By Morgan Cormack, Deputy Reviews Editor
It’s not often I come across a zine that’s small in size but expansive in its content. The recent collaborative issue by Made By Women Zines and A Black History Of Art is just that. Upon receiving it, you’ll be struck by its miniature nature but also by Laura Elise Wright’s bright, welcoming illustration of Emma Amos on the front cover.
Made By Women Zines is usually a print magazine celebrating queer and feminist art history. This edition is a little different as they have teamed up with A Black History Of Art to provide us with a very special edition about Emma Amos. Now, don’t feel silly if that name doesn’t ring a bell straight away. Admittedly, it didn’t with me either. But that’s what struck me about reading this zine; no matter what level of art knowledge you may or may not possess, everything you read about and learn here is accessible. So, whether you’ve spent years studying the intricacies of art history or, like me, love gallery visits without knowing any of the technical language involved in making a masterpiece, you’ll appreciate everything in here.
Emma Amos was a popular postmodern painter whose work spanned everything from weaving textiles to watercolour painting. Being the subject of this zine means that, whether you know about Amos or not, you’re going to learn something from this edition. With a total of 14 pages, it’s not the type of zine you would sit down with to mindlessly leaf through after a long day. No, it’s almost like a small project. You open the zine not really knowing in which direction it will head but finish with a newfound appreciation for the struggles that Amos went through both as an artist and a Black woman.
We’re taken through the story of Emma Amos in a bullet point format and I must admit, I was a little apprehensive. Initially, I thought learning about Amos through a list would prove unrewarding. But I think it turned out to be a smart move as the reader wants to be given a window into Amos’ life without being lost in boring semantics. This zine was written beautifully by Alayo Akinkugbe and she manages to not only guide us through Amos’ life, but also helps our minds conjure up the life and works Amos created. With each point, the reader is steadily moved through Amos’ key life points in chronological order and reminded of some of her most pivotal moments. From studying in London to joining an all-male art group, Amos led a life as exuberant and colourful as her art.
As with the story of Amos’ life broken into main points, the zine itself progresses to give the reader some key insight into her work as an artist. From a great little section entitled “Famous Works” – which is a great reference point if you choose to bring up Amos in conversation and need some quickfire examples to support your newfound knowledge - to “Women, Art and Publishing in the 1970’s”, we start to build a pretty clear picture of how the art world was operating 50 years ago. For Amos, it presented itself with struggles, reflection on how the feminist movement was failing to serve the needs of Black women and how she used her experiences to create work rooted in exploring race and identity.
A zine showcasing the life and work of one artist had the risk of reading like a Wikipedia page but this is far from it. My only minor qualm would be not having enough of Amos’ work to reference when reading about her. It would have been great to see more examples or illustrated representations of her work throughout, but this is coming from someone who just loves a visual. I think this is intentional though as after reading, I nosedived straight into researching the pieces of art mentioned. I think one should treat this zine as a foundation of education about Amos, rather than being your encyclopaedia. With Laura Moseley’s creative direction, Wright’s Amos-inspired illustrations and Akinkugbe’s words, they uncover exactly what you should know about Emma Amos. This zine provides us with an integral stepping stone in the discovery and celebration of black female artists.
The Emma Amos Zine is now available from the Made By Women Zines Etsy Store. Many thanks to Laura for the review copy!