One night after – all day I have been intoxicated with the memory of last night and overwhelmed with the beauty and madness of it – I need but to close my eyes and find myself not once more but still near you in that beloved darkness – with the flavor of wine yet on my lips and the impression of your mouth on mine. Oh how wonderful to recall every moment of our frail and precious dreams – and now while I write you – from my still quivering sense rises an ardent desire again to kiss your eyes and mouth – my lips burn and my whole being quivers from the intensity of my desire . . .
Tina Modotti to Edward Weston
Once more I have been reading your letter and as at every other time my eyes are full of tears – I have never realized before that a letter – a mere sheet of paper could be such a spiritual thing – could emanate so much feeling – you gave a soul to it! If I could be with you now at this hour I love so much, I would try to tell you how much beauty has been added to my life lately! When may I come over? I am waiting for your call.
Tina Modotti to Edward Weston
Tina Modotti and Edward Weston
Between 1923 and 1926 Tina Modotti and Edward Weston lived and worked together in Mexico. It was an intense and fruitful time for both of them, and when they parted they had each made significant photographic work. The two met in 1921 in Los Angeles (Modotti, born in Italy, had recently moved there from San Francisco), and they soon became lovers. She was young, beautiful, and intelligent, and he, though an established local photographer, was not yet the significant modern artist he would later become. When they moved to Mexico it was with the understanding that Weston would teach her photography and that she would organize and run his portrait-studio business. Since she spoke fluent Spanish and had visited the country before, she introduced Weston to some major Mexican artists, including Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco.
Mexico was an exciting place to be at that time: Its momentous artistic activity, social reforms, and radical politics were centered on creating an invigorated society that honored indigenous people and their rich, ancient culture. In a sense, Mexico was Weston’s Paris; while he was there he became a fully modern artist. His sharply focused pictures represent monumental pyramids, spiky maguey plants, and worn circus tents as abstract forms. Modotti also found modern forms, but her pictures tend to be more tactile, personal, and socially sensitive. Telephone lines, pulled taut like hair, are geometric but also allude to recent rural electrification. A bouquet of roses, viewed at unabashedly close range, seems less sculptural than fragile, and as vulnerable as skin. By 1926 she was using a handheld Graflex camera to take many of the more spontaneous pictures included in this exhibition.
Modotti and Weston’s relationship was never easy, and Weston returned to California in 1926. The work he made in Mexico informed the rest of his career; the semiabstract forms he later found in peppers and shells certainly derive from his photographs of desert plants and earthenware pots. Modotti stayed in Mexico, and, as her political sensibilities evolved, her work became more exhortative and less spontaneous, though she still took wonderful pictures of laborers (who seem almost magically aligned to the scaffolding on which they stand) and the matriarchal community in Tehuantepec. In 1927 she joined the Communist Party, and in 1930 she was deported from Mexico and ceased making photographs altogether.
Da una lettera di Tina Modotti a Edward Weston:
“Edward, le tue ultime fotografie mi hanno tolto il respiro! Di fronte a loro mi sono sentita senza parole, tanto forte era la loro purezza. All’inizio, quando ho aperto il pacco, non potevo guardarle troppo a lungo, mettevano in subbuglio tutti i miei sentimenti più intimi e mi sentivo male fisicamente. Le tue foto sono qui dinnanzi a me, Edward, niente di artistico ha mai avuto un tale effetto su di me come queste fotografie, non riesco proprio a guardarle a lungo senza sentirmi eccessivamente turbata, mi turbano non solo mentalmente ma anche fisicamente. Hanno qualcosa di così puro e allo stesso tempo di così perverso, contengono sia l’innocenza delle cose naturali che la morbosità di una mente distorta e sofisticata.”
“Ma non posso accettare la vita così com è, troppo caotica, troppo inconscia; da qui la mia resistenza, la mia guerra con lei: sono sempre in lotta per piegare la vita al mio temperamento e ai miei bisogni, in altre parole metto troppa arte nella mia vita”. Tina Modotti all’amico e maestro Edward Weston, 1925
“Accetto il tragico conflitto tra la vita che cambia continuamente e la forma che la fissa immutabile” novembre 1926 Tina Modotti, fotografa e attrice italiana.
[16 agosto 1896, Udine – 6 gennaio 1942, Città del Messico]