Valadon: Reclining Nude
A spotlight comes up on VALADON reclining nude and completely covered beneath a sheet that’s pulled up over her head, signifying her death.
Suddenly, she springs up naked from the gurney, bewildered, and wildly paces back and forth across the stage like a panicked, caged animal. She squints at the audience, trying to focus on the people sitting there in the dark.
VALADON: Where am I!? What happened? Somebody help me! Maurice! Maurice! My precious Maumau! Why is it so cold and dark out there? WHERE AM I?
What the hell happened? I close my eyes for one seconde, in the middle of a fantastique brushstroke, and then this. Where is my easel? I have not completed my self-portrait!. Why have I been abandoned? Maumau, where are you? WHERE AM I?
She shades her eyes with her hand and squints at the audience.
Allez savoir pourquoi !Va savoir pourquoi! Who are you? Why am I in your company? You sit in the dark while I am blinded by this terrible light. T’sais?
She scans the audience, shielding her eyes with her hand.
I know who you are! (she points to an audience member). You’re the great sculptor Anna Hyatt! I remember when you won first prize in the 1910 Paris competition for your life size statue of Joan of Arc on horseback, but the judges take back your prize when they discover you are a woman!
And you, (points) Artemissia Gentileschi—the first woman to be recognized in the Post-Renaissance art world. You paint the trauma of being raped by your art teacher, yet after your death your paintings are attributed to your father or other artists! Merde alors!
And you, (points) poet Elsa Von Freytag Loringhoven, Godmother of New York Dada! Pioneer of performance and body art, no longer remembered except as the woman who enters Duchamp’s urinal into the 1913 Armory show! Art historians to continue to pissoir your name and reputation!
And you, (points) Ann Vallayer, one of the greatest portrait painters of 18th century France, so beloved and popular that your patron Marie Antoinette gives you an apartment in the royal palace!
And you, (points) Corinne Michelle West, Gorky’s lover who turns down his six marriage proposals, determined to be an independent artist, forced to paint under the name Michael West in order to gain légitimité as an abstract expressionist painter!
Why am I up here in the light while you incredible women are down there in the dark? I AM NOT FRIGHENED! I refuse to be pulled into a feminine purgatory of neglect and disrespect. I am Suzanne Valadon! One of the greatest artists France has ever produced. And that includes painters whose cocks and ball sacks are crushed into their laps whenever they sit in judgment of their female peers and betters.
I am called a slut, a common putain simply because I lived my life like a man. I took my pleasures, seized them without coyness or waiting for approval. I am not one of France’s greatest female artists— I am a great French artist! How unfair it is for women to be cursed with child bearing? When we choose to drift from one lover to another, a swollen belly of lust is often the punishment extracted for our freedom of choice. I am the bastard of a washerwoman who also birthed a bastard, a bastard who became an artistic genius like his mother. My dear Maumau, Maurice Utrillo.
As a bastard who bred a bastard, I am an upholder of French la tradition, no? Truthfully, don’t many of you Americans think of the French as bastards, oui? Too many men like to believe we came from their ribs, but they all came from our vaginas. Their balls are so delicate and vulnerable, but our vaginas can take a pounding, ooh la la, yet we are called the weaker sex. After I make love, my sweet juices flood into a river that drowns me in creative visions. Ideas do not come from my head. They come from my womb! Do you know the difference between good sex and really, really good sex? It makes me feel invincible. You see, mon cheri, orgasms not only heightens my creativity, my creativity heightens my orgasms! It is why we women cannot have fantastic sex all the time—I would burn myself out being in a continual creative mania.
Not only has my erotique behavior been criticized as being too aggressive and unfeminine, but so has my work. The critics loved to dismiss my art as too masculine because of my loose brushstrokes and coarse forms. Did you know I am the first French female artist to paint a nude male? I’m speaking of real cock and balls studs and not some fig leaf hidden flowery Greek God. C’est vrai! Men can be such frightened bebes. It was believed when I was young that women who worked with naked male models would lose, if not the flavor of their virginity, at least its “sweet parfum.” Not once did it ever prevent any man from suckling my juices—Renoir once told me that his sips between my legs was like honey to the throat, but poison in the blood. Men can be such hypocrites!
I displayed uncommon courageux being the first artist to record so precisely and mercilessly the progressive damage of time to a naked female body—my body! I had a stroke while painting my final canvas, a nude self-portrait at age seventy-three. Stripped of the female sexuality that was the rasion d’ettre of France during my lifetime, my realistic naked self-portraits not only created a new art form, but endowed it with the importance it deserves.
So explain to me how my 1938 Parisian obituary only mentions that I, the great Suzanne Valadon, an internationally acclaimed artist of the first rank, is reduced to be written up as just the mother and the wife of an artist while ignoring my many artistic accomplishments? I left behind 478 paintings, 273 drawings and 31 etchings. My funeral at the church of Saint Pierre of Montmartre was attended by the most celebrated of Parisian artists—the mourners included Pablo Picasso. Why must I continue to suffer discrimination as a woman, even as I lay within my freshly dug grave?
About the writer:
Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center as well as the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Scholarship Award for Drama. He is the author of Sacred Misfits (Red Hen Press), Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground (Moira Books) and the forthcoming text based art chapbook, Dream Streams (Clare Songbirds Publishing). His video Speaking in Bootongue was selected to the London Experimental Film Festival. He is a 2018 Audie Award Finalist for his contribution to the original audio book, Nevertheless We Persisted.