Beatrice Wood was a celebrated artist who was just as well known for her wit and style as she was for the unique luster glazes she created for her ceramics. In addition to being recognized as the “Mama of Dada”, one of the few women credited with pioneering an art movement, she was the inspiration for Rose in James Cameron’s Titanic, and the first woman to attribute her longevity to “chocolate and young men.”
Wood was born into a wealthy San Francisco family in 1893. Despite her parents' strong opposition, Wood insisted on moving to France to study art. Upon her return to the United States, she met and had a relationship with Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché. The three worked together to create The Blind Man, a magazine that was one of the earliest manifestations of the Dada art movement. The first publication was intended to defend the Duchamp’s readymade urinal titled The Fountain that he submitted under the name R. Mutt to the First Exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists in April 1917. In support of the piece, Wood wrote the oft-quoted statement, "As for plumbing, that is absurd. The only works of art America has given are her plumbing and her bridges."
In 1947, Wood moved to Ojai, Ca. While her drawings and sculptures are included in museum collections throughout the world, it was her luster glazed ceramics that she created in her Ojai studio that gained Wood the most recognition. Her friend Anais Nin had once written of her pottery, “Beatrice Wood combines her colors like a painter, makes them vibrate like a musician. They have strength even while iridescent and transparent. They have the rhythm and luster both of jewels and human eyes. Water poured from one of her jars will taste like wine.”
Wood was in her late eighties when her first book, The Angel Who Wore Black Tights, was published. A few years later, her autobiography, I Shock Myself, was published, followed by Pinching Spaniards and 33rd Wife of a Maharajah: A Love Affair in India. There were also books written under the pseudonym of Countess Lola Screwvinsky, allowing Wood to express the mischievous and provocative side of her personality.
Beatrice Wood inspired countless artists and writers with her work. Her relationship with Marcel Duchamp and Henri-Pierre Roché was said to have inspired the latter's book Jules and Jim, which was made into a celebrated French film by director François Truffaut. She was also the subject of films herself, most notably Beatrice Wood: The Mama of Dada, created on the occasion of her 100th birthday.
Beatrice Wood passed away in 1998, at the age of 105. The Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts in Ojai, Ca celebrates the life and work of Beatrice Wood while presenting exhibitions, performances, and educational opportunities.