Betty Woodman, Who Spun Pottery Into Multimedia Art, Dies at 87

Another work in the retrospective was “Aeolian Pyramid,” which reflects Ms. Woodman’s late-in-life shift to very large installations of ceramics, some of them fused with paintings. “Aeolian,” which comprises 44 pedestal-mounted vase shapes, gradually tiers upward in a dramatic, pyramidal design.

“The composite keeps squeezing out real space, which keeps muscling back in,” the critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote in his review in The New Yorker. “The result is a visual ‘Hallelujah Chorus.’ ”

He added: “At the age of 76, she is beyond original, all the way to sui generis.”

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Ms. Woodman’s “Aeolian Pyramid,” which Peter Schjeldahl called “a visual ‘Hallelujah Chorus’” in his review in The New Yorker.


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Salon 94

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“The Ming Sisters” is a triptych of cylindrical vases that features paintings of Asian women in gowns on one side and paintings of vases on the other.

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Salon 94

Using clay as her primary medium, Ms. Woodman’s vividly colored ceramics drew on innumerable influences, including Greek and Etruscan sculpture, Italian Baroque architecture, Tang dynasty glaze techniques, Egyptian art and Islamic tiles.

They also evoked paintings by Picasso, Bonnard and Matisse. “You should be able to think of Matisse,” she told the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail in 2011, “but hopefully you don’t stop there; you realize that it makes a reference, but it goes beyond.”

Ms. Woodman — usually attired in a kerchief, a boldly striped dress and wildly patterned stockings — worked at her potter’s wheels and kilns at her studios in Boulder, Colo., the Chelsea section of Manhattan, and Antella, Italy.

Her husband, George, a painter and photographer, died last March; her son is an electronic artist, and her daughter, Francesca, was a photographer whose erotic and melancholy pictures won her acclaim before she committed suicide in 1981, when she was 22.

“She just emotionally fell apart,” Ms. Woodman said in Scott Willis’s documentary film “The Woodmans” (2010), which explored George and Betty Woodman’s fierce devotion to art. “I don’t know why. Maybe I’ve been an absolutely horrible mother. I can’t go back and rewrite it, and I don’t really think it’s true.”

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