March 3, 1893, San Francisco, California
March 12, 1998, Ojai, California
Country of Origin/Citizenship
Kind of Artist/Cultural Worker
Visual Artist (line drawings, mixed media, pottery)
Avant-Garde Movements Associated With
Date & Places of Overlap with Loy
New York City, 1917; Wood was friends with Loy's husband, Arthur Cravan, in New York and worked on The Blind Man, a publication in which Loy published. The Blindman's Ball of 1917 ended with Wood, Loy, Duchamp, and two others sleeping in Duchamp's Bed.
Born into a Victorian family, Beatrice Wood struggled to free herself from her mother’s desire to “turn [her] into a porcelain doll” (Wood). With an early interest in art and an early disdain for her mother’s ideals of femininity, Wood convinced her parents to send her to France to study painting and acting. In New York at the start of the First World War, she became an actress in a French theatre troupe, where she was introduced to the flourishing modern art scene.
Wood became part of the New York Dadaist movement through her friendships and love affairs with both Marcel Duchamp and Henri Pierre-Roche as well as through her frequent presence at the Arensberg salon. As a female artist in the male-centric Dadaist movement, Wood posed a conundrum, resisting the labels of “female muse” and “feminist artist.” Though she insisted that her relationships with Duchamp and Roche were her most important contributions to the movement, Paul Franklin argues that this is simply a Dadaist false naivete on Wood’s part. Perhaps her most famous work recognized as Dada is Un peut d’eau dans du savon, (A Little Water in Some Soap), a drawing of a female torso with the genitals covered by a decorative soap; by Duchamp’s recommendation, she nailed a molded soap directly to the canvas.
Wood moved to Los Angeles in 1928 to rejoin the Arensbergs, and soon after found ceramic arts, the medium that financially and spiritually sustained her in the second half of her life as inspired by a set of lusterware plates she purchased in Amsterdam. In Ojai, she learned ceramic arts and began producing figurines, bowls, chalices, and more. She worked with a number of styles but worked most famously with lusterware, which was considered camp or cheap when she began her work with it (Sorkin). However, she maintained what she called “sophisticated primitive” style as she worked with sex, femininity, and other subjects. She was actively producing work until her death at the age of 105.
Sorkin, Jenni. “Pottery in Drag: Beatrice Wood and Camp.” The Journal of Modern Craft. March 2014. 53-66.
Wood, Beatrice. I Shock Myself. Chronicle Books, 1985.
Wood, Beatrice., et al. Intimate Appeal : the Figurative Art of Beatrice Wood. Oakland Museum, 1989.