Saturday, August 27, 2005

note card, biography

I've been spending the last few days with Patricia Bosworth's biography of Diane Arbus (1923-1971), accessible and, from her point of view, honest. Bosworth was the daughter of Bartley Crum, one of the six lawyers who defended the Hollywood Ten. He was ruined, as those he defended were, having named names of two of the Hollywood Ten's defense lawyers; he committed suicide in 1959.

Patricia Bosworth's life was defined by her father's work and she, her mother and brother (who also suicided), suffered from his long absences. But Patricia transcend family hardship. Her father always taught her that she could do whatever she wanted. As a child, she modelled for the Diane and Allan Arbus Studio. As an adult she became a free-lance journalist and eventually a biographer, writing about those whose lives she, in some way, identified with, including Monty Clift, Marlon Brando and Arbus.

I like Bosworth's style. Arbus comes alive for me. Bosworth makes me love Diane but then she pulls me into reality to show the photographer's idiosyncrasies and shortcomings, her courage run amuck, along with the drive and talent she developed and used to deal with conflicts concerning sense of self, position in the family as daughter, sister, wife, mother and artist.

Diane Arbus came from a wealthy family. Her mother, Gertrude Russek, inherited her parents' New York Department Store, Russeks, which was eventually run by her philandering husband David Nemerov. Arbus was the sister of poet Howard Nemerov (1920-1991) and the sculptor, Renee Sparkia. She was married to photographer-turned-actor, Allan Arbus.

On July 27, 1971 at age 48, Diane was found in her bathtubm, wrists slit and, as the autopsy reported, filled with barbiturates. She left two children, Doon, now 58 and a playwright and Amy, a photographer, now 49. Allan Arbus, who played the psychiatrist, Maj. Sidney Freedman, in M.A.S.H. is 87 years old.

Although Bosworth didn't get such hot reviews - she's not an academic or an arty writer - so what - she writes a page turner, and I would do well to keep her style and commitment in mind while working on the Buxbaum book.

1 comment:


so nice to find a review of the biography. I did my thesis on Arbus. I love her Untitled series. Those photos will stop your heart. One thing that I'm curious about in regards to the artist and his/her work-- is it worth it at any cost? Even if it involves obstructing the identity of others for one's own personal gain?

In other words, how much do you think about moral responsibility when you create art?

thanks again, i really enjoy your blog.