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Woman with Snake

Mary Frank

Contemporary Art

“I love the gesture of work, watching someone do work they do well or with experience, with certain essential gestures, nothing wasted. Watch someone washing clothes, lifting things, even cooking. Stirring or sifting. There is a grace.” — Mary Frank, 1979

The bodies of dancers she saw at Martha Graham’s studio, where she began studying at 15, were an early influence on Mary Frank. Graham’s choreographic technique incorporates an angular use of the body to evoke dramatic emotional expression—a concept Frank used to explore feelings of grief, sorrow, mourning, and ecstasy in abstracted works. Frank saw Graham’s teaching as “ferocious and overwhelming,” but the dancer’s love of female figures, along with the biomorphic abstractions of sculptor Henry Moore, which she also studied in those years, stayed with her.

Embracing the commonplace nature of ceramics, Frank favored unglazed clay and preferred to work directly with the material by hand. Linking historical references, such as the goddess figure, to the ephemeral nature of her chosen material, the artist was also drawn to the metaphorical possibilities of clay, which begins as dust and is given form by human touch. Works such as Woman with Snake stand gracefully on their own, as slabs of clay propped up against gravity and decay.
DATES 1980
DIMENSIONS 23 x 7 x 13 in.  (show scale)
COLLECTIONS Contemporary Art
CREDIT LINE Gift of Bette Ziegler
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Mary Frank (American, born 1933). Woman with Snake, 1980. Clay, 23 x 7 x 13 in. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Bette Ziegler, 1991.111.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1991.111.2_front_PS20.jpg)
IMAGE front, 1991.111.2_front_PS20.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2023
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Mary Frank (American, born 1933). <em>Woman with Snake</em>, 1980. Clay, 23 x 7 x 13 in. Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Bette Ziegler, 1991.111.2. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 1991.111.2_front_PS20.jpg)