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Archive for the 'Inspiring Women' Category

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Dorothy Bohm

Due to the newly opened exhibition Women in Focus: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm, I went to an event organised by The Museum of London featuring the British photographer Dorothy Bohm talking about her life and career in company with her daughter, art historian Monica Bohm-Duchen.

Dorothy Bohm, 18 years old.

Dorothy Bohm was born in 1924 in East Prussia. She moved to England in 1939 as her father was able to send her to a boarding school, allowing her to escape from the Nazis. She graduated from Manchester College of Technology where she studied photography and met her future husband. The main reason to study photography was not because she hoped to become an artist, but simply because she wanted something she could make a decent living from. After graduating she got a job in a portrait studio in Manchester, developing her reputation as a portrait photographer and four years later, in 1946, she decided to set up her own portrait studio in Manchester.

A portrait taken by Dorothy Bohm

Portraits by Dorothy Bohm

Dorothy’s portrait studio secured her a stable income which made her able to support her husband’s final years of study, and after he graduated he got a job in a petrochemical company that obliged him to move around the world. They travelled all over the world together, and have lived in both Paris, New York and San Francisco. In the late 1950s, Dorothy decided to abandon studio portraiture in favour of “street photography” and she sold her studio in Manchester.

Israel 1956, by Dorothy Bohm

Brussels, Belgium 1949, by Dorothy Bohm

Stockholm, Sweden 1967, by Dorothy Bohm

South Africa 1974, by Dorothy Bohm

This was the first time she was “free” to take photographs solely with an artistic purpose. Her photographs were mainly shot in black and white, but in 1980 she was persuaded by the fellow photographer André Kertész to experiment with colour, which she did for a few years, and from 1985 she worked exclusively in colour film.

Provence, France 1992, by Dorothy Bohm

Venice 1987, by Dorothy Bohm

London 1990s, by Dorothy Bohm

Paris 1988, by Dorothy Bohm

Today, Dorothy’s work has been shown in numerous exhibitions, both in the UK and abroad. Fourteen books of her work have been published and she is still photographing. It is her way of collecting memories.

“I have spent my lifetime taking photographs. The photograph fulfils my deep need to stop things from disappearing. It makes transience less painful and retains some of the special magic, which I have looked for and found. I have tried to create order out of chaos, to find stability in flux and beauty in the most unlikely places.”

— Dorothy Bohm

See Dorothy talking about her career in this video made by The Tate Gallery:

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Annemarie Schwarzenbach

Annemarie Schwarzenbach was a Swiss writer, journalist, photographer and traveler. She first wanted to be a general, then a pianist and a dancer but ended up with a doctorate in history at Zurich University, and published her first novel aged 23. She had a troubled relationship with her mother, whom apparently brought her up as a boy and as a child prodigy. She began to dress and act like a boy from an early age, and throughout her life she was often mistaken for a young man.

Her androgynous beauty attracted and fascinated both men and women, and I’m sure she still inspires today, when looking at some of the photos Marianne Breslauer took of her.

She was neither a man nor a woman, but an angel, an archangel.

— Marianne Breslauer

She travelled extensively, and within ten years she produced more than 300 articles and 5,000 photographs from her journeys across Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Africa. The photographer Marianne Breslauer who was a close friend of Annemarie’s has taken some of the most striking images of Annemarie while they were travelling together.

Annemarie’s relationship with her mother was a difficult one. Renée Schwarzenbach was a domineering personality, who ruled the household with a rod of iron. She also had affairs with women, which her husband tolerated. Annemarie was vehemently anti-Nazi whereas her family, and mother especially, sympathised with the regime.

Annemarie always lived a dangerous life with drugs and alcohol and died tragically attempting a “hands free” bicycle manoeuvre, but fell and hit her head and died nine weeks later. She was just 34 years old. After her death, her mother destroyed some of her archives, but Annemarie’s work was rediscovered in 1987.

“You can read her life like a novel, but no editor would publish it, they would say ‘oh it’s too much, give me a break’, but this is not the case, it’s all true,”

— Alexis Schwarzenbach, great nephew

Rosa Luxemburg

Berlin’s Talking Streets

The staircase leading up from the U-bahnhof station opens out onto a square shrouded in remnants of a pre-war Golden Age in Germany.  Away from the nearby streaming traffic, scantily strewn pockets such as Rosa Luxemburg-Platz offer spacial respite from the scale implemented in much of the rest of East Berlin. Walking amidst this strange copulation of time and space something of the historical poignancy comes into force. Aptly named, this square and the buildings that flank it are witness to the protests of political activists, and their murders, two earth-shattering world wars and forty years of division behind a wall.

Two great feats of twentieth century architecture stand on either side of the square. On one side is Hans Poelzig’s Kino Babylon, built in 1929, is one of the oldest cinemas in Germany. Its curved façade, mimicked in the door frames, steps and circle stalls of the interior, is a symbol of the Golden Age, the era of kino (movie theatre), ballrooms, cabaret and jazz.

On the other is Oskar Kaufmann’s Volksbühne (‘Peoples’ Theatre’) built between 1913 and 1914. Its empowering modernist grandeur reflects the political strife that was brewing in the years of its erection. History is frozen into the blocks that have built this square; activists rallying against German Nationalism’s vision of a new Germany, murder in the name of Communism, not to mention its three name changes over the course of half a century.

Berlin’s streets are a palimpsest of the last hundred years, its squares and street-names hold onto history as it propels forward in the present age. It’s current name, unchanged since 1969, after the political activist, feminist and writer, Rosa Luxemburg, is a signal of exactly that.

Rosa Luxemburg, a Marxist martyr, was a twentieth century visionary whose skill for rhetoric made her a leader of liberal democracy. A prominent leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany she fought the fateful Nationalism of what was to later become the Nazi party and as a result lost her life. Shortly before her death, whilst rallying protesters she poignantly cried, “It’s either transition into socialism or regression into barbarism!”

Rosa Luxemburg-Platz, in the heart of Mitte, is a symbol of what has risen from the ashes of a city once torn apart. Now stands a gallery, a Peoples’ theatre, an art house cinema, record shops and numerous bars, here we can see a city embracing the future without forgetting its past.

The importance of being a (Surrealist) muse

Here’s a guest post by Livia Satriano. She is a lovely Italian Media Graduate based in Milan. She works as a freelance writer and researcher, mainly writing about music, art and culture. She wrote her first book “No Wave” about the New York underground music and art scene of the late Seventies, which was published in Italian recently. She is also the editor of Assez Vu – a blog celebrating odd and inspiring pictures from the past. The name “Assez Vu” means ”I’ve seen enough” and it is taken from a poem (“Départ”) by Rimbaud whom Livia is massive fan of. She thought it would be the perfect name and inspiration for her visual blog of “gems” from the past, to say that there’s still so much that we have to see and discover before we can say we’ve seen enough.

Photo of Livia Satriano

The importance of being a (surrealist) muse

Forget the femme fatale of the “Belle Époque”, the woman who made Surrealist hearts beat fast was more of a childlike woman, she was emotive, intuitive, irrational — all the perfect characteristics to take inspiration from as an artist. And what is a muse if not an inspirer?

But never think of the Surrealist muse as the “average” muse, Surrealist women were different and unpredictable in some way. They weren’t Botticelli blonde goddesses, Gauguin exotic beauties or just pretty girls to look at. They were instead proud, independent women who knew what’s what. They could easily switch from being the inspiration for a painting or a poem to being personally involved in artistic expressions. Both object and subject, child and mother, feminine and masculine — The Surrealist muse was the first modern woman.


Nusch Éluard
The sentiments apparent / The lightness of approach / The tresses of caresses.
— Nusch, by Paul Éluard.

Nusch Eluard by Man Ray

Nusch Eluard by Man Ray, 1928

Maria Benz’s first job in Paris was as a “hypnotist’s helper” but soon she met the surrealist poet Paul Éluard whom she married in 1934. Since then this lovely, ethereal girl became the muse of many artists, from Man Ray to Picasso and a favourite inspiration for her husband’s work. She also loved making collages herself at night, while struggling with insomnia.

Some of Nusch’s collages


Méret Oppenheim

Who covers a soup spoon with luxurious fur? Little Meret. Who has outgrown us? Little Meret
— Max Ernst

Meret Oppenheim by Man Ray, 1932

fur-covered tea cup by Méret Oppenheim

She was by all means a Surrealist artist. Her bizarre objects/creations – like the fur-covered tea cup or the fur gloves with polished fingernails – were way ahead of their time. But she was also a beautiful and intriguing woman who posed for Man Ray several times.

Poison by Man Ray featuring Méret Oppenheim:
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Suzanne Muzard

Beauty will be convulsive or will not be at all
— Nadja, 1928, by André Breton

Photo of Suzanne Muzard & André Breton

Photography album with Suzanne Muzard by André Breton

André Breton, Paul Éluard & Suzanne Muzard, Untitled 1931

Suzanne was a former prostitute who won the heart of the father of Surrealism. Breton’s masterpiece “Nadja” is said to be dedicated to her but at that time she was still “the young wife” of writer Emmanuel Berl. Muzard and Breton had an intense relationship, she being his muse, but sometimes also a partner in art-making.


Lee Miller

I would rather take a picture than be one
— Elizabeth “Lee” Miller, 1932

Portrait of Lee Miller, by Man Ray ca. 1929

London, 1941 by Lee Miller

One of the most beautiful woman of her generation, Lee graced the covers of fashion magazines such as Vogue but was also, and above all, a talented photojournalist. She had a special photography teacher, Man Ray, of whom she soon became lover and main inspiration.

A clip from ‘Le Sang d’un Poete’ by Jean Cocteau:
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Dorothea Tanning

My work is about leaving the door open to the imagination
— Dorothea Tanning

Can two artists have a long happy life together? This is what happened to Surrealists Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning. They had never been apart since Max Ernst’s first visit in her New York studio in 1942. The legend says a chess game was all it took for them to fall in love! She, “the oldest living surrealist”, passed away early this year at the age of 101.

Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst

Dorothea Tanning & Max Ernst

Inspired by Marina Abramović

Marina Abramović. Portrait with Flowers. 2009. Photo by Marco Anelli.

Over the last four decades, Marina Abramović (aka the “grandmother of performance art”) has developed a significant body of work that is both traumatic and inspirational. Abramović is widely known for the sadistic acts committed against her own self in the pursuit of artistic goals, which she justifies as a staging of fears in order to transcend them. She has screamed until she lost her voice, brushed her hair until her scalp bled, passed breaths back and forth with her partner until they both passed out, cut pentagrams onto her stomach, lied naked on a cross made of ice, hurled her body into solid walls, whipped herself, burned herself, and even induced a catatonic state after swallowing anti-psychotic drugs.

The performance “Art must be beautiful”, By Marina Abramović, 1975
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Marina Abramović, Portrait With Scorpion (Open Eyes) (2005)

In 2010 the Museum of Modern Art in New York organized a retrospective – the first such honor bestowed on a performance artist – in which Abramović presented a new piece that was something of a departure from her previous work. There was no evidence of knives or whips or flames in “The Artist is Present,” in fact, there was nothing violent or explicitly abusive about this work at all. What it entailed was Abramović (“The Artist”) sitting in a chair in the museum’s atrium for seven hours a day, six days a week, over the course of three months, which was the entirety of the show’s run. Members of the public were then invited to sit in a chair placed opposite her for as long as they desired. It was an historic event; people came in throngs, queuing for hours and some even camping overnight outside the museum doors for a chance to participate in this work. Abramović, all the while, sat perfectly silent and virtually immobile – unflinchingly focused and fixated on whoever was in front of her.

Marina Abramovic performing “The Artist is Present”, MoMA, New York 2010.

No longer pushing her body to the most extreme physical limits for the purpose of transcendence – although to describe the experience of sitting inert in a wooden chair for what amounted to about 700 hours over the course of 75 days as an entirely pain free endeavor would be simply untrue – this work involved a stripping away of all the objects, belongings, and identities that we hide behind, leaving nothing but a fully “present” being. By emptying herself of these gimmicks and bringing her attention to the moment, Abramović was laying bare a raw consciousness left entirely vulnerable to external vicissitudes. Museums are funny places when it comes to human behavior, they are spaces in which people conform and become (sometimes uncharacteristically) reverential about art. But what I saw that day in the MoMA were individuals who were engaging with this work on a truly deep and intense level – there was laughter, there was scowling, there were shy smiles and there were unabashed tears – not just in the eyes of the viewers but also in those of the ever stoic Abramović. Witnessing the fluctuations of emotion that resonated within her body spoke directly to me as a woman, especially within this specific context that seemed to ascribe to the myth of solitary perfection. In our postfeminist society women are living under an impossible combination of expectations by attempting to have the ephemeral “all” while maintaining some sublime level of independence. Yet here was Abramović, who herself had become something of a mythical superstar – a factor not lost on me or on anyone else, exposing her own moments of self-doubt, to an aura-deflating effect.

Marina Abramović, Self-Portrait with maracas, 2006

We all have our own coping mechanisms but it is empowering to be reminded that faltering from the paths of perfection imposed on us is not a demonstration of weakness but a very human reality inherent to the contemporary condition of women – even women who are superstars.

If you want to know more, HBO recently did a documentary about Marina Abramović and her work.

Colette Saint Yves’ Eden

Colette Saint Yves is the nickname that the French artist Hortense Lagrange took as a tribute to the French novelist Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette after reading her book Sido. Colette Saint Yves was born in 1987 in France, and she works with collage, photography and video.

I’m really impressed by much of her art, but I want to show you a photography series of hers, which I find beautiful and intriguing. All the photos have been taken outside, in nature and the female person portrayed in them, is either partly or completely nude and you never see her face, which makes her seem fragile and mysterious. The title of the work is “L’éden” (the Eden), which must refer to the biblical story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. The only difference is that this time it is only a story about Eve. I hope you like it!

See more of her work here.

Francesca Woodman

Her story is very sad, but the work she created before her suicide at the age of only 22, is astonishing. Francesca Woodman was born in 1958 in Denver, Colorado. Her parents are the well-known artists George Woodman and Betty Woodman.

Here is Francesca Woodman with her father George Woodman

After researching her work, it seems most of the black and white photographs she took, was of herself or other women, often posing nude.

What I especially love about her photos, is that the bodies are blurry (due to movement and long exposure times). It gives the figures a kind of ghostlike feeling, because what is in focus is the background or the objects in the scene, not them, yet you immediately turn your eyes to them. It seems like they are almost trying to hide themselves away from the world, or maybe they have never actually been there. Knowing Francesca’s tragical short lifestory, you can get a feeling that this was exactly how she felt herself. Nontheless, the photographs are great artworks, and they make me think about how fleeting life can be.

In 2010, Scott Willis created a film titled “The Woodmans” about “The story of a family that suffers a tragedy, but perseveres and finds redemption through each other and their work – making art.” Watch the trailer here: YouTube Preview Image

New, old posts

Since it’s been 4 years since I started Wunderbuzz, I thought I would give you the change to dig into the old archive, by choosing some of my favourite old posts.

Women by photographers
Woman are beautiful
Women of the world
Celebration of the female body
Naked women
Inspiring women
Sally Mann
Stevie Nicks
Edith Sitwell
Visual inspiration 
I’m a story teller

Madge Gill

I’m reading about “Outsider Art” at the moment, and this led me to Madge Gill. She lived in a children’s home until she was nineteen, and then with her aunt who introduced her to spiritual séances. She was married as twenty-three and had three sons, the second of whom, died of influenza in 1918. After losing an eye and almost dying while giving birth to a stillborn daughter, Gill began to paint and draw.

She usually worked in bed by oil lamp; sometimes she painted in complete darkness. Gill consistently depicted the female form, often set against abstract, architectural lines, crosses and zigzags. The name MYRNINTEREST often appears in her pictures, which might mean ‘mine innerest self’. Her son claimed that she believed her work was guided by a spirit, although she denied this in public.

Around 1935 she began weekly séances and first showed her work at the East End Academy. By the time she died Gill had hundreds of drawings piled in her wardrobe and underneath her bed. Her work gained recognition at the Hayward Gallery’s Outsider show in 1979.

Theda Bara

Theda Bara was an American silent film actress – one of the most popular of her era, and one of cinema’s earliest sex symbols. Her femme fatale roles earned her the nickname “The Vamp”. The term “vamp” soon became a popular slang term for a sexually predatory woman.