Art of the Month Club: Jane Hudson
The Art of the Month Club is a regular feature on the WCMA blog. Each month we invite someone special to write about a work from our collection. We enjoy engaging with a variety of people through this feature. Find your own favorite WCMA artwork by searching our collection database. You never know, we may invite you to be the next Art of the Month Clubmember. Today, please welcome, Jane Hudson, artist and co-owner of Hudsons art, antiques, and collectibles shop in North Adams. Hudsonsart.com. Officialjeffandjane.com.
Électricité (from “Électricité: Dix Rayogrammes”), Man Ray, 1931
I first encountered Man Ray’s work in a museum in Germany back in the 70s when I was beginning my work in video. I was knocked out by the daring and the beauty of his radical imaging. This was Fine Art made of technology. I was able to envision a process in my young medium that might bring an aesthetic substance to its raw energy.
For years thereafter I worked in the burgeoning electronic medium, both as a teacher and a producer of Video Art. I was brought into intimate connection with machine design and function and the evolving image it rendered. What was crude in the beginning (gray and white, grainy and raw, held on reel to reel tape) has become the elegant and seamless moving image of the cell phone as well as the big screen. What was once seen as the promise of electronic technology is now but one of the digital imaging vocabulary. My husband and I both use iPads, I have the latest iPhone, and he has just entered the world of the Galaxy Note!
Marshall McLuhan was to say decades after this composition was created that ‘the medium is the message.’ The body dynamic infused with the dynamic of universal power. Whether for art or commerce, the use of technological devices in essence promoted the ubiquity of technological tropes. Electricite, made as advertising to promote the use of electricity in Paris, (Published by Compagnie Parisienne de Distribution de l’Elétricité, Paris, 1931) uses the image of the female body (Ray’s friend Lee Miller) combined with applied light to evoke a sexual energy to the new technology. We certainly can see this technique applied in advertising to this day! All this is to say that in Man Ray’s image of the female body struck across by electrical waves we see an imagined promise of the young media of photography and electricity.
As Man Ray’s friend Marcel Duchamp once said, “It was his achievement to treat the camera as he treated the paint brush, as a mere instrument at the service of the mind.”
Image credit: Man Ray (American, 1890-1976), Électricité (from “Électricité: Dix Rayogrammes“), 1931, photogravure. Museum purchase. (92.18.A). Copy Right Holder: Artists Rights Society (ARS).