Friday, 5 September 2008

Glorious Claude Cahun. . .

This how one's library grows. I first became intrigued by the surrealist photography of Claude Cahun when I saw one of her self-portraits gracing the cover of Mary Ann Caws's book Glorious Eccentrics. I know Caws as an author from some of her previous books on the Bloomsbury group, Dora Carrington (another obsession of mine) and painters and poets of the era. So I had to buy the book, which is a collection of portraits of seven women who influenced Modernism. It's very good. So then I read about Cahun's longterm relationship with her partner Marcel Moore and how the two women moved to Jersey and subsequently became involved in the Resistance movement when the Germans occupied the island during the Second World War. And I found don't kiss me: The Art of Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore. And bought that. Okay, I haven't had time to read it yet, but I have looked at all the photos. They are stunningly unique and compelling. She was obsessed with her own creation - changing her looks and dressing up as other characters, not to be someone else, but to explore different aspects of her self. She also played a lot with gender roles and androgny along with different photography angles, mirrors, etc. Her work is beautifully strange, and thought provoking. It's mesmerizing.

And then The Literary Saloon pointed me in the direction of the latest edition of The Quarterly Conversation which had an essay by Lauren Elkin on her literary work, which happened to mention that MIT had recently translated one of her books, Disavowals or Cancelled Confessions, which is described as an anti-memoir. It sounds so interesting. So I think I need to get a copy of this as well. Elkin's essay is well worth reading and gives a good biographical overview. So many amazing women artists in the first half of the 20th century. Such incredible life stories.

In my fantasy bookstore I picture a very white wall with white plate rails stacked horizontally up to the ceiling where I'd display face out all the books I could find either by or about the surrealists, that had black and white covers of either artwork or photography. It would look stunning. Maybe behind the fantasy cash register.


dovegreyreader said...

Lovely to find your blog too and check out my thoughts on a book called War on the Margins by Libby Cone which is about these two women on Jersey during the war, it's a brilliant read.

Blithe Spirit said...

Oh good, another one to add to the list. Thanks so much for the suggestion.