In the gorgeous collection that is Women of Wonder – Celebrating Women Creators of Fantastic Art, Cathy Fenner gathers together a small sampling of contemporary and historical female artists of the fantastic. With 57 featured artists, as well as nine historical (a couple are still producing), there is something for everyone and every taste in these pages.
The book itself is beautifully designed. Every page is in full color, and at 9 x 12 inches, the pages are large enough to show the detail in the more intricate works. Each page spread features a photo and brief statement from the artist, information on where they studied, website information, and then a sample of their work. The cover is heavy stock and Firefly-shiny. Women of Wonder is a well-designed book.
There are whimsical pieces, like Lisa Falkenstern‘s pig-powered flying machine reminiscent of James Christensen’s works, or Kei Acedera‘s swamp monster encountering a boy looking for his beach ball. These brought a smile to my face, and each for different reasons. Christina Hess‘ spring hat in winter (none of the pieces were named in the book, so I’m making up my own names) promises warmth and beauty to come. The childlike, yet deeper than that, works of Heather Watts made me think of Where the Wild Things Are.
A number of the works in Women of Wonder were downright creepy and/or disturbing. Jasmine Becket-Griffith stated she paints the world “how [she] wants it to be”, and her world is full of creepy doll-like characters that are a very uncomfortable mix of innocence and sensuality. The art example included for Brandy Milne was similarly disturbing, though a different style. Death played a role, too, in the woman killed by three arrows in her chest by Carly Mazur. It was technically well executed but not a picture I would want around for any reason.
The most heart-wrenching image, for me, was by Cynthia Sheppard. It appeared to be a noble lady about to be killed. Her eyes are pleading with such fearful intensity at her executioner while she struggles to stand with a broken arrow in the back of her leg. The dynamics in the picture are simply breathtaking. This one really got to me, and it is rare to have such intense emotion so well conveyed.
There were several pieces (and artists) in Women of Wonder which just spoke to me. I am a huge fan of Kinuko Y. Craft. I love her delicate style. Her works are so full of her precise, masterful touch that words simply fail me when I try to describe it. Did I mention how much I love her works? I discovered Heather Theurer only recently, through a number of paintings she did for Disney. She is like a Renaissance master reborn, and she deserves all the acclaim her works have received.
Victo Ngai has a style reminiscent of Chinese and Japanese artists from years gone by. Every time I see her works, I am reminded of Hokusai and other masters. Julie Dillon is represented by one of my favorite book covers of all time, a work she did for the Writing Excuses anthology, Shadows Beneath. Finally, Wylie Beckert has an excellent control over movement and dynamics in her works. They are not usually positions people would be in, by she somehow makes them seem natural.
The front cover flap claims Women of Wonder – Celebrating Women Creators of Fantastic Art is the first of its kind—focusing exclusively on female fantastical artists—so this is the collection to get if you are wanting a good reference in that field. I don’t know if the claim is true, but regardless, this is a solid collection and appropriate for any collector of speculative fiction art history.
Release Date: May 19, 2015 (USA)
ISBNs: 1599290723 (9781599290720)
Publisher: Underwood Books
Nudity: 2 (multiple instances, mostly upper body)
Sexuality: 2 (some sensuality)
Violence: 3 (death, dying, some very disturbing imagery)