Review by Mary Sanderson
Our speaker, local writer Kerry Postle is a previous member of our WI so was doubly welcome. Kerry has successfully published her first novel and used her experience in researching, writing and finding a publisher to illustrate her presentation. Kerry gave us the fascinating story of her choice of subject matter, Wally Neuzil, and what inspired her to start her book. This was the result of two incidents, firstly, she was attacked by a teenage student in her classroom when she taught modern languages in a secondary school. This was distressing and caused Kerry to question her life.
The second was a visit to an Egon Schiele exhibition at the Leopold Museum in Vienna in 2015. Kerry described the impact of seeing beautiful, disturbing images of the artist’s model everywhere, whilst knowing very little about her.
Curiosity about the model, Wally Neuzil, led her to find all about her and want to tell her story. That story, The Artist’s Muse, is one of a young girl who was integral to the art of Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele, two of the most influential painters of the 20th century, and yet was humiliated and discarded by both men.
The relationship between the two artists and Wally was toxic and badly affected Wally’s reputation. Kerry told us how shocking she found the deep-seated misogyny at the core of the society of the time, encompassing politics, gender and art. Throughout Kerry’s talk the parallels between the unequal position of women in Wally’s world and our own was striking.
Kerry pointed out that in both cases powerful men with their sense of entitlement to use, abuse and exploit women were able to hide in plain sight. As the writer, Kerry felt compelled to let Wally tell her story by giving her her own voice. How apt that at last women of today are speaking out.
Throughout her presentation we were treated to wonderful examples of the works of Klimt and Schiele, which made me want to see more – they are artists I was not very familiar with. After whetting our appetites with her description of her book, (she whetted mine, I bought a copy and couldn’t put it down!) the presentation became more of a conversation between Kerry and the members. Kerry encouraged all of us to try writing or to continue if we have already attempted it.
She described the process of writing a novel, from the initial idea, through research to creating the book and finding a publisher. Her advice to aspiring writers – start to write, whether you want to or not, get your ideas out of your head and down on paper, have a work plan and stick to it. Other suggestions were to join one or more writers’ groups or start one, write with a buddy and read each others work, read your work aloud, learn to value criticism. Kerry writes a blog and offered to help any of the members if they wanted to contact her.
I would like to thank Kerry for opening the door for me to a little known period of history which turned out to be really important in the history of women’s’ emancipation. The Artists Muse is beautifully written, meticulously researched, grounded firmly in it’s place and time and had me rooting for Wally all the way. A worthy role model indeed.
Photo Credit: Leopold Museum