Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ruth Bernhard ~ Relationships

Here in Firenze it's almost 9:00 am on 11 Octobre 2009. A quick check of the internet before we go out for our walk netted me the weather (mostly cloudy with a few sprinkles) and some Facebook time. Just for fun I typed in Ruth Bernhard and found that she has a page on Facebook.

Bernhard was a complex person and that complexity was exhibited in her relationships with people as well as her art. Lifting from the Facebook content is this summary of her life. Marriage early on with her women partners would have been impossible. Why she and Price Rice never married is open for discussion.

By the late-1920s, while living in Manhattan, Bernhard was heavily involved in the lesbian sub-culture of the artistic community, becoming friends with photographer Berenice Abbott and her lover, critic Elizabeth McCausland. By 1934 Bernhard was almost exclusively photographing women in the nude.[citation needed] It would be this art form for which she would eventually become best known. ... By 1944 she had met and became involved with artist and designer Eveline (Evelyn) Phimister. The two moved in together, and remained together for the next ten years. They first moved to Carmel, California, where Bernhard worked with Group f/64. Soon, finding Carmel a difficult place in which to earn a living, they moved to Hollywood where she fashioned a career as a commercial photographer. In 1953, they moved to San Francisco.

Ruth Bernhard was full of life and continued to have relationships until her death in 2006. These included Price Rice, an African-American Air Force colonel 10 years her junior, whom she had met when he took one of her classes in the seventies. Price accompanied Bernhard while she taught, lectured and traveled. Bernhard had stopped producing new work because of impaired concentration due to carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a faulty household heater. When Price died in 1999, she began a relationship with the woman photographer Chris Mende. They were together until Bernhard’s death in 2006.

Look carefully at Bernhard's work and you can see the interweaving of those relationships in the fabric of her art. I'm out the door now to catch the light here in Firenze. Ciao.

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