Women leaders in the digital world

New Media Futures – The Rise of Women in the Digital Arts is a 300-page, coffee table-size book that highlights 22 women from the Midwest who have made a difference in digital media. Three women artists collaborated as editors: Donna J. Cox, Ellen Sandor and Janine Fron, all innovative digital artists in their own right.

The book can be overwhelming in the terms and explanations that are likely foreign to those not versed in digital media. But that makes the book all the more interesting. There is no end to learning about innovative technologies as well as the possibilities and triumphs these women accomplish

ed. The excellent design and layout, the easy-to-read narrative, and the beautiful photos add to the book.
These 22 women have been pioneers in their field, and each comes from the Midwest, most doing their work, research and projects through the University of Illinois and the Chicago Art Institute. Their work spans video multimedia, digital computing, art installations, 3D simulations, educational software, video gaming, supercomputing visualization, film and animation. All have been leading experts who have won awards, been showcased in museums all over the world, and have exhibited their work.

From 2008 through 2012 the editors recorded interviews with the women, using the same set of questions for each. A brief introduction of each woman is followed by her own personal narrative, explaining her journey through choosing and exploring a particular medium. Beautiful photos showcase their works.

The book begins with a 47-page historical overview of women who impacted the evolving art world: women such as Bertha Honore Palmer who led the Women’s Building initiative at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair and helped form the Chicago Art Institute; and Mary Mahoney, architect, sculptor and collaborator with Frank Lloyd Wright during the early 1900s (her Flower in a Crannied Wall sculpture stands in the entranc of the Springfield Dana-Thomas House designed by Wright). In the introduction we also learn of the contemporary digital art world moving in new directions with computer imaging and other techniques.

The book then is divided into three sections covering contemporary women of varying ages who pursued their art. The works are examples of ways science and art can merge to help us all.

One artist, Carolina Cruz-Neira, has worked in virtual reality, helping with such projects as a virtual dissection of a cadaver to help physicians increase knowledge of anatomy. Mary Rasmussen has helped develop software to locate missing children. The artist called Martyl started her career as part of a team in 1947 that developed the Doomsday Clock, a symbol used to measure how close the world is to a global catastrophe.
The three editors met while pursuing their own art careers. Each has an impressive resume: Cox is the associate editor of the National Center for Supercomputing Applications Research and Education; Sandor is the founding editor of (art)n, a Chicago art collaborative, and advisory board chair of the Gene Siskel Film Center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Fron is an independent game artist and cofounder of Ludica, a game-designing collaborative.

This is a book that can be picked up and opened to any area to explore. If you do, you will come away a little bit wiser, certainly more informed and totally impressed with what these women have done.

Cinda Ackerman Klickna of Rochester, not versed in digital arts, found that each time she opened this book she liked it more.