Wednesday, December 28, 2011

la femmes de man ray - lee miller

miller & ray at a fairground, 1930

lee miller photographed by man ray, ca. 1930

lee miller photographed by man ray, 1929

lee miller photographed by man ray, ca. 1930

solarized lee miller photographed by by man ray, ca. 1929

marie-berthe, max ernst, lee miller & man ray, ca. 1931-1933

le baiser (lee miller) photographed by man ray, 1930

lee miller neck, ca. 1930

lee miller's eye photographed by man ray, 1932

indestructible object

self-portrait with noose, man ray

observatory time, the lovers by man ray, 1934

lee miller & man ray in london, 1975

by the time lee miller met man ray she was one of the most sought after models in new york, photographed by edward steichen, arnold genthe & nickolas muray for vogue & others. a picture of her was used by steichen for a kodex sanitary advertisement effectively ruining her career. 
in july of 1929 she tracked down man ray & found him in a bar near his studio in paris. "my name is lee miller, and i'm going to be your new assistant" she told him. "i don't have students," miller remembered ray replying. "he said he was leaving for biarritz the next day, and i said, 'so am i." thus beginning an intense 3 year period with the two working side by side and becoming lovers. 
lee became his favorite subject & the two "discovered" solarization by accident when an animal scurried over lee's foot in the dark room. she flicked on the light, realizing she had probably ruined the negatives she was working on. turning off the light the two developed the photos & voila.
the surrealists believed that people should be free in their love affairs, but it was a very male-centric movement & the "rules" were quite sexist & old fashioned when it came to women's sexuality. miller was a modern woman & didn't adhere to their rules of dating causing man ray to become jealous & possessive of lee - although she was supposed to be accepting of his dalliances. ray could be both patronizing ("i have tried to make of you a complement of myself, but these distractions have made you waver") and insecure. ray was extremely jealous of miller - "i've had only one fear these last months," he wrote to her when she was in london in 1931, "that your wanderings might be dulling your emotion for me, while mine has been growing."
in 1930 miller set up her own photo studio developing her own portrait clients while still collaborating with ray. in 1931, they fought over "neck" a circa 1931 photo man ray took of miller with her head tipped back and eyes closed in dreamy rapture. ray disliked the negative & discarded it, but miller retrieved it from the trash & printed it, claiming it as her own. ray was livid & they fought. when she returned to the studio a few days later, she found he'd slashed the photo with a razor & splashed with red ink resembling blood.
by the time they parted in 1932, ray had driven himself to the brink of madness from which he would take decades to recover. lee sailed to new york while ray grew despondent & threw himself into his work, creating some of the most memorable pieces of his career during that period. he staged photos of himself with a noose around his neck & holding a gun to his head. in one of his sculptures, "indestructible object (or object to be destroyed)" a cut out of one of miller's eyes ticks back & forth on a metronome. in the 1932 version, man ray included the instructions: "cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome & regulate the weight to suit the tempo desired. keep going to the limit of endurance. with a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow." one would let it tick until he couldn't stand it then by smashing it you would exorcise that lost love. 
he also made a series of paintings that relate to lee miller's lips. his painting "a l'heure de l'observatorie - les amoureux" (1932-1934) show miller's lips floating in a glowing sky. every day for 2 years, he says, he woke up & the first thing he did was he contributed to this painting & it helped him get over the loss.
miller & ray reconciled in 1937 at a party in paris. miller was, by then, with her future husband, roland penrose. during this period, miller's mental health was increasingly volatile. she suffered from alcoholism & depression. ray continued his support & friendship with miller until his death in 1976.

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