Thursday, 25 September 2014

Louise Nevelson, the 31 Women number 31, her birthday is 23 September 1889

Number 31 and I've saved the best until last, well in my opinion anyhow. But I need to admit that I've also left Louise Nevelson until the end because I've found her the hardest to write about. I have several excuses...
Louise Nevelson by Richard Avedon

Nevelson was the first of the 31 Women I knew about, as I came across some of her smaller work in an exhibition when I was a teenager. I was mesmerised and captivated by several of her wooden box sculptures, filled with pieces of wooden artefacts some recognisable and some mysterious and obscure. When I eventually saw one of her huge walls I was truly intimidated by her colossal talent. Reading about her life, her struggle for recognition, her ferocious determination to be unique, I have continued to be intimidated; I would absolutely hate to say anything she would dislike!

This post is not complete, obviously. I've already written a lot about Louise Nevelson and my writing's not good enough to post. I'm currently reading 'Dawns and Dusks' which is as close as she came to writing an autobiography, she didn't really trust the written word, putting this down to her disrupted early childhood when she had to cope with three languages Russian, Yiddish and English. This marvellous book contains her words, recorded and transcribed by her friend Diana MacKown, so if I can't write about her art after reading what she herself said about it, there's no hope for me!

My other excuse is that aiming to post actually on Ms Nevelson's birthday is possibly a forlorn hope as she wasn't entirely clear about when she was born, although I'm sure she'd despise my lack of punctuality.

Louise Nevelson described her working process as composing. From Dawns and Dusks I've so far found two great quotes which help to reveal her creative motivation -

"I always wanted to show the world that art is everywhere, except that it has to pass through a creative mind." That creative mind, obviously, was her own.

She proudly regarded herself as a scavenger -

"You're taking a discarded, beat-up piece that was no use to anyone and you place it in a position where it goes to beautiful places... These pieces of old wood have a history and a drama that to me is  like taking someone who has been in the gutter for years, neglected and overlooked. And someone comes along who sees how to take these beings and transform them into total being."

This recycling of existing things, which have had a purpose before the artist came along, is something done by many artists in both 20th and 21st centuries. It began with the Dadas such as Duchamp and Baroness, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven and continues today with almost everyone. My current favourite is sculptor and installation artist Cornelia Parker, but no-one has yet taken it to the sublime heights achieved by Louise Nevelson.

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