The Baroness Elsa von Freytag Lorignhoven (1874-1927) was a gender-bending, poetess, artist and fashionista, creating costumes from found objects including birdcages for hats, postage stamps for beauty marks, spoons for earrings and soup cans for a brassiere. In recreating scenes from her life I try to rekindle her triumphant spirit of “non-aquiesence” and revel in her commitment to art at all costs.
One of her favorite pastimes was to bring her art to the people by reading her poetry to sailors in the bars, a place women did not go to alone in 1915, unless you were a prostitute or the Baroness.
As she says of herself she was "Sexually Modern," rebellious and entirely dedicated to the world of art and ideas. She collaborated with the likes of Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp in a kind of love triangle and posed for the painters Theresa Berstein and George Biddle. She was written about by both Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams who said he drank “pure water from her spirit.” The photographer Bernice Abbott said of her “The Baroness was like Jesus Christ and Shakespeare all rolled into one."
Elsa's defiance in the wake of extreme hostility for being a woman, an artist, a rebel, and a German ex-patriot during WWI, her insistence on making art in the face of such hardship, is fascinating to me. She is as relevant now as she was in 1915 and her work continues to influence
artists, writers and thinkers. “The Baroness seems vivid today because of the interest in gender play and "acting out" in the '90s art world, as though she were a very distant great-aunt of feminist performance art. But she remains an irrecuperable figure, faint and weird, like
much of the Dada spirit itself.” - ROBERT HUGHES, Days of Antic Weirdness.
In recreating scenes from her life I aim to rekindle her triumphant spirit of rebellion and her commitment to the creation of art.