Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Louise Nevelson ~ Arnold Scaasi, Arnold Newman and Edith Sitwell

If you were friends with Louise Nevelson, you could be fairly certain that any night out with her would include scavenging the streets. Arnold Scaasi, the renowned dress designer who has clothed the very rich and famous, recounts such events in his interviews and books. In his book Women I Have Dressed, he devotes an entire chapter to his client and friend Louise Nevelson. His memories include dining with Nevelson and her companion Diana MacKown at a restaurant near Nevelson's home on Spring Street. While there Nevelson waved to her many Mafia friends, men who made certain she was taken care of in those perilous days of the sixties and seventies near Little Italy. Like with many other dinners and events, including those when they were being driven in Scaasi's car, Nevelson would command that the driver stop the car, she would exit, pick up bits of wood and other detritus. With the help of all of the other occupants including Scaasi and his driver, the bootie would be loaded into the trunk and carried away to Nevelson's Spring Street home.

Scaasi will always remember Nevelson's love of black. In addition to his home on Central Park South, he owned a home in the Hamptons, a natural shingle mansion of sorts. One weekend he invited her and MacKown to spend some time away from the city. Lured by the promise of lobster (she loved that from her days in Maine), she was holding court one afternoon and cheerily proclaimed that Scaasi's house would look ever so much grander if it were painted black. Within the month, Scaasi had implemented that suggestion and became the talk of the neighborhood. He did love his all black mansion though.

Arnold Newman, the world renowned photographer, had a special affection for Louise Nevelson. His photograph of her is on the US Postal Service's stamp honoring her work as a sculptor. The photo on the left was taken at a fundraiser and shows Arnold with Louise's granddaughter Maria Nevelson. Maria is also a sculptor and had met Arnold when she interviewed him about her grandmother. Louise Nevelson's family relations were strained so Newman was able to provide her granddaughter with an insight into her that Maria was unaware of. Especially poignant was Newman's story of the time he photographed Nevelson at the Whitney in 1980. This was the day she learned her brother died. They continued the photo session even though Louise was visibly upset. Maria stated "I had never seen my grandmother cry, always strong and composed." Juxtapose that with "My work is delicate; it may look strong, but it is delicate. True strength is delicate. My whole life is in it...." and you get a clear picture of Louise Nevelson's inner psyche. The photo on the left is of Newman, Maria Nevelson and Newman's photo of Louise Nevelson.

Knowing what someone reads is another insight into their personality. Dame Edith Sitwell was one of Louise Nevelson's favorite poets. Her Fa├žade suite of 1967 was created in homage to Sitwell who died in 1964. It is comprised of twelve prints that involve photography, silkscreen, and collage on paper and acetate sheets, each including a Sitwell poem. To the right is the image that was created for Lullaby for Jumbo below.

Lullaby for Jumbo
Jumbo asleep!
Grey leaves thick-furred
As his ears, keep
Conversations blurred.
Thicker than hide
Is the trumpeting water;
Don Pasquito’s bride
And his youngest daughter
Watch the leaves
Elephantine grey:
What is it grieves
In the torrid day?
Is it the animal
World that snores
Harsh and inimical
In sleepy pores?
And why should the spined flowers
Red as a soldier
Make Don Pasquito
Seem still mouldier?
Dame Edith Sitwell (1887–1964)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

FYI Scaasi's real name is Isaacs.