Loie Fuller – Back to Art Nouveau?
18.09.12 BY Bridget
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You know Art Nouveau? I used to really like it when I was a teenager (my parents are big fans), the rich and delicate curves, lush vegetable asymmetry, and it’s romantic qualities. Then I went to art school and it started seeming increasingly kitsch and irrelevant. Now that I am using a lot of plant forms in my work, and trying to work with forms that seem both familiar (observed or constructed from the natural world) and alien (abstract and fantastical), Art Nouveau seems strangely relevant again. Only now I am looking at it from the other end of the telescope.

Lately I have been watching a lot of early films from the 1890s- 1900s, and discovered films of the Serpentine and Flame dances made famous by Loie Fuller and represented in many Art Nouveau statuettes.

Dansa Serpentina 1900

Shown in this (link above) early hand coloured film, a Serpentine dance of a similar type to that which Loie Fuller was famous for, performed by unknown dancer (not Loie Fuller, possibly called Annabelle).  Loie Fuller refused to be filmed, but there are some beautiful photographs of her in the Metropolitan museum of art collection, and of course many sculptures and paintings of her. 

Loie Fuller dancing from the Metropolitan Museum of Art collection.
Gelatin silver print by Samuel Joshua Beckett (English, 1870–1940)

I love the alien ‘blob’ asymmetry  of the shapes formed through this movement, and the way the cloth abstracts the body. Fuller often performed at the Folies Bergere, and was meticulous about lighting her performances. The rainbow light transitions shown in the above film reproduce the washes of changing colour she orchestrated for her performances. 

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