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First, there was the conference. Then came the party. In London. With the Woolfs.

On the Monday evening following days one, two, three, and four of the 27th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted a party in London for their visiting Woolfian friends who remained in town.

I was happy to be among them. But I was chagrined to arrive on their doorstep 20 minutes early due to lightning fast service by my Uber driver.

Cecil and Jean, however, didn’t blink when they answered my too-early knock. They ushered me in and escorted me up the stairs, past stacks of books from their Bloomsbury Heritage Series and a smattering of hats from Jean’s famous collection.

Cecil poured me a glass of wine and settled me in their persimmon-colored sitting room that is casually decorated with original Bloomsbury art by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. It was magical.

Cecil and Jean are tremendous hosts who know how to make each guest feel specially welcome, no matter when they arrive. They created a wonderful evening full of camaraderie, good food, and drink, while introducing us to their daughter Emma Woolf, author of numerous books and a regular BBC contributor.

Afterward, when thinking about the evening, a quote came to mind that perfectly captures the mood and magic of the evening.

No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own (1929)

Cecil Woolf and Jean Moorcroft Wilson hosted a post-conference party at their London home, which also houses Cecil Woolf Publishers.

This side table decorated by Duncan Grant held appetizers, as well as my little Virginia. #travelswithvirginiawoolf

Cecil Woolf and daughter Emma Woolf at the party.

Louise Higham, Suzanne Bellamy, John McCoy, and Eleanor McNees (far right) were among the party guests.

A firescreen painted by Duncan Grant.

Bloomsbury art above the fireplace, along with a piece by Suzanne Bellamy and a photo of Jean.

Judith Allen and her husband Steve.

More Bloomsbury art.

 

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The Vanessa Bell exhibit at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, the first to feature Bell in a solo exhibit, is in its final days. But you can still get a look at it, whether you live in London or not.

Via the gallery

If you can, book your tickets before the exhibit ends June 4. However, if you can’t be there in person, you can visit the exhibit several ways.

Via the video

First, watch all or some of the series of videos on the exhibit. In this final Vanessa Bell video, co-curators Ian Dejardin and Sarah Milroy plant themselves in the last room of the exhibition to discuss the significance of Bell’s depiction of womanhood and reflect on one of her last self-portraits.

Via the catalogue

Second, buy the exhibit catalogue. I assure you it is breathtaking. When I first opened my full-color paperback version, I thoughtlessly wondered, “Which of these gorgeous paintings are Vanessa’s?” I quickly realized — all of them are. In the exhibit, as in the catalogue, Vanessa is permitted “to speak entirely for herself,” which Dulwich director and exhibit co-curator Dejardin notes in the catalogue preface that she has never before been allowed to do.

The catalogue’s 202 pages, along with the flyleafs and front and back covers, are filled with Bell’s art, along with photographs of the artist and Charleston, the Sussex home on which she lavished so much love and art. Many of her paintings — from her portraits to her abstracts — are reproduced in full-page format.

Besides Dejardin’s preface, it also includes background on Charleston and its artists. Author and exhibit co-curator Sarah Milroy discusses Bell as artist, mother, and feminist and puts the entirety of Bell’s life in an historical context. Hana Leaper expands upon that with her chapter, “Between London and Paris.” And Frances Spalding adds Virginia Woolf to the mix with her chapter on “Vanessa, Virginia and the Modern Portrait.”

Speaking of Spalding, a new edition of her biography of Woolf was released last year. The book was first published in 1983 and offers a fascinating and well-researched look at Bell, as well as other members of the Bloomsbury group. But one would expect nothing less from Spalding.

Via the shop

You can also shop the look, as I did. I went online and ordered some lovely items that promised to add the Bell look to my home. But whether they keep their promise or not, they are beautiful, they were shipped across the pond promptly, and I am enjoying them. Some of the items are sold out, but there are still a few available.

I was also excited to hear from Cecil Woolf that Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell and the Great War, Seeing Peace Through an Open Window: Art, Domesticity & the Great War, my monograph on the two sisters that he published last year as part of his Bloomsbury Heritage series, is for sale at the Dulwich exhibit.

Items I purchased online from the Dulwich Picture Gallery Vanessa Bell exhibit.

 

 

 

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When I first learned, through one of Paula Maggios’s tweets, about the Virginia Woolf inspired art exhibit in Las Vegas, I shifted my calendar around so that I could visit the gallery as soon as possible. I then learned that two of my colleagues from the College of Southern Nevada are a part of the community of women whose work is on display at the Left of Center Art Gallery as part of the “A Room of One’s Own” All Women’s Art Exhibit, and so I went to the gallery immediately!

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The gallery provides a space for women artists to create, discuss, and display their art. This specific exhibit features both literary and visual art pieces. Some of the pieces directly reference Woolf, such as the piece “Freedom” by Yvette Mangual, which quotes “A Room of One’s Own”:

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“Freedom” by Yvette Mangual

Some pieces seemed to allude to Woolf’s misty, Modernist aesthetic, such as Elizabeth Blau-Ogilvie’s gorgeous piece, “Glacial Pour” which gave me visions of James’s, Cam’s and Mr. Ramsay’s final boat ride in To the Lighthouse:

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“Glacial Pour” by Elizabeth Blau-Ogilvie

Dr. Karen Laing and Professor Erica Vital-Lazare are two of the 26 women artists whose works are on display in the Woolf inspired exhibit. After an inspired visit to the gallery, I interviewed Karen and Erica to learn about the ways that Virginia Woolf has inspired them as artists, and to gather their views on being woman artists.

Karen Laing is an activist and artist who teaches English composition and literature at the College of Southern Nevada. My interview with Karen is featured below:

Karen, your poem, “Thanks Sharon” reflects on oppression and resistance. In what ways does your work speak to and for women?

Among my deepest desires for the contribution my work makes in the never-ending conversation about what it means to be human is the hope that women locate ourselves in the center of every discussion, armed with a voice as authentic and indispensable to the outcomes present and prophetic as it is sufficient to the challenges reality places before us. I hope my life and art unleash the initiative of the creator within us so that we create a world worthy of our best and healing of our worst.

Karen, in what ways has Virginia Woolf’s work influenced you? 

Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own inspired me to create spaces in which I could listen for and attend to my heart’s desires. It soon became apparent that for this to be more consistently and sustainably possible, I would need to encourage others to find and forge similar spaces and permissions of their own.

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“Future Primitive” on display at the Left of Center Gallery by artist Lolita Develay.

Erica Vital-Lazare teaches creative writing at the College of Southern Nevada where she is the editor-in-chief of the Red Rock Review literary journal. Our interview is located below:

Erica, you work as a Professor, artist, and editor within the Las Vegas community, so you have a unique view of women artists in Sin City. In what ways do you think that Woolf’s ideas in “A Room of One’s Own” connect to today’s women artists?

In 1929 when Woolf was asked to write about women who write, she raised the artful and sanctioned notables—the pluck of Jane Austen and the blunt-edged realism of George Eliot with the intent of taking the discussion further than those points of comfort to address the gap between woman-art and its creation and recognition. The gap she addresses is parity. The bridge she dares to construct deconstructs. In a time when women are chattel she makes public the keys to artistic freedom when she says a woman must have these things of her own: her own money and her own space within the canon. Agency. Nearly 90 years after Woolf penned “A Room of One’s Own”, women-artists build their own, even though sometimes it just might mean they must first burn down a few houses.

In what ways has Virginia Woolf’s work influenced your own writing?

Virginia Woolf’s fearlessness as a woman-artist in an era when capitulating and cowing under the weight of gender was so deeply embedded in the culture that furniture was specifically designed and appointed in the homes of finer society to catch our feinting and fainting-fragile selves is a wonder and an inspiration to me.  I know many women writers in many genres who think of her and the essay as they carve out space for themselves.

If you are in the Las Vegas area, I highly recommend making a trip to the Left of Center Gallery to enjoy some moving art, as well as to support women artists. The exhibit is free and will continue until March 31. Read more about the exhibit here.

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London’s Dulwich Picture Gallery will present the first major monographic exhibition of work by Vanessa Bell (1879-1961), Feb. 8 – June 4, 2017.

NPG 5933. Virginia Woolf (née Stephen) by Vanessa Bell (née Stephen), 1912. Oil on board, 15 3⁄4 x 13 3⁄8 inches (400 x 340 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London

NPG 5933. Virginia Woolf (née Stephen) by Vanessa Bell (née Stephen), 1912. Oil on board, 15 3⁄4 x 13 3⁄8 inches (400 x 340 mm). National Portrait Gallery, London

Widely acclaimed as a central figure of the Bloomsbury Group, Bell also stands on her own as a pivotal player in 20th century British art, inventing a new language of visual expression according to the gallery’s media release.

Arranged thematically, the exhibition will reveal Bell’s pioneering work in the genres of portraiture, still life and landscape and will explore her fluid movement between the fine and applied arts. It will focus attention on her most distinctive period of experimentation in the 1910s.

Approximately 100 oil paintings as well as fabrics, works on paper, photographs and related archival material will deliver Bell in full force, boldly experimenting with abstraction, colour and form while developing her own distinctive way of seeing the world.

A class, Vanessa Bell: Portraiture, will also be held for ages 15-18 in conjunction with the exhibit. It is scheduled for Tuesdays, Feb. 28 through March 28.

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A Virginia Woolf Word Portrait arrived this morning. Created by Akron artist John Sokol, an admirer of Woolf and her writing, the portrait is entirely made up of Woolf’s words from A Room of One’s Own. Across her forehead: “But, you may say, we asked you to speak about women and fiction”. And so she did. Best. Christmas. Present. Ever. 

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Sussex Modernism: Retreat and Rebellion, a free major exhibition of Sussex Modernism at Two Charleston bookTemple Place in London will be held Jan. 28 – April 23, 2017.

Focus of the exhibit

The exhibit examines why radical artists and writers were drawn to the rolling hills, seaside resorts, and quaint villages of Sussex in the first half of the 20th century, according to organizers. It also explores how, in the communities they created, artistic innovation ran hand in-hand with political, sexual and domestic experimentation.

Artists included are Duncan Grant, Virginia Woolf, Vanessa Bell, Lee Miller and Roland Penrose.

Collaborating museums and galleries

The collaborative exhibition is the effort of nine museums and galleries from across Sussex. They include the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Charleston,  De La Warr Pavilion, Ditchling Museum of Art & Craft, Farley Farm House, Jerwood Gallery, Pallant House Gallery, Towner Art Gallery and West Dean.

Curated by Dr Hope Wolf, Lecturer in British Modernist Literature and co-Director of the Centre for Modernist Studies at the University of Sussex, the exhibition features more than 120 works from the county.

Sussex provided the inspiration but all these artists and writers were outsiders in their new surroundings. Never settling, some brought unconventional ideas, others found nightmares in the most picturesque of scenes, but ultimately they challenged the idea of Sussex as an idyllic escape. – Exhibit press release

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Prompted by a collection of drawings and sketches found inside a thin blue cardboard folder labelled ‘Berwick Church’ (CHA/P/603), this week’s blog article examines some of Duncan Grant’s pre…

Source: Berwick Church murals – preliminary sketches by Duncan Grant

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