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A print from Suzanne Bellamy’s “Virginia Woolf Series”

Tributes to Suzanne Bellamy, artist, writer, scholar, Australian feminist pioneer, and quintessential free spirit, are flooding social media and email inboxes since she passed away early on June 20 in her native Australia.

Conferences and art

I didn’t know Suzanne well, though many Virginia Woolf scholars did. I met her in 2007 at the 17th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf at Miami University of Ohio. I was a newbie to Woolf studies, and it was my first conference.

Suzanne had a table of her artwork at that event, as she often did, and that year she was right across the aisle from Cecil Woolf, whom I had just met for the first time. I must have said something that indicated I was a Woolf novice, because in her own inimitable fashion, Suzanne made sure that I knew exactly to whom I was speaking — THE Cecil Woolf!

Suzanne had a generous spirit. In 2011, she wrote a post for this blog that explained her painting “Woolf and the Chaucer Horse,” which she created for the 21st Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf. Over the years, she gave me many prints of her art that featured Woolf. One of them, that I framed and hung in my home, is pictured above. I plan to frame more.

Scholar, artist, feminist, and more

Suzanne was a published scholar of both Woolf and Gertrude Stein. But she was much more than that. She was an essayist. She worked in visual music and abstraction and lesbian modernism. Her work also included word jazz and ecology and water, according to her website.

Her first large solo U.S. show was at the Northampton Center for the Arts in Massachusetts in May/June 2003, and she was artist in residence at Smith College during the 2003 International Virginia Woolf Conference.

In London at the 2004 conference, she was a featured presenter with a jazz visual text improvisation called “Am I Blue?.” This was her scat word and visual painting interpretation of three Woolf experimental short fictions about war with large canvas paintings as set.

In 1969, Suzanne was also part of the first group of Women’s Liberation in Sydney. She taught Women’s Studies and Politics at Macquarie University from 1974 to 1980, a period she called “the great feminist years.” She was National Convenor of the First Women and Labour Conference in 1978 and she worked on all three Australian Women’s Commissions.

Below is just one of the many tributes to Suzanne that has been shared. This one was sent by Benjamin Hagen, president of the International Virginia Woolf Society. It is based on information shared by Suzanne’s dear friend, collaborator, and fellow Woolf scholar Elisa Kay Sparks.

Tribute from Ben Hagen, president of IVWS

I write now, however, with the sad news that Suzanne Bellamy, a friend and spiritual traveling companion to so many in the international Woolf community, passed away peacefully a little after midnight, this past Monday morning, Australian time.

Suzanne was particularly delighted that she had been able to participate in a panel at this year’s Woolf conference with Elisa Kay Sparks, Davi Pinho, and Maria Oliveira. Those of us who attended that virtual panel were struck by the power of the work she shared with us that day.

Though very ill, she was able to stay at home until last Wednesday. She was “completely present,” a friend reports, until Saturday, discussing lists of people to notify and what to do about artwork, etc. before she slipped into a quiet coma from which she did not wake up.

Suzanne was born 22 September 1948. Her friends in Australia are making sure that her property is secured and her artwork taken care of, fulfilling the requests in her will. They will gather together for a major celebration of Suzanne’s life in September, around her birthday and the solstice. As some of you know, much of Suzanne’s work—journals, artworks, and films about the Australian women’s movement—have already been sorted and placed in the Australian National Archives.

On behalf of the IVWS, I send condolences to all members who knew Suzanne, treasured her friendship and guidance, and benefited from the light she brought with her wherever she traveled. To those who did not know Suzanne, I hope you will have a chance in the coming weeks and months and years to learn about her artwork, her Woolf scholarship, her political activism, her goodness, her power, and her love.

Tribute from Claire Nicholson, chair, Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain

On behalf of all members of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, I’d like to extend our deep condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Suzanne Bellamy. An inspiring artist and scholar, Suzanne was an unforgettable presence at  International Virginia Woolf Conferences. Her artistic vision, wide-ranging knowledge and warm sense of humour livened up many conference proceedings and she was held in real affection by Woolfians from all over the world. She will be much missed indeed, but leaves a wonderful legacy of her work which will be enjoyed for many years to come. Rest in peace, Suzanne.

“Woolf and the Chaucer Horse” by Suzanne Bellamy

 

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Online art exhibit

Louisa Amelia Albani, whose pamphlet and companion exhibit on Virginia Woolf we featured in July, is currently holding an online art exhibition inspired by Woolf’s essay “Oxford Street Tide.” Take a look.

Online reading group

Starting Monday, Jan. 11, and running through Monday, April 12, 2021, Anne Fernald will lead a Zoom reading group dubbed “All Woolf” at the Center for Fiction, a Brooklyn-based nonprofit dedicated to fiction writing. The fee is $120 for four sessions, with an additional fee charged for books. Meetings begin at 6 p.m. EST.

Online view of The Bloomsbury Look

View “The Bloomsbury Look,” Saturday, Nov. 28, at 2 p.m. via a free virtual event with author Wendy Hitchmough as she speaks live from the Charleston studio to art historian Frances Spalding. The event will include the opportunity to submit questions live, and signed copies of The Bloomsbury Look are available to purchase through the Charleston online shop. However, the link to the event is not up right now, and unfortunately the book is out of stock.

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Not everyone can say they spent the 4th of July with Virginia Woolf. But Kathleen Donnelly and I can.

Three years ago, on July 4, 2017, Kathleen and I spent a day together in London. While there we visited a life-sized wax figure of Woolf on display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at 22 Kingsway at King’s College. It was installed Oct. 21, 2015, by artist Eleanor Crook.

Gaining entry

We were not able to walk right in, however, as entry to the building is secure. However, a kind security guard allowed us inside after noticing us standing out front with our noses pressed against the window. There, we were able to look around and take photos of the wax figure and the exhibit that surrounds it.

The location is significant, as Woolf was a student at the former King’s Ladies’ Department where she took classes in Greek, Latin, history and German between 1897 and 1902.

The Virginia Woolf display in the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London, is straight up this set of stairs on the left.

The life-size wax figure of Virginia Woolf in a wardrobe of her own installed in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London.

The Woolf figure holds a copy of “A Room of One’s Own” with a Vanessa Bell cover.

One panel in the Woolf display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building at King’s College, London

A quote on a panel in the Woolf display in the foyer of the Virginia Woolf Building, King’s College, London

 

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I’d heard the rumor — that a Virginia Woolf “collage” could be spotted in the ladies room of London’s Tavistock Hotel. But I did not expect what I actually found.

Tavistock Hotel in Bloomsbury, London

I went in search of the hotel’s unusual homage to Woolf after the 28th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf in June at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England.

The clerk at the Tavistock’s front desk directed me to the lobby level ladies room, where I expected to see a lone framed Woolf collage on the wall near the door or the sinks.

Loo decor

I found something entirely different. The wall behind each toilet in each ladies room stall was decorated with a long framed graphic featuring Woolf and her works. Each was cut to feature a different element of her work.

Luckily, the ladies room was unoccupied when I entered, so I was able to take a photograph of each stall. However, some of my photos are a bit tipsy, due to the fact that I had to prop each stall door open with my foot while hurriedly snapping individual pictures.

I made sure to include the commode and toilet tissue roll in the photo when I could manage it, as evidence that this Woolf sighting actually took place in a loo. 

 

The hotel’s Woolf & Whistle serves light meals and beverages.

Traditional afternoon tea is also offered at the Tavistock Hotel’s Woolf & Whistle.

 

About the Tavistock

Blue plaque honoring Virginia and Leonard Woolf installed to the left of the front entrance of the Tavistock Hotel.

The hotel is famous because it is built on the site of Virginia and Leonard’s flat at 52 Tavistock Square, in which they lived from 1924-1939.

A blue plaque commemorating that fact was unveiled on the exterior of the building in April.

 

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A digital version of the original manuscript of Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking polemic A Room of One’s Own (1928) is now online, thanks to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, which is hosting the last stop on the tour of an exhibition that celebrates Woolf’s writing and art.

According to the BBC, curator Suzanne Reynolds calls Room, “one of the founding texts of 20th Century feminist thought.”

The free exhibition is titled “Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired by Her Writings,” opens tomorrow at the Fitzwilliam and runs through Dec. 9. It celebrates Woolf’s writing while showcasing the works of more than 80 artists on the themes of female identity, domesticity and landscape.

Cambridge is the third and final stop of the exhibition, which has traced a path of Woolf’s life from the Tate St Ives in Cornwall to Pallant House in Sussex.

 

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