a performance/\offeringin commemoration of the death anniversary of Maudelle Bass Weston (1908-1989)•
“In 1939, actress Hattie McDaniel won an Oscar for portraying the stereotypical character of “Mammy” in the film Gone with the Wind, embodying what was then the most indelibly popular image of black women in American culture. Inscribed on that image were notions of sexuality (the neutered mammy versus the sexualized, fair-skinned Jezebel with more European features), class, and labor (domestic work). Maudelle [Bass Weston] conformed to none of these. Though there were movements by artists from the Harlem Renaissance through the New Negro period who actively sought to present a more complex picture of African American life and culture, Maudelle did not precisely fit their model of black womanhood and femininity either.” (C Williams, 2007.) This project—situated as an installation/altar, performance, and contemplative public practice on the weekend of Maudelle’s death anniversary—is a speculative and commemorative landing place for the dancer and model who skillfully elided fixed representations of blackness in her time.
Maudelle Bass was born in 1908 and grew up in Early County, Georgia. In 1933, Bass moved to Los Angeles and studied at Gray Conservatory of Music and Art. In addition to training with Isobel Keith Morrison, she was the first Black dancer to study under Lester Horton. She was given a scholarship to study with the choreographer and danced with his company as well. Beside her experience with modern techniques, Bass studied Nigerian dance under Modupe Paris and Asadata Dafora and at the Fowler School of African Culture. Her other teachers included Tony Massaqua, from whom she learned Liberian dance and culture. In the 1930s, Bass danced and toured with the Arte Folklorico de Mexico. As a member of the Negro Unit of Ballet Theatre, she played the role of the Priestess in Agnes de Mille’s Black Ritual […] Bass modeled for painter Diego Rivera […] Other artists who painted Bass were Abraham Baylinson, Nicolai Fechin, and Robert M. Jackson. She was also a model for photographers Edward Weston, Johan Hagemeyer, and Sonia Noskowiak and for Beulah Ecton Woodard’s sculpture Maudelle. In 1948, Bass established a dance school in Los Angeles and worked as a lecturer at UCLA. In the 1950s, Bass performed with Pearl Primus. After her marriage to George Weston, Antiguan dancer and head of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), in 1960, Bass was known as Maudelle Bass Weston as well as by her professional name “Maudelle.”
Bass became a cultural figure within the LA arts community, toured throughout the country and Latin America, taught and lectured about dance, and performed in lecture-demonstrations in New York for many years. She was awarded a lifetime achievement award at the 1983 Celebration of Women in Dance at the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center. She passed away at 81 years old on June 11, 1989 in Plainfield, New Jersey. [From MoBBallet: Memories of Blacks in Ballet website)]
About the artist: i make things and am interested in what bodies do. i believe language is tricky, thoughts are powerful, and that people are most beautiful when looking up. i received the Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ Merce Cunningham Award in 2019 and my work has been supported by the kindness and efforts of numerous other organizations, curators, writers, mentors and friends over the years. i teach in the Dance Department at UC Riverside and live nearby in what i’m coming to understand as a cross-section of the original and rightful homeland of the Cahuilla, Tongva, Luiseño, and Serrano peoples.
Saturday, June 11, 5:05-8:05pm
Accessibility Note: The Box gallery is all on one level and has a rear entrance with a ramp. There are 2 small gender neutral single stall bathrooms on site. Please note that the bathrooms do not have a rail for transfer assistance and have limited space for larger mobility devices. Please contact the Box with any access needs and for more details: firstname.lastname@example.org 1(213) 625-1747
COVID protocol: As COVID safety negotiation continues to be part of our community choreography, Pieter will continue to strive to be transparent and clear about our practices, with the goal of always prioritizing the most vulnerable among us. All events will require masks and utilize our Button Buddies which you can learn more about HERE
About the exhibition: A collaboration between Pieter Performance Space and The Box, curated by Jennie MaryTai Liu and assistant curator Alana Frey, Knees, Schools, Urges is a performance program and exhibition which invites ten dancers / artists to grapple with documented and undocumented histories of early 20th century modern dance in the place now known as Los Angeles. An examination of the absence of archived history of dance and dancers in the region, and the undersung work that historically minoritized artists have done in the field, the project looks both forward and backward, approaching the timeframe of the exhibition as an opportunity to document and create an archive which acknowledges the value of short-term local history as an ongoing project for present and future generations.