by Deborah A. Deacon and Paula E. Calvin. McFarland, June 2014. 239 p. ill. ISBN 9780786474660 (pbk.), $55.00; ISBN 9781476616605 (e-book), $55.00.
Reviewed March 2015
Lindsay Keating, Project Assistant, Architecture and Landscape Architecture Library, University of Minnesota Libraries, email@example.com
War Imagery in Women's Textiles expands upon the authors' previous publication, American Women Artists in Wartime, 1776-2010 (McFarland, 2011). This text narrows the art medium to textile while expanding the geographic scope and time period. Such a broad range begs more space than 239 pages, but the authors acknowledge the work as representative of the subject matter, but not exhaustive. No other book exists on this exact subject, therefore filling a gap in the scholarship. By aggregating the information with an expansive scope, the authors, both art historians, offer new ways to examine the subject.
Throughout history, there has been anonymity of female artists and inherent sexism in the values ascribed especially to the decorative arts. The authors address this by giving value and voice to female textile artists, particularly by providing names at the end of several chapters.
The many purposes for which women created war-themed textiles, are defined as: "commemoration, documentation, support for a conflict, and protest art." Expertly conveyed, the book implants the historical importance of these textiles. Within the threadwork of the fabrics, information is beautifully expressed, showing how war impacted the lives of women.
The introduction contains several significant topics such as "Imaginary Warfare" and "Early Textile Production." Giving the sections room to breathe by expanding them into one or two background or contextual chapters would be helpful to readers. The chapters are organized geographically, with the omission of Africa. Some chapter headings are countries, while others are textile mediums, making the organization a bit inconsistent.
The quality of the photographs is fair at best. Most are in black and white with twelve pages of color photos in the center of the book. Yet, the authors state in the epilogue that, "the particular colors, patterns and style of a textile convey key information about social status, sex and cultural group." Clearly, at the authors' implication, quality color photos would have benefited their thesis.
The bibliography, notes, and index sections are extensive. About sixty different archives and museums are listed in the bibliography. The glossary of textile terms is helpful to those new to the subject or approaching it from studies outside of textile art.
The writing style is scholarly and readable and the content is rich. This text would be suitable for an academic library, for undergraduates and graduate students across several disciplines of history, women's studies, and art history.