I recently spent some time with Chrysalis magazine, reading an essay by the American art critic Lucy Lippard titled “Surprises: Some Women Artists’ Books.” Appearing in issue five of the “magazine of women’s culture” (on pp. 71-84), I was amazed by its content and form. It is one of the first articles ever published to address women artists’ books, a topic that is severely lacking in an otherwise very white, male, cis, hetero-dominated field and historiography of artists’ books.
At the same time, its form intrigued me: Not only does it list women’s artist books, but Lippard has written the text in list-like manner, with lengthy sentences spilling from paragraphs teeming with commas, and sections that feature great, winding lists-within-lists.
The article was published a few years before Lippard organized an exhibition called Speaking Volumes: Women Artists’ Books at the A.I.R. Gallery, New York in 1980, which presented 150 books by more than 100 artists. Both the article and this very special exhibition by Lippard are under-documented and under-studied, and for the past three years I—as a graphic designer and researcher of feminist publishing histories—have committed myself to uncovering more about this specific exhibition as well as the broader artists’ books history.
The ten issues of Chrysalis are a good place to start. Not only is it the site of Lippard’s text, it is also an example of women’s publishing, as well as a space for discussions on women and publishing at the time. Produced in Los Angeles between 1977 and 1980 by a group of women active in different feminist scenes, on the West Coast and beyond, the quarterly Chrysalis mixed a variety of writing styles and visual expressions. It addressed a wide range of topics, from health, politics, and finance to architecture and culture, with recurring themes including poetry, visual culture... And feminist publishing.
In “Surprises,” Lippard also observes how “Lists turn up a lot in these [women’s artist] books.” In homage to that, and to form a snapshot of where I am in my sprawling net of research on the history of women’s publishing, which is also a web of lists, here is one new list, a list of articles on and around feminist publishing that appear in Chrysalis...
n.2 ‘Feminist Publishing, part 1,’ Kirsten Grimstad, Valerie Harms,Elana Klugman, Terry Wolverton, pp.101-111, 1977
n.3 ‘Poems Are Not Luxuries,’ Audre Lorde, pp.7-9
n.3 ‘Feminist Publishing, part 2,’ Alice Bloch, Kirsten Grimstad, Valerie Harms, Elana Klugman, Susan Rennie, Terry Wolverton, pp.79-91
n.4 ‘Science Fiction and Feminism: The Work of Joanna Russ,’ Marilyn Hacker, pp.67-79
n.4 ‘Feminist Publishing: Questions Raised by the Attack on Diana Press,’ pp.81-83
n.4 ‘Thinking About My Poetry,’ June Jordan, pp.105-109
n.5 ‘Surprises: An Anthological Introduction to Some Women Artists’ Books,’ Lucy Lippard, pp.71-84
n.5 ‘The Women Artists’ Books: A Select Bibliography,’ Judith Hoffberg, pp.85-87
n.7 ‘Roll Yr Own: A Guide for New Publishers, Self-Publishers, and Authors,’ Celeste West, pp.87-101
n.8 ‘The Literary-Industrial Complex,’ Celeste West, pp.95-104
n.8 ‘Feminist Publishing Catalog,’ Linda Palundo, pp.105-120
n.9 ‘Feminist Publishing,’ Linda Palundo, pp.81-98
+ more between the lines, in the other articles, in the editorials, readers’ letters, etc.
If you want to check out yet another few lists, here’s my in-process online archive about the Speaking Volume exhibition, with an inventory of its exhibited books that I’ve been reconstructing, and research I’ve been conducting around it.
Loraine Furter is a graphic designer and researcher based in Brussels since 2007, specializing in editorial design, hybrid publishing, and inter- sectional xfeminism. Loraine is currently a PhD student in Sint Lucas, Antwerp, where she deepens her self-initiated research project Speaking Volumes—art, activism and feminist publishing. She is also part of the cyberfeminist collective Just For the Record, and since 2017, co-organizes the graphic design festival Fig. in Liège.