Book Review: 'The Red Shoes Artists Book Project'
Annell Livingston is a visual artist and writer living in Santa Fe, New Mexico, whose creative output in her studio, on her blog, and in her books seems boundless. Her works in these media are vibrant, strong, embracing, and challenging.
Last year she invited me to participate in her The Red Shoes Artists Book Project project in which she has gathered the poetry of 16 women writers whom she selected because she likes their work. Our creative challenge: to write about red shoes, those symbols of female independence and creativity in literature and other arts throughout time.
The woman with the red shoes stands free and alone, the inheritor of a freedom wrested through time from a culture that once cast creative, independent woman as lunatics, aberrations, suspect citizens.
Annell says: "I conceived the idea of a Red Shoe artist book project, while reading the Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar. They explain that the women of the nineteenth-century had what was called 'anxiety of authorship'–a fear that she could not create, and the act of creating would isolate or destroy her. The symbol of the red shoes is often used in fairly tales as the symbol for the creativity of women, i.e. Snow White, The Wizard of OZ, Cinderella and others."
Times have changed and times have not. We know this because we are still conscious of the red shoes, we are still aware of our not so distant history as oddballs. This consciousness--this self-consciousness--is the fertile soil from which The Red Shoe Artists Book Project springs.
Reading the poems and the bios of the other contributors, I wish I had a pair of red shoes, that I might put them on and put my feet up on the best table, in true presidential style, because life must be lived.
Feet bound securely
Toes tucked under
Fire licks tenderly
Red Shoes insist
They are made for dancing
Glass shoes will cut
Red all over
But without fear
Slip on the red shoes
And they dance