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Beatrice Wood

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Beatrice Wood

Beatrice Wood (March 3, 1893March 12, 1998) was an American artist and ceramist, known as the "Mama of Dada".

Beatrice Wood was born in San Francisco, California, the daughter of wealthy socialites.

Despite her environment and her parents' strong opposition, she rebelliously insisted on pursuing a career in the arts. Eventually her parents agreed to let her study painting and because she was fluent in French, they sent her to the prestigious Académie Julian in Paris, France.

The onset of World War I forced her to return to the United States where she soon became part of a French Repertory Company in New York City that led to her involvement with a group of individuals who had a profound effect on her and on the artistic community. As one of the principal members of the renegade Dada movement, she helped introduce America to the unique art from the community at Montparnasse in France. Joining with Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché, in the 1910s they founded Blind Man, a magazine that was one of the earliest manifestations of the Dada art movement in New York City. Henri Pierre Roché's book Jules and Jim is based on the relationship between Duchamp, Wood, and himself.

With the celebrated Duchamp, she was introduced to the art patrons Walter and Louise Arensberg who held regular gatherings in which artists, writers, and poets were invited for intellectual discussion. Besides herself, Duchamp, and Roché, the group included Man Ray and Francis Picabia. Beatrice Wood's relationship with them and others associated with the avant-garde movement of the early 20th century, earned her the designation "Mama of Dada."

Nearly at age 40, Beatrice Wood developed her interest in pottery (which began when, at 13 years old, her mother sent her to a weight management summer camp), ultimately creating her own version of the luster-glaze technique, that proved successful.

A member of the Theosophical Society - Adyar since 1923, she moved to Ojai, California in 1948 to be near the Indian sage J. Krishnamurti.

In her studio there, she initially made commercial products to earn a living but eventually she was successful enough to concentrate exclusively on more specialized vases and chalices.

In 1994, the Smithsonian Institution named Wood an "Esteemed American Artist".

A friend of James Cameron, she was the director's inspiration for the 101-year-old character of "Rose" in his motion picture Titanic. She made her last public appearance during the premiere of this film.

A film, Beatrice Wood: Mama of Dada, was made on the occasion of the artist's 100th birthday. Ever the comedienne, when asked the secret to her incredible longevity, she would respond, "I owe it all to chocolate and young men".

In 1985 her autobiography was published under the title I Shock Myself.

Beatrice Wood died nine days after her 105th birthday in Ojai, California. The Beatrice Wood Studio is maintained by The Happy Valley Foundation in Ojai.

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