Harlequins, Masks, Musketeers & Brazilian Un-hirsute PrimitivismThursday, November 12, 2009
Association takes one on strange paths. That latest path began this afternoon when I was on my way to pick up Rosemary from her physiotherapy (for her mending broken ankle) at the Vancouver General Hospital. Radio 1, CBC was running a story on the Jonestown Massacre of November 18, 1978. I was listening to the events that led to the shooting of US Congressman Leo Ryan and five others on the tarmac of the Port Kaituma airstrip. I was so distracted I kept driving for a few more blocks on 12th Avenue before I realized my mistake. I was never really able to ask my friend, photographer and model Nina Gouveia about it. She was born in Georgetown, British Guiana (now Guyana). She is the only person, besides my life insurance agent, Winston Miller that I know that came from that remote little country in the bulge of South America.
Africa, via Haiti, not Guiana was on my mind most of the morning. Rosemary and I had caught, the night before, a wonderful documentary/trailer on the 1967 Peter Grenville film, The Comedians, based on the previous year’s novel by the same name written by Graham Greene. The novel was set in Haiti under the scary rule of François “Papa Doc” Duvalier and his secret police the Tonton Macoute. The film features Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Alec Guinness, Lillian Gish, Peter Ustinov and the very funny man (playing a very serious part) Paul Ford whom I remembered as the officer Sergeant Bilko (the Phil Silvers Show) bullied and mentally (and sometimes physically) ran over with his constant schemes.
The wonderful trailer was narrated by a youthful Richard Burton with running comments by Alec Guiness, Lilian Gish and Peter Glenville. Burton explained that by the time the film was being made the sitution in Haiti had so deteriorated that they had to look for another location. That location was the former West African French colony called by then The Republic of Dahomey and is now the Republic of Benin. They imported voodoo experts from Haiti to make sure everything looked authentic. While watching all this I thought of Picasso’s African Period (1907- 1909 which came after his Harlequin Period which had ended with his Le Mort d'Arlequin in 1905) and how it had inspired other artists to pursue African masks and Primitivism. Among the artists was Man Ray.
The first painting that Picasso had finished that was attributed to his new interest was his Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. The title can be misleading as d’Avignon was the most famous street in Picasso’s Barcelona as it was the location of a famous brothel. The two “professionals" on the right seem to be wearing masks or perhaps they were a preview of Picasso’s journey towards Cubism.
By the time I brought Rosemary home I was determined to find a negative of a handsome black male dancer I had photographed for the Straight who had brought the concept of African primitivism to his choreography. I could not remember his name. But I got lucky. On the pile of stuff (which I have been clearing now for three days) next to the left of my scanner and on the floor I found a copy of the Georgia Straight.
It featured a picture that I had taken of dancer Cori Caulfield (in a most primitive pose of Eve biting on that apple) for the September 6-13, 2001 issue. This was the only real nude of mine that the Straight ever published.I convinced them that the crotch shadow was indeed a shadow as Caulfield at the time was under the influence of Brazilian un-hirsute primitivism. On another page I found my African (but Jamacan born) Ran Hyman. I ran to my dancer files and looked under H. There was nothing! He was filed under Ran.
I enclose here a picture of Guayanan (Guianan?) Nina Gouveia, that many of you have seen here. It is here for one reason. Just check out that skull. It is the same one. It was owned by my Argentine friends and Nora Patrich and Juan Manuel Sanchez. I never got to ask them how they had managed to buy that Picasso from his Musketeer period.