135 episodes

Created off the back of @thegreatwomenartists Instagram, this podcast is all about celebrating women artists. Presented by art historian and curator, Katy Hessel, this podcast interviews artists on their career, or curators, writers, or general art lovers, on the female artist who means the most to them.

The Great Women Artists Katy Hessel

    • Arts

Created off the back of @thegreatwomenartists Instagram, this podcast is all about celebrating women artists. Presented by art historian and curator, Katy Hessel, this podcast interviews artists on their career, or curators, writers, or general art lovers, on the female artist who means the most to them.

    Amy Hale on Ithell Colquhoun

    Amy Hale on Ithell Colquhoun

    I am so excited to say that my guest on the GWA Podcast is the world expert in myths, folklore, and occultism in art, Dr. Amy Hale speaking on the great surrealist Ithell Colquhoun!

    An Atlanta based writer, curator and critic, Hale’s interests range from contemporary magical practice to the history of art, culture, women and Cornwall.

    She has helped crack open this side of art history, and that is why I am so excited to be speaking with her today – and focussing on the artistic polymath, Ithell Colquhoun, who, as well as being the most brilliant painter – creating scapes of dreamlike worlds, with organic, bodily-like shapes – was a novelist, poet, essayist, and more. Her output was always concerned spiritual transcendence.

    Born in 1906 in India, before studying at the Slade, Colquhoun became involved with the Surrealists in the 1930s – making dazzling paintings of sea monsters – and it was at this moment that her interest in the occult soared. In the 1940s, she relocated from London to Cornwall, and invented a way of working that connected her to the earth, and ancient times.

    Colquhoun, according to Hale, had a “magical mind that never stopped” – and Hale has dedicated her career to writing her noted biography Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor) and, more recently, the collection Sex Magic: Diagrams of Love, and is editing a selection of her esoteric essays. So I couldn’t be more delighted to find out more!

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    LINKS:

    https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/ithell-colquhoun-931

    Amy's books:
    https://www.londonreviewbookshop.co.uk/stock/ithell-colquhoun-genius-of-the-fern-loved-gulley-amy-hale
    https://shop.tate.org.uk/sex-magic-ithell-colquhouns-diagrams-of-love/28593.html

    Ithell's paintings:
    https://artuk.org/discover/artists/colquhoun-ithell-19061988

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    THIS EPISODE IS GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY THE LEVETT COLLECTION:

    https://www.famm.com/en/
    https://www.instagram.com/famm_mougins // https://www.merrellpublishers.com/9781858947037

    Follow us:
    Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
    Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
    Music by Ben Wetherfield

    • 45 min
    Sam Taylor-Johnson

    Sam Taylor-Johnson

    I am so excited to say that my guest on the GWA Podcast is the esteemed photographer, filmmaker and director, Sam Taylor-Johnson.

    Born in Croydon and educated at Goldsmiths, where she was among the stars of the 1990s British art scene Taylor Johnson made her name with her non-narrative films, such as Method in Madness, where a young man appears to be having a nervous breakdown on camera; Hysteria of a young woman miming in hysterical laughter; or Breach of a girl who cries in silence – art that seems to be about our shared internal pain, and the performance we all put on in our everyday lives. In 1997, she won Most Promising Artist at the Venice Biennale, and in 1998 was up for the Turner Prize.

    Sadly, cancer took over at aged 30, an experience that no doubt shifted the output of work in the early 2000s. Still Life was a film that showed decaying fruit, and others explored the threshold between life and death, fantasy and reality, and what it meant to confront our own mortality. She has especially looked at the real lives of celebrities, from an almost mythic lens, such as her film David, of David Beckham sleeping at the National Portrait Gallery – that I remember seeing aged 10 – and her incredibly moving series of famous male actors crying, from Philip Seymour Hoffman to Robin Williams – that is currently on view at the V&A’s Fragile Beauty exhibition, a phrase that so perfectly sums up so much of Taylor Johnson’s work, the complexity of performance and artifice, and the glamour and beauty of pop often masked by darkness.

    Since 2009, she has become one of Britain’s foremost movie directors, making her feature debut with Nowhere Boy, a portrait of the early life of John Lennon, and most recently, Back to Black, that zooms in on Amy Winehouse fragile but enormously celebrated life, showing her as the human she was, who loved most in the world people and music…

    I can’t help but see the correlation between Taylor Johnson’s fine art work and her movie work: that deep interest in intense stories that appear on the outer side as one, and on the inner as another. She gets to the core of the human condition through her work, and leaves us contemplating our own existence, how we view those whose music, voice and lyrics we know like they’re in the DNA of our fingertips, and I really couldn’t be more excited to find out more.

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    LINKS:

    Back to Black: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt21261712/

    Nowhere Boy: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt1266029/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0_tt_8_nm_0_q_nowhere%2520boy

    A Million Little Pieces: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0427543/

    Fragile Beauty at V&A: https://www.vam.ac.uk/exhibitions/fragile-beauty-photographs-from-the-sir-elton-john-and-david-furnish-collection

    Crying Men series: https://hickeyguy.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/crying-men/

    JFK photograph by Gary Winogrand: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/113229

    David @ NPG: https://www.npg.org.uk/beyond/exhibitions/partnership/2019/coming-home-david-beckham

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    THIS EPISODE IS GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY THE LEVETT COLLECTION:

    https://www.famm.com/en/
    https://www.instagram.com/famm.mougins // https://www.merrellpublishers.com/9781858947037

    Follow us:
    Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
    Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
    Music by Ben Wetherfield

    • 44 min
    Chloe Aridjis on Leonora Carrington

    Chloe Aridjis on Leonora Carrington

    I am so excited to say that my guest on the GWA Podcast is the esteemed writer and novelist, Chloe Aridjis, speaking on her friend, LEONORA CARRINGTON!

    Born in New York City, raised in the Netherlands and then Mexico City, Aridjis is a writer of numerous award-winning books, including three novels: Book of Clouds, Asunder, and Sea Monsters.

    Aridjis is also the author of numerous books and essays, including an A–Z profile on the artist we are very excitingly discussing today: Leonora Carrington, the great late British-born painter, who ran away to Paris in her teens before escaping Europe at the outbreak of the Second World War, and settling in Mexico City in the 40s, where she lived until her death in 2011.

    And it was in Mexico City that Aridjis got to know the surrealist, who she had tea with on Sundays and noted their extroardnary conversations that she published in, among others, Tea and Creatures with Leonora Carrington: A Photo Essay… a beautiful piece that looks at their friendship. In 2015, Aridjis went on to co-curate a major exhibition of Carrington’s work at Tate Liverpool, affirming her as one of the greatest and most relevant artists to today’s world.

    This episode is going to be slightly different to usual, as back in 2019 – for one of our first ever podcast episodes – we discussed the life of Leonora Carrington with her biographer cousin, Joanna Moorhead. We also discussed Carrington briefly with writer Deborah Levy – so do check those out. But! Today I couldn’t be more excited to be delving into Arjidis’s memories with the artist, uncovering the mystical symbolism that populates her work – from vegetables to cats, eggs to giants, cauldrons to kitchens, underworlds to hybridised figures – her friendships, character, and of course her paintings and writings, too.

    LINKS:

    PAINTINGS DISCUSSED ––
    Giantess, c.1947: https://www.artbook.com/blog-featured-image-leonora-carrington.html
    Green Tea, 1942: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/297568
    And Then We Saw the Daughter of the Minotaur, 1953: https://www.moma.org/collection/works/393384?artist_id=993&page=1&sov_referrer=artist
    The Magical World of the Maya, 1963: https://maria-cristina.medium.com/great-art-the-magical-world-of-the-maya-by-leonora-carrington-interpretation-and-analysis-b642f8d04cf0
    Self Portrait, 1937: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/492697

    Chloe's exhibition: https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-liverpool/leonora-carrington

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    THIS EPISODE IS GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY THE LEVETT COLLECTION:

    https://www.famm.com/en/
    https://www.instagram.com/famm.mougins // https://www.merrellpublishers.com/9781858947037

    Follow us:
    Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
    Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
    Music by Ben Wetherfield

    • 39 min
    Natalie Haynes on Medusa

    Natalie Haynes on Medusa

    I am so excited to say that my guest on the GWA Podcast is the esteemed classicist, mythologist, comedian, writer and broadcaster, Natalie Haynes!

    The author of eight books, three non-fiction and five fiction, Haynes is hailed for her retellings of ancient myths, and the story of the Trojan War from a female point of view in her highly acclaimed A Thousand Ships, which was shortlisted for the women’s prize. Her first book, The Ancient Guide to Modern Life, showed us what the ancient world has to offer us now, and other books, such as Pandora’s Jar: Women in the Greek Myths, is an important book that centres the women at the heart of these ancient stories.

    Haynes regulars writers for the Guardian, contributes to BBC Radio 4, and is the host of the BBC podcast series, Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics, a witty and incredibly informative series that charts the stories of poets like Sappho, as well as goddesses, mortals, monsters and more, for the ancient world, while also making them extremely accessible and enjoyable for classicists and non-classicists.

    But, the reason why we are talking with Haynes today is because she is also the author of a fantastic book, Stone Blind, which retells the story of the gorgon Medusa, who, originally in mythology, was cursed by Athena who turned her hair into snakes and gave her the power to turn everything she looked into to stone, and who was then decapitated and killed by the hero Perseus. But Haynes looks at this story again, from a different and more sympathetic point of view, exposing the way stories have been passed down to us and for me, the importance of questioning traditions. And that is why I couldn’t be more excited to be zooming in on this mythical creature today, thinking about how she has been represented and reinterpreted, in addition to the myths behind monsters…!

    Natalie's books:
    https://www.waterstones.com/author/natalie-haynes/450500

    Natalie's podcast:
    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b077x8pc

    More info:
    https://nataliehaynes.com/

    MEDUSA IMAGES:
    Cellini in Florence square: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseus_with_the_Head_of_Medusa
    Giordano in National Gallery:
    https://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/paintings/luca-giordano-perseus-turning-phineas-and-his-followers-to-stone
    Canova in The Met:
    https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/204758
    Jar in The Met:
    https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/254523

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    THIS EPISODE IS GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY THE LEVETT COLLECTION:

    https://www.famm.com/en/
    https://www.instagram.com/famm.mougins // https://www.merrellpublishers.com/9781858947037

    Follow us:
    Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
    Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
    Music by Ben Wetherfield

    • 33 min
    Judy Chicago

    Judy Chicago

    I am so excited to say that my guest on the GWA Podcast is one of the most pioneering and revelatory artists alive, Judy Chicago.

    Born Judith Sylvia Cohen, then Judy Gerowitz, but changed it to Judy Chicago to renounce the name of her first husband to instead adopt the name of her birth city instead, Chicago has been at the forefront of art since the 1960s. Following her studies at UCLA in the 1950s, Chicago attended auto body school, as the only woman out of 250 men. It was here that she learnt to use spray guns, but instead of actually painting cars, she used these skills to formulate vaginal forms onto carhoods, as if to poke fun at her male contemporaries.

    In the 1960s, she turned to Minimalism, creating block-like sculptures which she executed in exuberant colours. While her work was acclaimed, she was one of only three women (out of 51 artists) included in the landmark Jewish Museum exhibition, Primary Structures, in 1966.

    During this decade, she became increasingly aware of the lack of women artists available to her – as an undergraduate at UCLA in the late 1950s and 60s, she had taken a class titled the Intellectual History of Europe, where her professor declared that women had made zero contributions to European History – so she set herself the task of looking for it herself. As she has said “there was actually a huge amount of information if one looked for it, especially dating back to the 19th century…”

    Out of this – and turning to the importance of education – she began the first ever feminist art programme, at Fresno State College, with artist Miriam Schapiro in 1970, which, as feminist art historian, Linda Nochlin has declared, was a time when there were no women’s studies, no feminist theory, no African American studies, no queer theory, no postcolonial studies. What there was ... was a seamless web of great art, often called “The Pyramids to Picasso”... extolling great (male, of course) artistic achievement since the very dawn of history’...

    In the 1970s, Chicago created the famous Dinner Party, worked on between 1974 and 1978: a giant minimalist-like table that awards 39 women from history and mythology a ‘seat at the table’ – with the further names of 999 women in the porcelain in the middle.

    She has created images of birth, death, animals, plants, that deal with an attitude entrenched in feminism towards caring for our planet, and so much more. But! The reason why we are speaking to her today is because this summer in London, Chicago will take over the Serpentine Gallery with an exhibition that corresponds to her major new book: Revelations, a project that has been unrealised for over 30 years, but is finally being published, that includes rewriting the story of creation, spotlighting the Great Mother Goddess, and a plethora of other women, and challenging the patriarchal paradigms that have always dictated how stories have been read, written, and accepted.

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    LINKS:
    https://www.serpentinegalleries.org/whats-on/judy-chicago-revelations/?gad_source=1&gclid=CjwKCAjwo6GyBhBwEiwAzQTmc3bNjJ0zjNj2RgMuZomrRmjd8Bhuvx6YlLjhkJ8sk0ZYIgxU_IQVmRoCEWoQAvD_BwE
    https://www.thamesandhudsonusa.com/books/judy-chicago-revelations-hardcover
    https://judychicago.com/
    https://www.newmuseum.org/exhibitions/view/judy-chicago-herstory

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    THIS EPISODE IS GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY THE LEVETT COLLECTION:

    https://www.famm.com/en/
    https://www.instagram.com/famm.mougins // https://www.merrellpublishers.com/9781858947037

    Follow us:
    Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
    Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
    Music by Ben Wetherfield

    • 37 min
    Naomi Beckwith on Senga Nengudi

    Naomi Beckwith on Senga Nengudi

    I am so thrilled to say that my guest on the GWA Podcast is one of the most esteemed curators in the world, Naomi Beckwith.

    Currently the Deputy Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, NY, where she plays an instrumental role in shaping the museum’s vision, Beckwith’s career has seen her curate some of the groundbreaking shows in recent years. At the MCA Chicago, she curated Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen – the first survey of the 20th and 21st century pioneer, as well as The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music that looked at the legacy of 1960s African American avant-garde and its impact on art and culture today. Among many others, she also staged the first ever US solo exhibition by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

    Beckwith was part of the team that realised Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, conceived by Okwui Enwezor for the New Museum, as well as shows featuring Arthur Jafa and Laurie Simmons. She has dedicated her career to the impact of identity and multidisciplinary practices within contemporary art, and has just been granted the David Driskell Prize 2024.

    But the reason why we are speaking with Beckwith today is because she has just unveiled a new group exhibition at the Guggenheim – By Way of Working – that brings together artists across mediums, and generations – from Mona Hatoum, Joseph Beuys, Robert Rauschenberg, and Senga Nengudi: the artist we are very excitingly discussing today. Chicago-born Nengudi is hailed for her works across sculpture to performance, that explore the human form in all its many iterations through her early training in dance, and I can’t wait to find out more.

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    LINKS:
    Naomi's exhibition: https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/by-way-of-material-and-motion-in-the-guggenheim-collection
    https://www.guggenheim.org/about-us/staff/naomi-beckwith
    https://www.sengasenga.com/
    https://www.artnews.com/feature/senga-nengudi-who-is-she-why-is-she-important-1234591161/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DutixbTscWM
    https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/5078

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    THIS EPISODE IS GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY THE LEVETT COLLECTION:

    https://www.famm.com/en/
    https://www.instagram.com/famm.mougins // https://www.merrellpublishers.com/9781858947037

    Follow us:
    Katy Hessel: @thegreatwomenartists / @katy.hessel
    Sound editing by Nada Smiljanic
    Music by Ben Wetherfield

    • 37 min

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