Saturday, October 29, 2011

Partying with Gertrude Stein

On October 27, 2011, The Steiny Road Poet had the pleasure of attending the opening of Insight & Identity: Contemporary Artists and Gertrude Stein,  an exhibition mounted by The Stanford in Washington Art Gallery at 2655 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC.

The show curated by Adrienne Jamieson (MaryLou & George Boone Centennial Director, Stanford in Washington) with Dyana Curreri-Ermatinger (Director of the International Art Museum in San Francisco) and collector-writer Hans Gallas was mounted to coincide with Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories,  curated by Wanda Corn and currently on exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, after its opening at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.

The show brings together work by Stein and inspired by the work of Stein. The exhibition includes first edition books, paintings, and art objects that include dresses, buttons, and wall hangings. One of the paintings in the exhibition comes From Suzanne Bellamy’s series Conversations with Virginia Woolf and Gertrude Stein,  a series of 12 prints. The S.R. Poet came home and realized she has one of those prints entitled “Ritual and Deep Rhythm.” In the Stanford in Washington exhibition is the second print in the series. Here is what the painter had to say about this one and No. 4, which came to the S. R. Poet as gift.

No.2 COLLISIONS : “Lying Under the Whole of Gertrude Stein.” This print tells the story of their meetings and business transactions. Rejecting the manuscript of The Making of Americans, perhaps not ever reading it, Woolf wrote various letters to friends parodying Stein’s weighty work, body and presence. Here Alice faces the backdrop of their own Parisian life as Gertrude hurtles through the air on her magical manuscript and Woolf deftly avoids being crushed. The subsequent Hogarth printing of Composition As Explanation testifies to a shift in position over the value of Stein’s work and worth.

No.4 RITUAL and DEEP RHYTHM concerns the different ways each writer draws upon forms and myths from the ancient and matriarchal worlds. The work of Gloria Feman Orenstein on Stein’s use of the Seder ritual and Jewish iconography sits here with Woolf’s involvement with the work and ideas of Jane Ellen Harrison. As with all the Conversations, this theme shows how there can be deep points of connection between these two women artists if certain doors are opened.

The invitation to the opening encouraged costumes inspired by the 1920s, particularly Paris in the Twenties. Wanda Corn dressed and spoke as Gertrude Stein. Hans Gallas dressed as Pablo Picasso. Professor Corn’s students came in an array of flapper, Hemingway and Salvador Dali costumes. An honored guest was Gertrude’s nephew Julian Stein.

The S.R. Poet was pleased to meet cartoonist Tom Hachtman who generously presented her with a copy of his book Gertrude’s follies, an irreverent look at the life and times of Gertrude Stein and her faithful companion, Alice B. Toklas. Hachtman’s cartoons were regularly published in the Soho Weekly News starting in 1978. Some of his work also appears in the Seeing Gertrude Stein exhibition.

What a party! Not only was the food delicious (Alice Toklas would have surely approved) but everyone was willing to talk about Gertrude Stein. How rare is that?

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