Book review: Holy skirts: A novel of a flamboyant woman who risked all for art

by kath_red on November 12, 2006

in Books, Historic Craft

by Rene Steinke
Published by Harper books (thanks Jeff from 52Projects)

I was curious about this book, why Jeff sent it to me. I am glad he did because it is an excellent book. A novel about a real life person, Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven, a little known eccentric artist and poet from the dada art movement who cavorted and was friends with DADA artists Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Berenice Abbott.

Definition of DADA:
Dada, or Dadaism, was a cultural movement that involved visual arts, literature (mainly poetry), theatre, and graphic design, and began in neutral Zürich, Switzerland during World War I. … According to its proponents, Dada was not art — it was “anti-art”. Dada sought to fight art with art. … Dada activities included public gatherings, demonstrations, and publication of art/literary journals. The movement was a protest against the barbarism of World War I, the bourgeois interests that Dada adherents believed inspired the war, and what they believed was an oppressive intellectual rigidity in both art and everyday society. Link

This book is a fictional interpretation of the life of Elsa the Baroness, it begins in Europe and travels through her many love affairs and marriages and then moves to New York where the real drama begins. Her health and finances deteorate and she starts to write poetry seriously. Elsa was a truly original charactor, a little bit mad and wonderful, her life and her art merged at this point in her life. She performed her poetry publicly wearing outrageous outfits that nearly got her killed on a more than one occasion. Her incredible outfits were one of the interesting things about her, and this is probably why Jeff sent me the book, she was an original in refashioning her clothing. Some of the creations are fantasically described and really come to life on the pages.

A great read, enlightened me about a person who I had not previously heard about, and has inspired me to get out the scissors and spoons and kewpie dolls and get creative!

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