Mary O'Connor and Katherine Tweedie tell the story of a dedicated artist in difficult circumstances whose working life spanned a Victorian upbringing in Hamilton, Ontario, and the witnessing of the first Soviet Five-Year Plan. The authors use feminist and historical questions as well as close readings of the photographs to relate Watkins' work to questions of gender, modernity, and visual culture. Watkins' modernism, which involved experimentation and a radical focus on form, transgressed boundaries of conventional, high-art subject matter. Her focus was daily life and her photographs, whether an exploration of the objects in her New York kitchen or the public and industrial spaces of Glasgow, Paris, Cologne, Moscow, and Leningrad in the 1930s, strike a balance between abstraction and an evocation of the everyday, offering a unique gendered perspective on modernism and modernity.
About the authors
Mary O'Connor (PhD) is an Associate Professor in the Department of English and Women's Studies and Principal Investigator at the McMaster Research Centre for the Promotion of Women's Health. She has published on cultural and feminist theory, on women with disabilities, on health promotion, and on the determinants of health. She has been a member of the Health Canada Round Table on Population Health and Health Promotion (1996) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Health Theme Advisory Committee (1998).
Katherine Tweedie is professor, studio arts, Concordia University.