Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Celebrate Grandma Moses

Grandma Moses–Artist
She did not begin painting until she was 77, and then only because arthritis made needlework too uncomfortable. Her family never quite took her seriously as an artist, nor understood why her stick fingers and colors were prized by collectors around the world.  Upon her death, a German collector explained the appeal of her paintings:
“There emanates from her paintings a light-hearted optimism; the world she shows us is beautiful and it is good. You feel at home in all these pictures, and you know their meaning. The unrest and the neurotic insecurity of the present day make us inclined to enjoy the simple and affirmative outlook of Grandma Moses.”
Today, Grandma Moses is remembered as the foremost American primitive painter of the 20th century.
Anna Mary Robertson was born in Greenwich, New York in 1860.  At age 27, she married Thomas Salmon Moses.  Returning from their wedding trip to North Carolina, they bought land in Virginia and remained there for twenty years.  They had ten children, five of whom died in infancy. They returned to New York with their five surviving children and settled in Eagle Bridge, where Thomas Moses died in 1927.  Anna continued to run the farm, but had to stop both farm chores and embroidery when she developed arthritis in her hands.
She began painting on old pieces of boards painted white, thinking she was painting only for herself, or perhaps her family.  Two years later, she took some of her paintings to the Women’s Exchange, hoping to barter them. Collector Louis J. Caldor spotted her paintings displayed in the local drug store; he bought as many as he could from the drugstore, then drove to Moses’ home in Eagle Ridge, New York, to but more. He exhibited them at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1939.  In 1940, Moses had her own one-woman show, a critical and commercial success.
Although she never received formal art education, she was awarded honorary doctoral degrees from Russell Sage College and the Moore Institute of Art, Science and Industry.  She was honored by Governor Rockefeller, who named her 100th and 101st birthdays statewide Grandma Moses Days.  She was honored by President Truman in 1949 and appeared on Edward R. Murrow’s “See it Now” in 1955(3).  She continued painting until her death in 1961, producing nearly 1500 paintings.
1: Lunardini, Christine.  “1939: Grandma Moses’ Paintings are Exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art” in What Every American Should Know About Women’s History.  Pp. 256-257.  Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 1997.
2: “Grandma Moses is dead at 101; primitive artist ‘just wore out.’ ” The New York Times. 12/14/1961.
3: “Grandma Moses in the 21st Century.” 2001.
Grandma Moses photo source; “A Country Wedding” source
To learn more:
The Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont, owns the largest public collection of Grandma Moses’ art.
Kallir, Jane, et. al. Grandma Moses in the 21st Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.
Marling, Karal Ann.  Designs on the Heart: The Homemade Art of Grandma Moses. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006.

The Borghild Project

“The Borghild-project – a discreet matter of the Third Reich”

The world’s first sex doll – or "gynoid" – was built in 1941 by a team of craftsmen from Germany's Hygiene Museum in Dresden. The project was supervised by the famous preparator and technician Franz Tschakert. The ”Father of the Woman of Glass”, which happened to be the sensation in 1930’s Second International Hygiene Exhibit, used his skills and experience to create a kind of doll the world had never seen before.

The ”field-hygienic project” was an initiative of Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler, who regarded the doll as an ” counterbalance” (or regulating effect) for the sexual drive of his storm tropers. In one his letters, dated 20.11.1940 he mentions the ”unnessessarylosses”, the Wehrmacht had suffered in France inflicted by street prostitutes.

”The greatest danger in Paris are the widespread and uncontrolled whores, picking by clients in bars, dancehalls and other places . It is our duty to prevent soldiers from risking their health, just for the sake of a quick adventure.”

The project – called Burghild in the first place – was considered ”Geheime Reichssache” , which was ”more secret than top secret” at the time. Himmler put his commander-in-chief SS-Dr. Joachim Mrurgowsky in charge, the highest ranking officer of Berlins notorious SS-institute.

All members of the team – also Tschakert – were bound to secrecy.

In July 1941, when Hitler’s army attacked Russia, an unknown but ambitious Danish SS-Doctor called Olen Hannussen took over from Mrurgowsky. Perhaps he was the one who changed Burghild to Borghild, which is nothing more than the Danish equivalent.

Hannussen pushed everybody forward to make the project a success. The ”galvonoplastical dolls” – manufactured in a bronze mold – were meant to follow the Storm troopers in ” desinfections-trailers” into the enemy`s land, in order to stop them visiting ”infection herds” - linke front-brothels and ”loose women”. At least, this was Himmler ‘s plan. A psychiatrist Dr. Rudolf Chargeheimer , befriended with Hannussen and also involved in the project, wrote him a letter to clearify the difficulties.

”Sure thing, purpose and goal of the dolls is to relieve our soldiers. They have to fight and not be on the browl or mingle with ”foreign womenfolk”. However: no real men will prefer a doll to a real woman, until our technicians meet the following quality standards-

1. The synthetic flesh has to feel the same like real flesh
2. The doll’ s body should be as agile and moveable as the real body
3. The doll’s organ should feel absolutely realistic.”

Between June 1940 – 1941 IG Farben had already developed a number of ”skin-friendly polymers” for the SS. Special characteristics : high tensile strength and elasticity. The cast of a suitable model proved to be more difficult.

Borghild was meant to reflect the beauty-ideal of the Nazis , i. e. white skin, fair hair and blue eyes. Although the team considered a doll with brown hair , the SS- Hygiene-Institute insisted on manufacturing a ”nordish doll”. Tschakert hoped to plastercast from a living model and a number of famous female athletes were invited to come to his studios, among them Wilhelmina von Bremen and Annette Walter.

In the process Tschakert realized it was the wrong way. In a letter to Mrurgowsky he came to the conclusion: ”Sometimes the legs are too short and look deformed, or the lady has a hollow back and arms like a wrestler. The overall appearance is always dreadful and I fear there is no other way than to combine.” While Mrurgowsky still favoured a ”whole imprint” of NS- diva Kristina Söderbaum, the Borghild-designer decided to build the doll’s mold in a ”modular way”.

Kristina Söderbaum

In Tschakerts view the doll should be nothing more than a” female best form”, a ”perfect automaton of lust”, that would combine ”the best of all possible bodies”. The team agreed on a cheeky and naughty face , a look-a-like of Käthe von Nagy, but the actress politely declined to lend her face to Tschakert’s doll.

Käthe von Nagy

After Mrurgowsky’ s exit , Dr. Hannussen rejected the idea to cast a face from a living person. He believed in an ”artifial face of lust”, which would be more attractive to soldiers.
In his logbook he wrote:

”The doll has only one purpose and she should never become a substitute for the honourable mother at home... When the soldier makes love to Borghild, it has nothing to do with love. Therefore the face of our anthropomorphic sexmachine should be exactly how Weininger described the common wanton’s face.”

Today Arthur Rink, born 1919, a master of art and student of Hitler’s favourite sculptor Arno Breker, is the only living eye-witness of the most discreetly kept project of the Third Reich.

After a short practical training at the renowned "Käthe Kruse” doll plant, he worked since 1937 in Tschakerts studio at the German Hygiene-Museum in Dresden. He joined the Borghild-team as early as 1940: There was on sculptor (rink), a varnisher, a specialist for synthetic materials (Tschakert), a hair-dresser , a lathe operator and - in the beginning- a mechanic from ”Würtemberg’s Metallfabrik” in Friedrichshafen. The first construction-documentshowed that Tschakert had planned to use” a simple aluminium-skelleton”.  But soon he changed his mind and decided to use Elastolin. The synthetic flesh was another problem. Rink:

” The material was not easy to find. Mr. Tschakert, an expert on plastics, had tried several materials based on rubber or butyl-rubber: All came from IG Farben or from the Rheinischen Gummi- und Celluloid Fabrik. One material was called Ipolex, it was extremly tearproof, but it developed yellow spots when cleaned with certain detergents.” 

At this stage Rink gave the doll‘ s torsothe finishing touch, working with plaster and a mixture of ”Schwarzmehl (?) and glue” Under Hannussens strict directions”ten wanton-faces” (Rink) were modelled, and used by Dr. Chargeheimer in psychological tests. Chargeheimer and Hannussen were convinced, Borghild’s success would depend in a major way on her ”facial expression”. Contrary to common believe , that men get only aroused through female sexual characteristics they thought it all would ”depend on the right face”. Rinks plasters were used to produce some model-heads in a showroom-factory in Königsberg. Varnished and hair-dressed they looked a bit like wigholders.

Purpose of this costly exercise was to find out what type of woman the soldiers would really fancy. Or like Chargeheimer wrote to Hannussen – ”the idea of beauty harboured by the SS might not be shared by the majority of our soldiers.” He even considered ”the vulgar could appeal to most ordinary men”. The results of Dr. Chargeheimers tests at the barracks of Soldatenheim St. Helier are not known. Fact is, that at this time, Rink and Tschakert had already finished a complete model of the doll. Arthur Rink made a solemn declaration about what happened next.

”Three types of dolls were planned : Typ A :168, Typ B : 176, Typ C : 182 cm.
Typ B would be the first to go into serial production. The members of the project were divided about Borghild’s breasts. The SS favoured them round and full, Dr. Hannussen insisted on “a rose hip form, that would grip well” and he won the dispute. The first model of Borghild was finsihed in september 1941. She was exactely the “nordish type”.

The idea of our hairdresser to give the doll a “Schneckenfrisur”(earphones of hair) was rejected by Hannussen. He wanted her to have “a boyish hair-do” to underline that Borghild was “part of the fighting forces”– a field-whore and not an honourable Mother.

Borghild’s presentation in Berlin was a great success. Himmler was there and Dr. Chargeheimer. While the gentlemen examined her artificial orfices , Franz Tschakert was very nervous, but Himmler was so enthusiast that he ordered 50 Borghilds on the spot. It was considered to move to a special production facility , because Tschakert’s studio was too small to cope with the production of 50 dolls. In the face of more and more unpleasant developments in the east Himmler dropped his plans one week later and cut instead our budget.

In the beginning of 1942, some weeks after Stalingrad, the whole project was put on hold. All construction-documents had to be returned to the SS-Hygiene-Institute. The bronze-mold for Type B was never finished. I have no clue of whereabouts of the doll, but I presume, that she - like all my plasters and studies - was send to Berlin. If she was kept in Tschakerts studio in Dresden, it is most likely that she was destroyed in Februray 1945, when allied bombers destroyed the city.”

Fact is: the bombs devastated the Hygiene-Museum . Two models of the woman of glass – Taschkert masterpiece were destroyed.

Photo subtitles:
Arthur Rink was kind enough to contribute the only photos left from the Borghild-doll.

“They are small contact-sheets: Facial study no2. Dominant and Body Total, sideways. I found both photos in the bin of the museum‘s laboratory. I have no other pictures, because it was forbidden to take photos.”

Body Total,sideways shows the first Borghild-doll as presented in 1941 to Himmler at the SS-Hygiene-Institute in Berlin. The influence of Rinks teacher Arno Breker is evident. Breker‘s work is a hypertrophy of the natural bodys expression. The doll is aesthetical refined and reduced to a max of sexual appeal. According to Rink the torso was meant to stay “without artificial hair”. It is possible that the reason for that, was a simpleconsideration of the hygienic risks .