer questions and offer assistance. Open Monday–Friday, 10 a.m.–12 p.m. and 1–5 p.m.

—Kait Gilioli was the summer 2016 publications and communications/marketing intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.