The Naughtiest Snake in the Woods KSR

Beatrice Wood’s life was extraordinary in every way.  She was a charismatic artist who died at the age of 105, which was extraordinary in itself.  I only met her twice both times in her home in Ojai, Ca., and was hooked on her whimsical, sometimes naughty clay sculptures.  More than that, I was hooked on her!  She was about 100 at the time we discovered her home/studio in the hills of beautiful bucolic Ojai, a charming town above Santa Barbara, which we had always loved.  As a fellow sculptor and lover of clay, I had long been familiar with her work, and her life story.  She had appeared both in newspapers and on TV, so when she suddenly appeared around a corner, she was not a visual surprise.

A tiny, spry and witty little lady, she was like a barefoot hummingbird, draped in colorful sari, and loaded with Indian turquoise and silver jewelry.  I had been a lover and collector of Indian jewelry since my time of living with the Southwest Indians.  Her masses of long grey hair were held in check with more silver, and large Indian earrings bounced from her ears as she pounced about the gallery describing each of her sculptures, and the reason behind the creation of each one.  Her general factotum,  was a small Indian man, who had answered the door at our knock, and introduced himself as her “miserable and humble servant,” though I am sure he was more than that!  I suspected perhaps even a sometime lover!  She had lived for a time in India and adopted the colorful sari as her day-to-day garb forever after.  I believe her connection to India was to be lifelong.

She was rebellious, radical and romantic, and determined to be an artist, so she fled to Paris in the 20’s for several Bohemian seasons as a painter and actress, where she fell into the loving clutches of two Frenchmen: Henri-Pierre Roche, the author of Jules and Jim, and Marcel Duchamp, the iconoclastic Dadaist, who cemented his artistic fame by entering a men’s urinal upside down in an art exhibit to thumb his nose at the current darlings of the art world.   Both men would break her heart, as would a future husband, giving the subject line for many of her subsequent sculptures and paintings.   She took up pottery in her 40’s in So. California and her glazed pots and crudely-made sculptures are intriquing, as is her wonderful transluscent glaze.   I did a series of small pieces using her method, and found they were fun and exciting and immediate        One of our favorite Beatrice sculptures is that of a bordello with all the ladies screaming out the windows as a fire burns brightly around them.  In the rear, men are rapidly scrambling to escape, with the names of the mayor, the police chief, etc. inscribed on the building. Her humor was bawdy, funny, and left no doubt that the broken heart of her youth was being healed with “spit-in-your-eye” jesting. Her white German Shepherd dog was named “Roche” as a salute to one of her earlier romances. James Cameron of “Titanic” fame, fashioned the role of the adventurous 101-year old Rose after Beatrice Woods. When asked to what she attributed her longevity, her stock answer was always “A piece of chocolate every day, and I like young men”!

“Out of the Woods” KSR


A friend and neighbor is leaving next week on a 3 week trip to Eastern Europe.  She is a recently retired high school physics teacher  and ruled her classroom with an iron hand for over 50 years!  No, that isn’t a missprint,; she is 88 years old. and even took time out to have children,  be somewhat of a community activist, and build a summer home at Lake Tahoe just a few years ago.

She is an adventurous sort, and on a recent trip to Costa Rica, she sampled zip-lining!  I wasn’t really sure just exactly what that was, but she assured me that it was great fun.

During a recent conversation comparing adventures, I mentioned a camel ride I had in Morocco a few years ago.  After All the beasts lay down in the sand, I climbed aboard a smelly, somewhat ragged pile of woven blankets strapped atop his back (I assumed it was a he), and ensconced myself into what surely was the mother of all flea incubators, all of whom were happy to know that we would be traveling companions for the day.  After giving me a malicious snarl, he reluctantly struggled to his feet, and at a given signal from the handler, they all lumbered off.

My friend then recounted her ride upon an elephant complete with houdah and mahout to smoothly guide them through a small forest of trees which were constantly sampled by her conveyance.  Certainly topped my camel ride story by a few feet!

How wonderful to sit so far off terra firma and be brushed by passing trees.  Surely it would give a voyeur a revealing look at the intimate life of treetop birds and animals.  I wondered how it would seem to the king of the early morning alarm clocks to sit and crow about it afterward.  So the rooster crowning the houdah was born!

As I wish my friend a good and safe journey, I am curious as to what her great adventure will be this trip, for she is surely not your average chicken, and if there is an adventure to be found it will  find her!