The other side A story of women in art and the spirit world

Jennifer Higgie

Book - 2024

"It's not so long ago that a woman's expressed interest in other realms would have ruined her reputation, or even killed her. And yet spiritualism, in various incarnations, has influenced numerous men - including lauded modernist artists such as Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich and Paul Klee - without repercussion. The fact that so many radical women artists of their generation - and earlier - also drank deeply from the same spiritual well has for too long been sorely neglected. In The Other Side, we explore the lives and work of a group of extraordinary women, from the twelfth-century mystic, composer and artist Hildegard of Bingen to the nineteenth-century English spiritualist Georgiana Houghton, whose pai...ntings swirl like a cosmic Jackson Pollock; the early twentieth-century Swedish artist, Hilma af Klint, who painted with the help of her spirit guides and whose recent exhibition at New York's Guggenheim broke all attendance records; the 'Desert Transcendentalist', Agnes Pelton, who painted her visions beneath the vast skies of California; the Swiss healer, Emma Kunz, who used geometric drawings to treat her patients; and the British surrealist and occultist, Ithell Colquhoun, whose estate of more than 5,000 works recently entered the Tate gallery collection. While the individual work of these artists is unique, the women loosely shared the same goal: to communicate with, and learn from, other dimensions. Weaving in and out of these myriad lives, sharing her own memories of otherworldly experiences, Jennifer Higgie discusses the solace of ritual, the gender exclusions of art history, the contemporary relevance of myth, the boom in alternative ways of understanding the world and the impact of spiritualism on feminism and contemporary art. A radical reappraisal of a marginalised group of artists, The Other Side is an intoxicating blend of memoir, biography and art history."--Publisher's description.

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Subjects
Genres
Biographies
Published
New York : Pegasus Books 2024.
Language
English
Main Author
Jennifer Higgie (author)
Edition
First Pegasus Books cloth edition
Physical Description
312 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (chiefly color) ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9781639365432
  • Prologue
  • A Season in the Life of a Thought
  • Enter the Fairies
  • Islands in the Mist
  • Mysterious Knockers
  • The Cracked People
  • A Dagger in Her Hair
  • Oceanic States
  • The Benefits of Not Knowing
  • Between Mortals and Beings
  • Thought-Forms
  • Magnetic Fields
  • She Danced a Goldfish
  • New Worlds
  • The Vibrations of Different Souls
  • Demeter in Paris
  • In the Cards
  • Witch Dance
  • Trees of Knowledge
  • The Active Imagination
  • Weaving Their Way
  • Temenos
  • Into the Ether
  • Notes
  • Select Bibliography
  • Acknowledgements
  • Illustration Credits
  • Index
Review by Library Journal Review

Prolific writer, artist, composer and College of Psychic Studies member Higgie (Hilma af Klint; The Mirror and the Palette) wrote this collection of reflections and memories exploring connections between women and spirit worlds in historical and contemporary art, how those connections intertwine with nature, and what they teach about the future. Writing in the first person, Higgie takes readers on a journey through her own history of artistic inspiration. Along the way, she discusses well-known artists who were inspired by their belief in the spirit world and introduces lesser-known artists, especially women who were ignored by the art historical canon. Although modernity was believed to be cool, sleek, and rational, modernists were influenced by spiritualism, and artists had a spiritual connection to their media. For Higgie, creating art is about not painting within the lines; instead, creativity requires shaking off prejudice, superstition, and constraining ways of thinking. Thoroughly illustrated, researched, and documented, this book includes endnotes, a bibliography, and a list of illustrations. VERDICT Fascinating and heretical to the art historical canon, this title gives readers the opportunity to learn about the complex history of the spiritual in art and encourages them to let their imaginations roam.--Nancy J. Mactague

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

A globetrotting survey of the role women and spiritualism have played in modern art. For art historian Higgie, author of The Mirror and the Palette, it is a matter of fact that as long as humans have been making art, women artists have been on the periphery. Readers can easily corroborate the author's contention by noting the dates when women were finally admitted to various art schools or the percentage of works by women at any given show or exhibition. Indeed, what's remarkable about this book is that Higgie doesn't approach the subject with a particularly feminist lens. The artists she profiles are women who happened to have interest in or connection to spiritualism, but with few exceptions, the author doesn't make a case for their gender informing either their art or their connection to the otherworldly. As readers meet unsung heroes of art and spirituality across time and space, they also travel with Higgie on her personal journey as she discovers and explores this fascinating facet of art history. Near the end of the book, she describes a conversation with an artist friend: "I ask Liliane what the word 'spirituality' means to her. She thinks for a moment and shakes her head. 'Although the ultimate goal is to be enlightened, I don't think you can pin it down. It's different for everyone. It's just a path and you never reach the end of it because you want to keep going.' " Like Liliane, Higgie eschews definitive conclusions about the connections among spiritualism, women artists, and modern art, but she paints a variety of compelling portraits. For more in-depth profiles of women artists, check out Katy Hessel's The Story of Art Without Men. An illuminating commentary on much more than art, demonstrating how new ideas and cultural shifts take hold. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.