Friday, May 4, 2012

The Week of Culture -- Last Day

Helen Lundeberg, Self-Portrait, 1944

I know ya'll must think me a self-indulgent, high falutin' kind of gal who gallivants around the city doing all sorts of things while her husband and children toil at work and school.

Well, this week I was a self-indulgent, high falutin' kind of gal and satisfied nearly every impulse I have toward viewing art, hearing poetry, laughing my ass off and eating good food.

And I have no regrets.

Yesterday, I finally made it to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's exhibit of American and Mexican female surrealists. The show is called Wonderland, and it's spectacular. I stood right up close to many of Frida Kahlo's most famous paintings, like this:

The Two Fridas, 1939

I saw it out of the corner of my eye when I was standing across the room, and I could hardly bear to walk over to it. When I did stand in front of it, though, it brought tears to my eyes. It's hard to see it in the above copy, but the Frida on the right holds a picture of Diego Rivera, her husband. The Frida on the left has cut the vessel that leads from that photo and through the two hearts.

I also saw this:

Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940

I learned that for the female artists, surrealism was a path toward the "marvelous," a surrealist concept about the disruption of identity and the disorientation of reality in pursuit of the revelatory. The art displayed was about fragmentation of identity, the oppression of patriarchal systems, sexuality, the body and motherhood or lack thereof. In addition to paintings, there were sculptures, photographs, installations and short films. I wandered through the exhibit for nearly two hours, thrilled to see and feel so much intelligence, emotion, beauty and rawness in one space.

This is the only photo that I took because I hate when people photograph in museums -- it looked like male anatomy, but on closer inspection was a kind of bone. I think. And I forgot to write down the artist, so I apologize for that, too.

One of my favorite paintings was by the artist Sylvia Fein, titled Lady with her Baby. I found it disconcerting -- the crossed arms of the mother and her seeming dis-attachment from the baby perched on top of her head. The green of her jacket was gorgeous.

Francesca Woodman's photos were disturbing and beautiful. She committed suicide at the age of 22 by jumping out of a window in New York City. I stood in front of this one for a long time:

It Must Be Time for Lunch Now, 1979

Despite the enormity of their work, many of the surrealist artists were overlooked and dismissed as irrelevant. However, many of them considered camouflage necessary, in order to create decoys and to keep secret their magic, alchemical explorations (from the collection's book Wonder, The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States).

Afterward, I wandered outside on Wilshire Blvd. where twenty or so food trucks were lined up, hawking their wares. This guy played some music, right there on the sidewalk:

I settled on Maine Lobster:

and ate this very simple, traditional lobster roll while listening to some ragtime in the California sunshine. At 3:00, I stood up, got back in my car and was back on duty, fortified.


  1. Frieda has been on my mind a lot lately. Thank you for sharing this! xo

  2. Oh, thank you for this. I feel as if I've been on a cultural mini-vacation with you. In my view, what you've done this week is not self-indulgent at all; it's recharging your batteries, and goodness knows, our batteries need juice, because that juice nourishes the family, the home and thus, the world.

  3. What a wonderful day!

    I love walking through a museum like that, alone with plenty of time to contemplate. Even if I don't understand what I am seeing, it feels so good to let in something new, refreshing and even disturbing.

    I envy the lobster roll. Never tasted lobster in my life...I know, so odd. It looks so satisfying.

    Thanks for sharing all that- so glad you did it!

  4. A most awesome date with yourself and well deserved. And Frida! And Francesca! I have long awaited a Francesca Woodman exhibit to pass through my tiny town. Frida yes a huge collection but no Francesca. It's like photography as art doesn't exist here. (Except in my son I'd like to add because I can.)

    Well done.


  5. So refreshing to see new sights sounds and tastes. Getting lost in culture and reflection. So rare do I get to do things like this, thanks for taking me with you. Nothin' like a little lobstah to put you right!

  6. Awesome! Good for you and thanks for sharing. I love seeing the sunshine in your photos. It reminds me that it does, indeed, exist and will come my way sooner or later.

  7. Hello, love. What beauty you brought to my eyes with this one. Thank-you. I'm in Mobile and loving it. It is breezy and green and there are many churches and even more bars.
    Also museums which I am not even entering. Sigh.
    I did go to a good bookstore today though. I thought of you.

  8. Thanks for letting us join you on your jaunt, Elizabeth.

    A journey of discovery and such obvious delights coupled with certain levels of pain, all designed to make us think and feel. Isn't that what it's about?

  9. Oh, what a marvelous week, and I wish that exhibit were here!

  10. This is wonder filled. And I am so appreciative.

    Your photo may be my favorite.

    This has been a powerful week for you.

  11. Wow, that lobster roll looks REALLY good.

    I hate it when people photograph in museums too. It seems to disrupt the space, and it also seems petty -- like, why not just enjoy the art and allow it to be a passing experience? But here's the funny thing -- I was photographing in a museum myself yesterday. Ha! I went to see a photography show at the Saatchi Gallery. Outstanding!

    Frida Kahlo is so amazing. Have you read Barbara Kingsolver's book "The Lacuna"? It's partly about Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Excellent!

  12. Wow just wow

    The Freda self portraits are beautiful

  13. I salute you, elizabeth, for giving yourself these experiences. and thank you for sharing them.

    fortified is an excellent word.

  14. I loved this show! There were a couple of other artists that I loved, and I can't remember their names. One was of a woman standing nude with wings in a door - blew my mind. I'll have to look it up.

    I noticed, too, that the wall of artists had at the end their husband's names listed next to each of them. I want to email and ask the curator why that was done. I'm sure it's because they had famous partners, but I also don't recall seeing a show with a list of artist's wives.

    Love that you did a week of culture - I just saw the museum in St. Louis, and curated a show of my own lobby photography with art speak over at my blog. Hope you enjoy that.

  15. Oh my god, I need to see more female artists. I love Kahlo, I wear her image on a medallion around my neck on days when I need extra fortitude. And that lobster roll! Good heavens.

    I can't get over Woodman and Fein. Thanks for introducing me to their work.

  16. Sounds like a soul refreshing kind of day.

  17. So cool. im really happy you had the chance to do all of this. ps - lobster rolls are amazing!

  18. why do women feel guilty when we nourish our souls? the suspended bone gave me a chuckle.



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