International Women's Day 2018

As part of International Women's Day 2018 West Dean College is profiling the life and work of seven women, past and present. We will be celebrating women who have contributed to the cultural heritage of the College as well as those who continue to build on the legacy of Conservation and the Arts for which West Dean is internationally renowned.

Our celebration of International Women's Day features: College tutor Mariluz Beltran de Guevara; Dame Edith Sitwell; Eva Rothschild with West Dean Tapestry Studio; Ami Bouhassane with Lee Miller; Florence Peake; Caroline Achaintre; Joanna Moorhead with Leonora Carrington.

We will be running a social media campaign, posting information every day between 5-11 March. You can support the West Dean College campaign by liking and sharing our posts, or celebrate International Women's Day on March 8th by highlighting the women who inspire you most.

@westdeancollege @womensday

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Mariluz Beltran de Guevara

Mariluz Beltran de Guevara is the Conservation of Books Subject Leader at West Dean College. She joined the College in 2017 after many years at the British Library where she held the post of Parchment and Vellum Specialist (2007-2010) and Conservation Team Leader (2003-2007; 2010-2015) and Collection Care Monitoring Conservator (2015-2017).

Mariluz is a West Dean College alumnus, having graduated from the Postgraduate Programme in 1997. Following an internship at the Victoria and Albert Museum she worked at the Dundee University Conservation Unit before joining the British Library in 2001.

Under her expert tutorage, the students at West Dean have the unique opportunity to work with material from the Edward James Archive - treating fragile object, preparing material for international exhibitions, improving storage, and getting involved with various preventative conservation projects. The students are currently assessing and treating material from the Archive as part of the forthcoming Leonora Carrington: Magical Tales exhibition at the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City.

Edith Sitwell

Edith Sitwell was a British poet and critic, renowned as a great innovator in her chosen form. She was famed for her height, unusual dress sense and distinguished features, and sat for some of the leading painters and photographers of the twentieth century.

Sitwell was a friend of College founder, Edward James, for more than three decades. She read, critiqued and advised him on his poetry, and the correspondence between them offers a glimpse of the wider circle of friends and associates with which West Dean is connected.

The letter shown here was sent from Sitwell to James in 1935. Sitwell requests James' assistance at a cocktail party she is planning to host the day before an exhibition opening by the artist Pavel Tchelitchew. The wry tone is characteristic of many of her letters, and reveals a close friendship and trust between the two writers.

A later portrait of Sitwell by Tchelitchew, dated 1947, was acquired by Edward James and is still part of the West Dean College Collection. You can view this stunning portrait during the Open House at the West Dean Art and Craft Festival in June.

Image: Autographed letter from Edith Sitwell to Edward James kept in the Edward James Archive at West Dean College reprinted by permission of Peters Fraser & Dunlop ( on behalf of the Estate of Edith Sitwell

West Dean Tapestry Studio with Eva Rothschild

Eva Rothschild is one of the leading sculptors of her generation and has gained extensive international recognition for her work. Her practice is informed by an ongoing interest in the meeting points between spirituality, power, visual perception and the nature of materiality.

In 2016, Rothschild won a commission to work with the the West Dean Tapestry Studio to create a new hand-woven tapestry. The commission, coordinated by Master Weaver, Philip Sanderson, has given Rothschild the opportunity to learn the principles of tapestry weaving with expert guidance in the professional studio. Rothschild's final design, informed by her time in the studio, was woven by Sanderson and the Studio's Weaving Assistant, Eleanor Rudd.

The tapestry, entitled Thefallowfield has grown organically out of conversations about the weaving process and the final work subverts traditional methods - drawing out the unique quality of the artist's and weaver's own creative decision making processes. The final work is a manifestation of a process of translation, first by Rothschild as she worked her new knowledge of the weaving into a conceptual design that both encapsulated and extended her existing practice. Then by the professional Weavers who have translated the artist's vision into an outstanding work that brings together the complexities of two artistic disciplines.

Thefallowfield will be on exhibition at Modern Art, London, from 21 March - 28 April.

Image: Eva Rothschild Thefallowfield (2018) Installation view at Collect, Saatchi Gallery, London. Photo © Sophie Mutevelian

Ami Bouhassane and Lee Miller

A woman of many lives and mistress of her own re-invention Lee Miller - model, surrealist and fashion photographer, war correspondent and gourmet cook - did everything wholeheartedly and with an imaginative flair.

Lee Miller's granddaughter, Ami Bouhassane recently published Lee Miller: A Life with Food Friends, and Recipes. Much more than a recipe book, the book explores Lee Miller's life through the influence of food. It explores how cooking became a creative vehicle that eventually replaced the camera and how she used it to build bridges, heal old wounds, and empower other women. The book contains over a hundred of Lee Miller's recipes as well as images by her and others.

An event to celebrate the publication of A Life with Food Friends, and Recipes will be held at West Dean College on Tuesday, 15 May 2018. Part of the College's series of Author Talks, co-ordinated by the Creative Writing department, the event will feature a talk by Ami and a buffet of dishes from the book, freshly prepared by West Dean's Head Chef, Dan Frowen. More information and tickets for this event are available here.

Image: Ami Bouhassane Lee Miller: A Life with Food, Friends & Recipes (2017) © Courtesy Lee Miller Archives, England 2018. All rights reserved.

Caroline Achaintre

Caroline Achaintre was artist-in-residence at West Dean College in November 2017. Organised in collaboration with the De Le Warr Pavilion, the residency led to the creation of a new series of ceramic works made specifically for Achaintre's solo exhibition Fantomas now on exhibition at the DLWP.

Caroline's work evokes the primitive and the carnivalesque, the animistic and the Surreal. The works are characterful and, exhibited as 'habitats', emphasise the animated relationship that builds up between them - their form, colour, texture, and position. The masks call to mind the power instilled in an object in rituals ad ceremonies. The title of the DLWP exhibition refers to the mask worn by the shape-shifting French criminal Fantômas, invented by writers Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre in 1911. In the 1960s, a TV adaptation of the novel was made, in which Fantômas' face was hidden by a rigid-looking blue mask. For Achaintre, this mask is a place where fantasy and reality can exist at the same time.

Image: Caroline Achaintre Fantômas at the De La Warr Pavilion (2018). Photo: Rob Harris

Florence Peake

Through public performances and carefully choreographed work, Florence Peake challenges notions of physicality, loss and political concerns such as the commodification of art by the corporate world. By encouraging chaotic relationships between the body and material, Peake creates radical and outlandish performances, which create temporary alliances and micro-communities within the audience. In believing that objects and materials have their own autonomy and subjectivity, Peake draws on the expansive vocabulary of materials to enhance and contextualise her work. The sculptural works operate as documentation of the performance, but never in a reductive way, as Peake attempts to incorporate the effect of site, audience and much more than the pure physicality of the performance.

Florence Peake was artist-in-residence at West Dean College in June 2017. Co-ordinated by the full-time Visual Arts department, Peake made use of the studio facilities, resources and technical expertise available to create a new body of ceramic work inspired by Igor Stravinsky's musical score The Rite of Spring. Peake - who trained as a dancer - reinterpreted Stravinsky's work into a stunning piece of performative sculpture, choreographing a new dance work on a stage of wet clay, performed by the dancer Rosemary Lee. The residency was organised in collaboration with Cass Sculpture Foundation as part of an annual wood-kiln residency that explores traditional firing techniques through the work of contemporary practitioners

A performance of RITE, staged on a bed of seven-tonnes of wet clay will take place at the De La Warr Pavilion, in May 2018.

Image: Florence Peake RITE (2017) produced at West Dean College in partnership with Cass Sculpture Foundation and Studio_Leigh Gallery. Photo: Barney Hindle.

Joanna Moorhead and Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington OBE (1917-2011) was an English-born Mexican artist, surrealist painter, and novelist. She lived most of her adult life in Mexico City, and was one of the last surviving participants in the Surrealist movement of the 1930s. Leonora Carrington was also a founding member of the Women's Liberation Movement in Mexico during the 1970s. Carrington was a close friend of College founder, Edward James. The two regularly corresponded and dined together in Mexico, and James was an enthusiastic supporter and patron of her work. Artwork and archival material is still held at the College and can regularly be seen on loan at exhibitions around the world.

Joanna Moorhead is a journalist and author; she writes for The Guardian, The Observer, The Times and The Daily Telegraph, mostly about family life and the arts. Her book 'The Surreal Life of Leonora Carrington' was published by Virago in 2017, and is a memoir about the life of her father's cousin Leonora Carrington, and Joanna's unlikely friendship with her in the years leading up to Carrington's death in 2011. In 2010, Joanna co-curated an exhibition of the work of Leonora Carrington at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. She lives in London, and teaches writing courses at West Dean.