Friday, November 07, 2008

replicating Beatrice

photo by William Gray Harris

I first heard of Beatrice Wood ("Beato") after buying Chris Casson Madden's 1997 book A Room of Her Own (about women's personal spaces). I fell in love with her and her work from seeing this self-sculpture, shown in the book's photo, below. Such ingenuity of the artist to have her face and hands coming out of the wall!

It's impossible to summarize her - thinker, potter, sculptor, artist, writer, lover. If you don't yet know her, think of this as an introduction only. You can explore the web site embedded in her name, above, to learn about her story and her earthy art.

Beatrice lived to be 105 years old (b. March 3, 1893 - d. March 12,1998).

She was called "The Mama of Dada" because of her participation in the Dada movement in New York, which rejected conventions in art and thought. When asked what Dadaism is, she replied:

"What is Dada is that I know nothing about what is Dada."

I know less than that obviously, but one thing I like about the Dada movement is that it began in protest of WWI and its stupidities. Below is a litho she made for an avant garde journal Blindman's Ball she helped edit. It's a guy thumbing his nose. Maybe "Blindman's Ball" is a good name for the days in which we live, and maybe it's time to start a national "Thumb Your Nose" day. Thumb your nose and say dada.

Beato was influenced by Eastern thought, she was a follower of Krishnamurti - so much so that she followed him to Ojai, California and set up residence there. You can see her in a sari, below. She always wore saris.

photo by William Gray Harris
She said:

"Women are the strength of the world."

And: "to women who have diamonds – it can’t touch the joy of opening a kiln.”

Her pottery was what she spent her last 50 years doing. Incredible! She created her own glaze recipes, making such play with light that the luster becomes ethereal.

“I never meant to become a potter,” Beatrice later offered. “It happened very accidentally… I could sell pottery because when I ran away from home I was without any money. And so I became a potter.”

Drinking vessels like this are hallmarks of Beato's work:

Her art, she said, was not replicating nature, but "replicating Beatrice."
She died just after turning 105, in 1998. She had said:

"In Heaven, I’m going to be married to five wonderful men: Gorbachev, Prince Albert, Bill Moyers, Charlie Chaplin, and Trader Joe.”

I think she would be woman enough for that. I guess she's in training for it, as she's still waiting for Gorbachev, Moyers and "Trader" Joe Coulombe. Can you picture her and her studio apprentices Prince Albert and Charlie in the meantime? "A little more cobalt, Al!" - "Charlie, quit drinking the barium!"


Peter said...

Another example that "women are the strength of the world"! What a personality, what talent, this "Mama Dada"!!!

Susan said...

Thank you, Ruth! I knew nothing about this wonderful woman and it makes me curious to learn more! I, too, would like to be married to Bill Moyers. He is one of my heroes. I wish O would pick him as one of his Cabinet or at least as an Ambassador.

Nautankey said...

Another informative post :).Everytime I leave your space I would feel I have learnt something new,may be about a flower, a plant, a bird or a very talented lady. Thank you.

tumbleweed said...

now there's a wise AND beautiful face...

Ginnie said...

She is one of the five women I'd like to meet in Heaven, Ruth!

Loring Wirbel said...

Wow, I always heard her mentioned in reference to Dada, but this is my first introduction to her work. Thank you!

Babs (Beetle) said...

Wow! What a character! I love the head and hands ;O)

Ruth said...

Peter, her personality shines through these stills, and even more through the documentary I saw of her recently. She just laughs and laughs. So sweet!

Ruth said...

Susan, Bill Moyers is a treasure. He manages to critique without venom.

Ruth said...

Nautankey, there is so much, isn't there? I get overwhelmed with it all, but bites are good I think. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Yes, Tumbleweed, well said. Thanks for your visit.

Ruth said...

Boots, I agree. As I wrote to Peter, in the doc film I just saw of her, she laughed so much I think it would be pure delight to sit with her a while.

Ruth said...

Loring, it would be a beautiful thing to watch her create, I think. You should see her "pantry" with glaze powders. Wow.

Ruth said...

Babs, maybe we could make a mask like that and be her for Halloween.

Rauf said...

toplight on grey hair is a big mistake Ruth.

Never heard of her, doesn't ring any bell toos. Sweet thing she bees. i am smiling Ruth, she is so sure that all those five guys would go to heaven. i have my doubts on some. Who is Trader Joe ? Never heard of him eeder. i'll have better interviews in hell, lots intersting characters there. Who wants to interview the Popes and saints anyway ?

i asked a priest once, why is he taking medicines ?
he is diabetic he said.
Aren't you eager to go to heaven and meet God ? if i were you i would be in a hurry to die, go to heaven and meet God and i would stop taking medicines.
No answer. just a cold stare i got.
We all would prefer to live in this chaotic world than a live blissful life in heaven.
Would you like to go to heaven right now ?
WHAAT ? Are you mad ??

i wonder why the lady left out JK from the list.

This is going to be longer than your post Ruth, typing with severe back pain. hahaha, i have no desire to go to the heaven, but no pain killers for me.

Since she is familiar with Indian life, being a follower of JK, she should know what DADA is.

Urdu word Dada is a grand father and this is not relevant here

Bengali word Dada is a big brother.

All over India a Dada is a thug.
Dadaism or the Indian word Dadagiri is rowdyism, bullying, arm twisting, thrusting values down the throats of the unwilling, and the word is used for taking law in your own hands as all these Dadas think they are good guys like the Nazis did.

"women are the strength of the world" is a bad statement Ruth, specially in her time.
This planet is run and managed by the female species. Only humans seem to be out of line with nature.

Ruth said...

Oh dear, rauf! I'm so sorry about your back pain.

You would know about the portrait lighting, but I do not find it unattractive in this one. Hmm. I actually quite like it!

Trader Joe is the chap who started a grocery chain here of the same name: good food, mostly organic, lots of minimal prep foods for busy people, and quite inexpensive. We try to go to the one in Ann Arbor once a month.

Oh, are Dadaists thugs? I don't know nottin about it. I just know there was a famous urinal as a piece of art. Thankfully she didn't make vessels that looked like urinals!

I think she was a pretty free spirit. And with all her energy, maybe she made her own heaven.

I hope you'll rest and feel better soon, Abi.

Still said...

Wow! What a talentuous person. Thanks for this text Ruth.

Anet said...

Isn't she wonderful? I watched a documentary on her, "The Mama of Dada" earlier this year. I love the metalic glazing she devolped for her pottery. She was a very unique lady. 105 years old, just amazing!
I've had a Beatrice Woods quote on my side bar for a while now. "The more we exist outside the system, the more creative we are." I love that one!

Moi said...

beautiful woman........and those saris become her :)

After reading the post, I'm tempted to go and research more on her work......and life.

Christina said...

I also own the Chris Casson Madden book. I want to run to it and flip through the pages, to see if I really have a book, with this beautiful woman in it.

5 husbands huh? That is just brilliant. ; )

Thank you for this inspiring and interesting post. ; )

Peter said...

I recommended this post to some friends... Just came back to see if they have been here. Obvioulsy not yet, at least not commenting. A pity!

Ruth said...

You're welcome, Still!

Ruth said...

Oh Anet! I'm so happy you know her too. What reminded me of her this week was watching a documentary on the Documentary Channel. Maybe it's the same one.

That is a great quote, and a good reminder, isn't it? The thing I remember from the doc film is that beautiful face, and how much she just laughed and laughed! What an amazing soul.

Ruth said...

Moi, watch for the doc film on the Documentary Channel if you get it. Or maybe through Netflix? It is well worth digging more up on her.

Saris are so elegant. She is proof against the belief I've had for a long time that a woman needs to be Indian to pull off wearing a sari. :)

Ruth said...

It's fun you have the book too, Christina! I find that book very inspiring, those spaces are very different, reflecting each woman's personality.

I've been inspired by your space over at Soul Aperture too. You see I turned my background white. I was ready for a change, felt too dark, and I liked yours.

Yay for inspiration!

Ruth said...

Bring 'em on, Peter! I'd love to share this lady with your friends. I hope they stop by and let me know.

Thanks! S'il vous plaît avoir un Café Crème pour moi!

photowannabe said...

This is a fascinating post Ruth. I learned so much about a unknown woman to me. I went over to the link and read the bio. on her. 105 very profitable years.
The picture of the hand reaching out is amazing. It really personifies who she was.

Ruth said...

Sue, it almost feels like the world wasn't big enough for Beato. And not enough fingers for those big rings!

John Maslowski said...

First time visiting your new site Ruth, I love it. It's a real blog site that's for sure. I love the narrative about Beatrice and the photo of her work. Great job and great site, I'll be back!

Nathalie said...

I knew my visit here wouldn't disappoint and wow, this is as good as it gets. What an inspiring post!
Thanks for all this Ruth. I'm delighted!! I've bookmarked your blog so I can come back often.

Ruth said...

Hi John! It's great to see you here, welcome. Everyone should go visit your Sirius2 photo site and be blown away. That image "Infinity" is incredible, as are all your HDR images.

Actually this is the older blog, started in January 2006.

Thanks for coming.

Ruth said...

Yay, Nathalie! You and I have been following each other around for too long to stop now. All those daily photos in Sydney and East Lansing, that seems so long ago!

I'm very glad you came by, so good to see you. Isn't Beato great?

mystic rose said...

What an intriguing woman! I am going to read more about her.

I was thinking recently that I would so like to learn to use my hands artistically, perhaps pottery or glass working or mosaics.

Ruth said...

Oh Mystic, please do! I would love to see what beauty comes out of your unique vision.

Sandy said...

Fantastic post, so interesting.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Sandy! I need to check and see if you're up and running now . . .

sm said...