ETA 31 May 2009 10EST: Harlequin’s blog has been sending folks over to see the review and the swag contest, so to give those folks a chance, I’m re-opening the contest for another 24 hours. This time, there will be TWO bags, so two winners will take home a big bucket o’swag. Ready set go!
This afternoon I went to the press premiere of the Harlequin cover art gallery display, better known as “The Heart of a Woman: Harlequin Cover Art 1949 – 2009. The show opens tonight and runs through 12 June, and is open for folks to see at the Openhouse Gallery, 201 Mulberry Street in SoHo.
The Curator of the exhibit, Elizabeth Semmelhack, was kind enough to take me on a brief tour of some of her favorite parts of the exhibit. Bullet points ahoy!
- Elizabeth’s favorite part of the exhibit is “The Lure of the Exotic” – but to understand why that’s her favorite section, you have to see the section leading up to it.
- Women during WWII were empowered – jobs! workforce! your country needs you! Rosie! There’s rivets! Get to it! – then, after WWII, they were all laid off, pushed back into the domestic sphere, and removed from that professional life with stunning speed.
- If you look at the doctor/nurse covers from the 50’s, there’s a lot of professional interest. The women are almost always shown in their work role.
- There are some powerful images, like the Byzantine Christ-like image of a doctor complete with 90-degree angled jaw floating in a halo of light above a hospital.
- And alongside that image are women and men in professional spheres, interacting in the workplace. The romance, says Elizabeth, was the every day interaction of women and men in professional settings. It wasn’t about the rescue or the sweeping her off her feet. The imagery was professional and collegial.
- Then, in “The Lure of the Exotic,” the images show the progress from nurse in a local hospital to doctor in a remote, uncivilized location. The women were the doctors—they were already adventurous and in these covers achieve the most powerful position. They’re outside of the house and home, they’re in control and in some position of authority—“…and only that far away from civilization can women be doctors?” I asked. “Yup,” Elizabeth confirmed. Women doctors were in the wild.
- The passionate clinch didn’t start showing up until the 70’s – a response to the sexual ambivalence of the time.
So, does Elizabeth read romance? Turns out: no. She hardly has any time for pleasure reading of any kind, but she’s a huge non fiction history buff, and she loves reading history books. She did read a few Harlequins as she prepared for the exhibit – and from idea and concept to finished product was the fast-paced work of a few months – and really enjoyed them, she said. She read a Blaze and said, and I quote, “Oh, my gosh.”
So, want to see more? I put up a photo album of the exhibit with additional captions. Enjoy – and thank you to Harlequin for inviting me.
I was given an extra goodybag of swag – pictured here. There’s books, bookmarks, a calendar, and some really cool notepads. Want one? Leave a comment, and you’re entered to win. I’ll pick one comment at random.