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Art HERstory: Diane Arbus


Art HERstory: Diane Arbus

Art HERstory: Diane Arbus

tandards of beauty vary from culture to culture, race to race, and decade to decade. I guess Plato was right when he said ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.’ Everyone has their own idea of whats attractive. Diane Arbus (1923-1971) was no exception. Well, she actually took her idea of beauty to an extreme. Diane was intrigued by the outcasts in society, those that people shun or stare at because of their awkwardness. She found these individuals beautiful in their own way and chose to dedicate her photography to capturing them in everyday life. No studio. No makeup. No photoshop.

"Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park" (1962). I literally laughted out loud when I saw this pic. The kid is so quirky its absolutely adorable!

"Child with a Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park" (1962). I literally laughted out loud when I saw this pic. The kid is so quirky its absolutely adorable!

In the midst of the Great Depression, most Americans were pinching pennies and gathering crumbs to stay above water. Not Diane and David Nemerov. The Jewish couple lived in New York City and damn did they live good. The pair owned Russek’s, a high end department store on Fifth Avenue. The money made from the retail store is what bought their daughter, Diane, the platinum spoon that was attached to her mouth at birth. When most were at their lowest, Diane studied at the swanky Fieldston School for Ethical Culture. Doesn’t that just sound like a snooty prep school that costs an arm, a leg, and a crotch to attend?

What a happy pair! These siblings both have Down Syndrome. In society, they are looked over. In Diane's world, they are worth remembering.

What a happy pair! These siblings both have Down Syndrome. In society, they are looked over. In Diane's world, they are worth remembering.

Right after her high school graduation, Diane jumped the broom and became Mrs. Allan Arbus. Ever watch M*A*S*H? Remember Dr. Sidney Freedman? Well, he was Diane’s guy in 1941. Actually, hes the person who got her involved in photography in the first place. He took her to an art gallery during their first year of marriage, and that’s when Diane found her side piece, photography.

"A Young Man in Curlers at Home on West 20th Street" (1966). Cross dressers and transvestites were some of Diane's favorite subjects. To be honest, I wish I had his nails.

"A Young Man in Curlers at Home on West 20th Street" (1966). Cross dressers and transvestites were some of Diane's favorite subjects. To be honest, I wish I had his nails.

After the chaos of World War II, the Arbuses opened a commercial photography business. “Diane & Allen Arbus” made quite a name for itself. The business served as the lens for publications including Glamour, Vogue, Seventeen, and Harper’s Bazaar. The ironic thing about having such big name clients is that the pair hated fashion. I’m sure they accepted the checks from those clients with no problem though.

"Patriotic Youg man with a Flag" (1967). Awkward is cool, this guys is down right creepy. His facial expression in combination with his pale skin and light eyes is eerie.

"Patriotic Youg man with a Flag" (1967). Awkward is cool, this guys is down right creepy. His facial expression in combination with his pale skin and light eyes is eerie.

In 1956, Diane gave up commercial photography and started to do her own thing.  Her new method incorporated emotion and bonding with her subjects instead of just snapping a picture of a girl in a pretty dress. She became so attached to her new subjects that she featured a few of them more than once, documenting them throughout their lives.

Diane chose to feature the shunned, odd, and downtrodden. This woman is a "showgirl" in a sleezy NYC hotel.

Diane chose to feature the shunned, odd, and downtrodden. This woman is a "showgirl" in a sleezy NYC hotel.

Diane’s depression eventually trumped her creative drive. She coped with depression throughout her life until it got the best of her. On July 26, 1971, Diane took her own life in her apartment bathroom. She took barbiturates (drugs that suppress the nervous system and cause a state of sedation) and slit her wrists. She was 48 years old.

Image Layout: Phaymiss


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One Response to “Art HERstory: Diane Arbus”

  1. Ann O'Dyne says:

    the boy with grenade in Central Park must have been the grandfather of Sheldon from Big Bang Theory.

    Janeane Garofalo might have been a better casting for Ms Arbus in FUR. Kidman and all associated with the miscasting should hang their heads in shame. (I have not seen it)

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