…or actually Joan’s.
I’d been tossing around the concept of this blog for a few weeks when I sat down yesterday morning with coffee and a copy of the June 2010 Smithsonian. New Yorker dance critic Joan Acocella contributed a great profile about Barbara Morgan which explores the photographer behind the iconic image of Martha Graham dancing in Letter to the World. The picture is also called The Kick… you can look at it in the Smithsonian article but you’ve likely seen it many times. It was used as part of the design for the commemorative stamp in honor of Graham and probably in every high school history text book that bothers to mention American art in the twentieth century.
The great writing of the article hints at a brilliant, temperamental artist unafraid to bend others to her will for the sake of art. She labored alongside luminaries like Graham and Georgia O’Keefe but her life and work remain in the shadows. I wondered why, and I wanted to do something about it.
A web search yielded very little, though apparently if you name your daughter Barbara Morgan, she’s going to do something interesting because I also learned about an astronaut and a country music songwriter. A visit to my local library also turned up a civil rights leader by the same name, but no biography about the woman who co-founded Aperture magazine.
I did find a Wikipedia biography that cites actual books but omits the fact that she and her husband had at least one child, a fact I gleaned from their grandson’s gift of some of her work to UMassAmherst. Kendra Greene has written a nice summary of Morgan’s accomplishments that museums and galleries apparently use freely.
All that is lovely, but I wonder what it was like dragging around a Leica in the thirties and forties… and what she would think of our digital world. I’m hoping to visit the Library of Congress and read some of what Morgan herself wrote in Aperture and for her various books. I’ll keep you posted…