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Beatrice Wood: Bed Stories and More

September 5 – December 1, 2019

Beatrice Wood, The Jealous Wife, 1987. hand-painted etching, 22” x 15”

Beatrice Wood, The Jealous Wife, 1987. hand-painted etching, 22” x 15”

Porch Gallery Ojai presents Beatrice Wood: Bed Stories and More. While Wood is best known for her ceramic works she continued to create two-dimensional work throughout her life. Published by Lee Waisler in 1987, when Wood was in her nineties, the twenty hand-painted etchings that comprise Bed Stories represent welcome insight into her creative prowess. As Arturo Schwarz observed in the portfolio’s introduction:

“At first glance the treatment of the individual compositions might appear naive. A second glimpse would reveal that they are highly sophisticated. To convey in a simple visual language a philosophy of life that is as profound as it is subtle is no easy endeavor. And here Beato is an unrivaled master.

“The color range might look monotonous, it is mostly limited to the two pairs of complementary colors; red/blue and yellow/ green. But when perusing this portfolio what lingers in one’s eyes and what remains alive in one’s mind is the transparent glory of the rainbow’s richness. The artist not only masters the crystalline grace of a subdued series of tonal variations, she knows instinctively how to match the right hue with the right idea at precisely the right moment. Mozart used to say’ ‘I find the notes that love each other.’ Beato discovers the color that best unites the form, and so concordant is the harmony that rings in the eye’s ear, that one is instantaneously conquered.”

Beatrice Wood was a celebrated artist who was just as well known for her wit and style as she was for the unique luster glazes she created for her ceramics. In addition to being recognized as the “Mama of Dada”, one of the few women credited with pioneering an art movement, she was the inspiration for Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic, and the first woman to attribute her longevity to “chocolate and young men.”

Wood was born into a wealthy San Francisco family in 1893. Despite her parents’ strong opposition, Wood insisted on moving to France to study art. Upon her return to the United States, she met and had a relationship with Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché. The three worked together to create The Blind Man, a magazine that was one of the earliest manifestations of the Dada art movement. The first publication was intended to defend the Duchamp’s readymade urinal titled The Fountain that he submitted under the name R. Mutt to the First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in April 1917.

In 1947, Wood moved to Ojai, Ca. While her drawings and sculptures are included in museum collections throughout the world, it was her luster glazed ceramics that she created in her Ojai studio that gained Wood the most recognition. Before Wood, luster had generally been a surface decoration on a previously glazed form, but she used in-glaze luster produced during a single glaze firing. Although Wood did not invent this technique, she imparted to it and the ceramic medium a new expressiveness and theatricality.

Wood was in her late eighties when her first book, The Angel Who Wore Black Tights, was published. A few years later, her autobiography, I Shock Myself, was published, followed by Pinching Spaniards and 33rd Wife of a Maharajah: A Love Affair in India. There were also books written under the pseudonym of Countess Lola Screwvinsky, allowing Wood to express the mischievous and provocative side of her personality.

Beatrice Wood inspired countless artists and writers with her work. Her relationship with Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché was said to have inspired the latter’s book Jules and Jim, which was made into a celebrated French film by director François Truffaut. She was also the subject of films herself, most notably Beatrice Wood: The Mama of Dada, created on the occasion of her 100th birthday.

Beatrice Wood passed away in 1998, at the age of 105. The Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Ojai, Ca celebrates the life and work of Beatrice Wood while presenting exhibitions, performances, and educational opportunities.