|The Virgin's Dream|
Friday, May 6, 2011
The absurdities of love and life come alive in the drawings and ceramics of renowned California artist Beatrice Wood. The Virgin’s Dream, a title taken from one of her signature figurative ceramic works, features a diverse collection from the 1930s to the 1990s of drawings in watercolor, colored pencil and graphite, book illustrations, sketchbooks, figurative sculptures, vessels, plates, and a unique mobile that hung in the artist’s home in Ojai, California. Born in 1893, Beatrice Wood was an important figure in the history of Modern Art working with such legends as Marcel Duchamp, Francis Picabia and others. As the only woman artist to be associated with the Dadaist group in New York during the 1920s, the aspiring artist was dubbed the “Mama of Dada.” Join the co-curator of the exhibition David VanGilder on Saturday, May 21 at 2:00 p.m. for his lecture “Kissed Again Part of the Bargain” and hear him discuss his life with Beatrice Wood from 1985-1995. The talk is complimentary with museum admission and free for OMA members, students and military. The exhibition The Virgin’s Dream: Beatrice Wood Drawings and Ceramics is co-curated by David VanGilder and Danielle S. Deery and will be on view in the Groves Gallery through September 18, 2011.
This exhibition highlights work from the archives of Beatrice Wood that were donated to Oceanside Museum of Art by David VanGilder in 2010. VanGilder was Wood’s archivist and produced an extensive bibliography on the artist during the ten year period he lived with her in Ojai, CA. Along with numerous sketchbooks featuring whimsical drawings by Wood, the museum now houses a diverse collection of drawings and a few ceramic vessels. The exhibition will feature these works as well as drawings, ceramic vessels, sculptures, tiles and plates from VanGilder’s collection and drawings from other local Wood collectors.
Beatrice Wood was born in 1893 in San Francisco and shortly thereafter moved with her family to New York. After completing finishing school in New York City she attempted to escape the confinement of her Edwardian life and moved to Paris to study drawing at the Academie Julien. After World War I broke out she moved back to New York and began performing with the French Repertory Company and started frequenting the salon evenings of modern art collectors Walter and Louise Arnsberg. This is where she was introduced to new ideas in the company of a remarkable generation of artists, musicians and writers such as Marcel Duchamp, Henri Pierre Roche, Edgar Varese, Man Ray and Francis Picabia. Wood met Duchamp in 1916 and shortly after Duchamp introduced Wood to his good friend Roche, a collector and diplomat. Together these two men not only shared a close and intimate relationship with Wood, but they also provided the encouragement and guidance that was crucial to her development as an artist.
In 1928 Wood moved to Los Angeles, California to be close to her friend the actress Helen Freeman and the Arnsbergs. She began working in clay in the early 1930s and studied first with Glen Lukens and later with legendary potters Gertrud and Otto Natzler and exchanged glaze formulas with Vivika and Otto Heino. Wood moved to Ojai in Ventura County, California in 1948 where she lived and worked until her death in 1996. She is acclaimed for her robustly potted vessels and plates enlivened with iridescent luster glazes, and her prolific autobiographical drawings.
Throughout her ninety-year career as an artist, Beatrice Wood maintained a Dada sensibility that provided the most constant stylistic link unifying the broad range and diversity of her artistic production. Wood also drew inspiration from Folk Art, non-Western Art, Art Deco and Cubism.
Subjects in her drawings are from her daily activities and whimsical daydreams. She describes her work as “sophisticated primitives” because they are done in a consciously naïve fashion, but were assembled to present rather complex themes dealing with love, despair, and the human condition with a tongue-and-cheek sensibility. Love was a primary driving force to her life and her work. This is most evident in her autobiography I Shock Myself along with other books she wrote, Playing Chess with the Heart and The Angel Who Work Black Tights. Beatrice Wood passed away in 1998, at 105 years of age, with the last 25 years of her life her most productive creating work to satisfy a growing market for her ceramics, writing books and visiting with frequent visitors. When asked the secret of her longevity, she would simply offer “art books, chocolates and young men”.
The first exhibition Wood participated in was the initial Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artist, Grand Central Palace, New York in 1917, Since then her work has been in dozens of exhibitions including Ceramics: Beatrice Wood at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1959, Beatrice Wood at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco in 1964 and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in 1965; Life With Dada: Beatrice Wood Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1978; and a Beatrice Wood Retrospective at the California State Univesity, Fullerton in 1983. Woods work can be found in the permanent collection of museums around the world including The Metropolitan Museum, New York, Museum of Contemporary Crafts, New York, and The San Diego Museum of Art, just to name a few. She was declared a California Treasure in 1984, received the Living Legacy Award in 1989 and was last honored with the Governor’s Art Awards by California Governor Pete Wilson.