Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Heart Belongs to Dada: Baroness Elsa von Freytag

I've recently become fascinated by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag, a Dada artist and poet who was a central artistic figure in Greenwich Village, NY during the nineteen-teens and twenties. The Baroness was known as an eccentric performer, and would often don strange costumes made of found objects or household items.

Attracted by the artistic scene, she found some work as a nude model for the Futurist and Expressionist painters, among them Marcel Duchamp, who appreciated her "lean masculine figure and gaunt ravaged face." She composed a poem in his honor, titled, "Marcel, Marcel, I Love You Like Hell, Marcel."

According to her autobiography, most of her art objects were produced out of other people's rubbish: sequins, buttons, bits of cloth, metal, and wood. The Baroness's sculpture also gained notoriety among the New York Dada movement. Even today, her work attracts comment [see this brief biographical source for more on her and her poetry].

A few years ago, Britney Murphy posed for an excellent editorial in the New York Times, posing as the Baroness Elsa Von Freytag...

Assemblage of miscellaneous objects in a wine glass: Configured as a bird of sorts with waxed-on peacock feathers and bristly tail (alluding to Duchamps frequent crossdressing). No longer extant.

Also, check out this recent article on the Baroness in Interview!!


red nails; wrong city said...

this is incredible! i laughed out loud at the title of her poem. what a brilliant character. thank you (and hello!).

michiko said...

You introduced me to yet another great artist(and personality), amazing pics, thank you!

spring said... cool! this looks like a lady who needs to be added to my wall of fame.

ambika said...

I read a very sad fictionalized take on her life called Holy Skirts. I'd actually like to read a nonfiction take on her, too.