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Fabulous! Portraits by Michele Mattei: Beatrice Wood

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
View of the museum from outside showing the Neoclassical building from one corner. The building is a tan-colored stone with an arched doorway, long vertical windows, and detailed molding around the roof.

Opening today, NMWA’s exhibition Fabulous! Portraits by Michele Mattei presents a selection of Michele Mattei’s photographs of women who have shaped contemporary culture. Mattei, who began her career as a journalist before moving into photojournalism and then photography, interviewed her portrait subjects as she was photographing them.
This interview excerpt is a portion of Mattei’s discussion with artist Beatrice Wood (1893–1998):

Michele Mattei, Beatrice Wood, 1997; Image © Michele Mattei
Michele Mattei, Beatrice Wood, 1997; Image © Michele Mattei

Michele Mattei: How did you become known as the “Mother of Dadaism”?
Beatrice Wood: I have always enjoyed the idea of being subversive. I like disturbing traditional bourgeois ideas and I always loved to shock. But it is now just a playful game. I love the attention. I never regarded the movement as a political platform. At the time, I was quite young and there were very many intelligent, charismatic men in the group. I was in love with a few of them and I just enjoyed myself. It was a wonderful moment in my life. I have always loved being in love.
MM: They say that your relationship with Marcel Duchamp and Henri Pierre Roche influenced Roche’s novel Jules et Jim; is that true?
BW: They say a lot of things, and if they say so, it must be true.
MM: Have you found satisfaction and joy within yourself?
BW: My happiness has always been tied to the love of a man. I loved being in love. Nowadays I would say that being happy is a question of awareness. I have not been wise in my life. I have learned through hardships and I wish I had learned more through consciousness; I might be a little wiser now, but I am still over-sentimental and romantic. It has been a very difficult thing to handle. Nowadays, I do not have to worry too much about the romantic side but I still have some gripping desires. It does not really change with aging. I just learned to be more aware and in control.
MM: What importance did you give your career?
BW: I have always done what I liked. Sometimes it was profitable, sometimes it was not. I have never been motivated by profit. I do not believe that money can make you happy. We need it but rich people are not particularly happy.
MM: Are you afraid of death?
BW: No, I am not afraid of death at all… But I do not want to die. I have still too many things to do. It is really odd but we all know that we are going to die and we cannot seem to make friends with death. It is amazing that it is so difficult to accept death in our life when it is so obvious. Sometimes, when I am tired, I think that I am quite there and it feels all right but I cannot resolve myself to lose this life: I like it here.

The exhibition Fabulous! Portraits by Michele Mattei is on view at NMWA October 12, 2012–January 13, 2013.

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