Bill Cunningham: on the Street (Clarkson Potter, $65) is absolutely mahvolous! Collecting hundreds of his On-the-Street photos, the volume is organized by decade to show not only the development of Cunningham’s career but also the evolution of fashion styles themselves. This retrospective artfully captures Cunningham’s highly influential taste—not getting photographed by Cunningham on a runway was once described as “death”—but also his wondrous and free-spirited sense of humor. We see pictures of New Yorkers in Prada galloping over puddles, facing off against blizzards in Balenciaga, and sauntering through sweltering summer heat in Salvatore Ferragamo. Between the sections are interesting essays on various moments and trends in Cunningham’s career by those who knew him best. We read Ruth La Ferla on the infamous faceoff between American and French designers in the show later to be known as the Battle of Versailles. We also get Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue, adding a personal touch with an essay on her relationship with Cunningham, his relationship with his bike, and his legacy. There are a handful of other pieces that shed light on Cunningham personally and on style more generally. A perfect gift for anyone interested in fashion and people-watching.
K.K. Ottesen, whose work has appeared in The Washington Post for more than a decade, is a writer and photographer who pairs images with interviews to break down barriers and celebrate common ground. Her first book, Great Americans, explored what it means to be American through a series of portraits of people who bear the names of famous fi gures. Her new collection, Activist (Chronicle, $35), features forty change-makers of diverse ages, backgrounds, and perspectives—Bernie Sanders, Angela Davis, Bill McKibben, Alicia Garza—discussing what motivates people to take up a cause and what sustains them during the struggle. Spotlighting issues including voting and reproductive rights, the environment, and economic justice, Ottesen shows, while her subjects tell, what it means to live a life of passion and purpose.
In the mid-1980s, a group of women artists and activists donned Gorilla masks and marched in front of museums and galleries in New York City, protesting the vastly unequal representation of men and women artists in these institutions. They called themselves the Guerrilla Girls and with their confrontational activism, they jumpstarted a process of self-examination and re-visioning of history in the art world, a rediscovery of passed-over and sidelined women artists throughout history, as well as shining the spotlight on the importance and relevance of the work of contemporary women artists. Thirty-five years later, we have still not achieved equal representation or income parity in the visual arts, but much progress has been made, and Great Women Artists (Phaidon, $59.95) is a celebration of this exciting paradigm shift. Included in the book are images of the work of 400 women artists from the past 500 years, along with a paragraph on the history and significance of each one (there is a page on the Guerrilla Girls). These images show the pioneering diversity of art made by women, and prove decisively that women make art which transcends the supposed limitation of femaleness, and that—as the strikethrough in the title suggests— Great Women Artists are simply Great Artists.