Mabel Dodge Luhan

Mabel Dodge Luhan’s writings open the door to understanding her lifelong struggle with depression.

AIRED: December 07, 2019 | 0:27:16

Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

...and Viewers Like You













>>Megan Kamerick: Mabel Dodge Luhan left an

indelible mark in Taos and in leaving memoirs, she

shares her inner life and struggles with depression.

What did it take for her to move forward?

>>Lois Rudnick: She had to explore throughout her

life every conceivable cure.

And there really were no cures for bipolar

disorder, manic depression as it was called in her

day, and she finally ended up working with a variety

of psychiatrists but the most important one was the

most important Freudian analyst in the United States

A. A. Brill,

and he was perhaps one of the most important

mentors in her life.

He was really a close friend and mentor as well

as an analyst.

Somebody who was, aside from his orthodoxy and

Freudianism, very pragmatic.

He believed that people had to get a job.

They had to work.

They had to do something meaningful with their life and

so when Mabel met him in a state of despair, actually before

she met him, she wrote him in the summer of 1916 and said

"if I don't see you I won't make it to the fall."

And he wrote back and said, "yes you will, I'm busy."

>>Kamerick: It must have taken a lot of courage for her

to take this step.

>>Rudnick: She was always very forthright.

She never necessarily followed any regimen that

her doctors told her ,her psychiatrists, but Brill

really knew how to deal with a woman who had

intense cycles of absolute manic ecstasy, visionary

moments, kind of explosive beliefs that she could

change the entire world which was part of her for

most of her adult life and then would fall into the

worst kinds of agonizing hopeless feeling like she

was at the end of the world depressions and he

realized that one of the things she had to do was

do something she could do and she could write and so

from the first time he ever met her when he'd

actually heard her at her salon reading a story

she'd written about third husband which was very powerful.

He said, "you have to write."

>>Kamerick: So that's how she came to writing?

>>Rudnick: That is how she came to writing.

When she would go in and out of despair he would

say to her "wright, you have got to write your memoirs."

I think it was what saved her life.

I don't think she would have made it through

manic depression.

I don't think she would have made it through her

life if she had not been able to create an

autobiographical self that could make sense of the

unbelievably complex and challenging and difficult

and transformative changes over her life that she had

and so writing was catharsis.

She was doing what we now call writing therapy, but

actually that was part of Freud's theory: that when

you talk you can work out and pay attention to and discover

and understand what it is that's driving you crazy.

Unfortunately manic depression cannot be cured

solely by psychotherapy or psychoanalysis.

They didn't know that then but Freud and Brill were Mentalists.

They did not believe taking pills or whatever

was going to make a difference.

It was insight that cured.

It was talking that cured.

It was writing that cured.

>>Kamerick: What was expected of women at this

point in history?

>>Rudnick: Well most women were expected to be

exactly what A. A. Brill said women should be: wives

and mothers guarding the sexual interest of the race.

He knew her at the time when she was running a salon

in New York and she was involved in modern art and

radical politics and he knew he wasn't going to ever move

her into the home where she would be sheltered and quiet.

>>Kamerick: Did she manage to forge her own life?

>>Rudnick: She did forge her own life in most ways.

She always believed she needed a man to prove

herself and had to get jump-started by a man

encouraging her and yet she jump-started everything.

She even said I wouldn't have written if Brill

hadn't encouraged me to do so but her memoirs

certainly showed that if she hadn't had the

experience and the wherewithal to be able to

write about it and reconstruct it and be

honest and open and telling her story in ways

that were often unbelievably unflattering

to her; it wasn't Brill that did that.

It was she who did that.

She forged her own life and she also forged her own therapy.

If she didn't like what her psychiatrists told

her, she told them she didn't.

>>Kamerick: Do you think that she also wanted to

write these to help women or help society?

>>Rudnick: Absolutely, she said so.

So, she started off writing as a personal form

of therapy to try to understand herself and who

she was and it's interesting because she

and Brill corresponded over 20 years.

They wrote an incredible number of letters to each other.

Even when she was living in Taos, he couldn't do

therapy with her, but he did therapy by letter, and

she would come back and work with him in New York

when she was really desperate, and she said

"he said do this.

This will help you."

And he was absolutely right but at some point

after she started writing and she wrote this in the

introduction to one of her memoirs and to a friend

she said "why should those of us who suffered, who

are malformed, you know, who are grotesque, who

lived under a social structure that denied us

any form of nourishment or goodness, why should we go

on living like this.

If we can be honest and open about who we are so

that those who come after us can have the peace and

freedom to create a different life."

>>Kamerick: So, really we don't get a full picture

of her without exploring this?

>>Rudnick: You absolutely cannot and as a young person

who had absolutely no complaints about my body manic-depressive.

Even though she announced it in her third memoir and

as an older person who's been through some things

in my life, I said, "how could I not have realized

how important this was as a factor."

Not the factor.

But also, I wasn't allowed to read the psychiatric

papers and the letters until the year 2000.

So I did not really have a full appreciation of what

she was going through and what she suffered.

>>Kamerick: So, at the end of the day, what is the

most important part of this aspect of Mabel Dodge Luhan?

>>Rudnick: I think the most important part is the

fact that she shared it honestly and openly.

That she was in no way unwilling to have people

understand that she could be a monster and that if

she had not written this work and shared it with

the world, I don't know, that history wouldn't be

known and the people who still suffer through this and

are ashamed by even announcing it would not be able to...

can learn from her how fantastic it is to be able to be honest

about this disease and not hide it because it doesn't work.

You can't hide it.

>>Kamerick: Well Louis Rudnick, thank you so much for

talking with us.

>>Rudnick: A pleasure.

Thank you.


She is a singer and songwriter of soulful and palpable, depth.

Annie Lennox's career can be easily recorded in

awards and some 90 million albums sold.

But at MASS MoCA, the Massachusetts Museum of

Contemporary Art, we find her life lived and left.

"Annie is Scottish, and is thinking about the form of

a burial mound.

As a space where we, uh place objects after people die."

Alexandra Foradas is a curator at MASS MoCA where

Lennox approached the museum a year ago about

creating this installation.

A giant dirt mound crowned with a piano.

Lennox describes it as "a dreamscape of

memory made manifest."

"You are first faced with objects from Annie's past

as a music maker.

And as you move around the mound it gets increasingly personal."

Lennox has titled the piece 'Now I Let You Go..."

-a decidedly definitive title for someone who

continues to wrestle with her bond to material memories.

And what material she has.

You'll find David Bowie here.

And her own lyrics.

There are mementos of her work as an activist

fighting HIV and AIDS in Africa.

Closer to home, her children's shoes.

"She wishes that everyone could have a mound.

This idea that we don't have a way of metabolizing memory.

Of working through the objects that are left behind."

But not all of us can be as sparkly as Annie

Lennox, whose mound shimmers.

"Annie talked about the mound as looking like a

performer standing under a spotlight on stage wearing

something glittery.

And that notion of the mound as a performer, the

knowledge that sharing these things and being

vulnerable in this way is in its own way a performance."

"MASS MoCA is a place that people come to

experience full on.

They wear it like clothes."

Joseph Thompson is the Founding Director of MASS MoCA.

He opened the place in 1986 in a series of brick

factory buildings that once served as a textile

mill and later an electronics plant.

Today it's where art and ideas are made-unlike anywhere else.

Since it doubled in size two years ago, this has

become the museum where artists come to create

work that often can't be shown anywhere else.

Sometimes because of size.

Often for audacity.

"This is not necessarily y'know a perfectly polite

place where the walls are white, and the light is

coming from above, and the guards are dressed up in suit

and tie, it's - you get to work for it here, just a little bit.

MASS MoCA rewards curiosity."

"(Is museum the right word for this space?)

No this is not a museum, I don't know what it is, I mean.


we stick with that word, because it's in MASS MoCA.

Uh, It's a center.

It's a lab.

It's two turntables and a microphone."

Right now, you'll find mammoth sculptures by the

late artist Louise Bourgeoise.

A fully immersive and enveloping series of light

installations by James Turrell.

And more mounds-these from the mind of artist

Trenton Doyle Hancock.

"If there's anything that's our specialty at

MASS MoCA it's providing space, and time, to

artists with big ideas."

"Trent takes us into the Moundverse.

The Moundverse a space that he created beginning

with Torpedo Boy when he was 10.

He was sort of the Superman to his Clark Kent."

A world all his own, The Moundverse is charted out

along a Candy Land like lane in MASS MoCA's

largest gallery-one nearly the size of a football field.

The mounds, according to Hancock, are "depositories

for memories and bits of discarded humanity."

For children of the 1980s, it's a colorful climb into nostalgia.

"Trent is drawing on everything from the

Cabbage Patch Kids, and the Garbage Pail Kids, to

the Marvel Cinematic Universe, to Greek gods.

He is reaching back not only into the depths of

his memory, uh back to his childhood in Paris, Texas,

as the child of a family of Evangelical Baptists,

but also back into mythology."

Now 35-years into her career, artist Jenny

Holzer has long ruminated over language.

"She is interested in the way that language is read

differently based on context and also material."

In this installation at MASS MoCA, she returns to painting.

Her focus here?

Government documents obtained through the

Freedom of Information Act.

"The texts are, uh, referring to violence as a

"wish list for interrogation techniques,"

or they are referring to abuses obliquely as

"treatment." So it is this kind of um, this way of

using language to, to shield rather than to uncover."

(How political is the work?)

Extremely political.

Uh the work deals, - in terms of its subject matter,

uh with the lead up to the attacks on September 11th.

Fundamentalism and the violent tendencies that

might arise out of it.

And, from there, she moves on to the alleged abuses

of detainees at Guantanamo Bay."

At MASS MoCA, it's a moment of memories.

From the harvesting, to the harrowing.


The 19-teens saw the start of the Great

Migration-when millions of African Americans moved

from the South.

Many to the North, and to Harlem which became an

oasis from oppression.

Especially for artists.

"The art was important then.

In creating a new visual lexicon for

African-Americans against histories of dehumanizing

and degrading stereotypes and imagery in the

American popular imagination."

At the Addison Gallery of American Art, we find

nearly 100 years of life in Harlem.

Mostly in photographs from the museum's collection.

The show takes us from the 1930s-just after the

Harlem Renaissance-to today.

"I see vibrance.

I see, a people who have been through so much, and

we're given so little and have made this out of it,

this miraculous, this place.

A lot of people describe Harlem as a cultural mecca."

"This is where a lot of the socializing happened,

was out on street corners, or in front of shops..."

Stephanie Sparling Williams is the

exhibition's curator.

The Harlem of the 1930s, she says, was a place

reeling from the Great Depression.

And here in the work of both black and white

photographers, it is a place of both fortune and despair.

"You see a tension between, um Harlem's

working class, the unemployed, and then also

Harlem's upper- and middle-class um citizens.

Stuck within Harlem, but all trying to pick up the pieces."

As difficult as the times may have been, a number of

the black artists featured here, like photographer

Roy DeCarava, focused on more than misfortune.

This work is titled "Graduation Day."

(What do you see there?)

Oh man.

I see celebration.

I do, I see, a beautiful woman, in a dress, that has

taken to the streets, you know maybe she's in transition.

And you see a, a print, on the back - I think it's

a-a playbill, and it says, in Spanish, "the woman

emerges out of darkness."

"We've been asking ourselves this question

"what is America?"

A question that is both um, an eternal question

and a timely question."

Judith Dolkart is the Addison's Director.

By the 1960s, Harlem became a hotbed of protest

in America-thanks in no small part she says, to

its community of artists.

"I always see artists as active agents in the culture, so.

Artists have the ability to change the culture as

much as anyone else.

They have a point of view, and they are putting that

point of view out there."

In the 1960s 70s and 80s, Harlem's streets were host

to Civil Rights marches and later Black Power rallies.

It brought an energy that Stephanie Sparling

Williams says courses through these photographs.

"I describe it as a buzz.

The sound when you get off the subway of just people

in the streets, and I think.

That's captured throughout the exhibition, not only

the built environment and people, but how both come

together to create the social life of Harlem, the

lifeblood of the neighborhood itself."

Today, Harlem offers a different story.

Gentrification has taken hold.

Its way of life is changing, as it always has.

But now, so are its people.

"It comes into sharp focus through Dawoud Bey's

series "Harlem Redux," which he shot in 2016 when

we see, um the development, the construction.

We see the different ways in which space is being

claimed by other bodies.

Particularly white bodies."

The show's parting shot though is an epic one by

Kehinde Wiley, who created this instantly famous

portrait of President Barack Obama.

The subject, regal and wielding a sword on his equally

mighty horse, was straight off 125th street in Harlem.

"I think it's carrying along this tradition of,

um self-determined imagery - but also there's a tension, right?

This - the tension between the art historical canon.

This, this genre that African-Americans would

never find themselves in - the black body was never

portrayed in these heroic, um paintings that depicted

valor, and masculinity, and virility often.

But Wiley shows us that black - the black figure

is no less powerful, no less masculine."

Instead, there is glory.

In a neighborhood that has long fed it.


Name is Ian Wright.

I was born in Northeast of England 1945 and I'm in my

58th year as a photojournalist.

The mentor that I had was Arthur Soakel, my form teacher.

He actually put himself forward with his knowledge

of photography and said is there anybody in the class

that would like me to teach them photography?

And I put my hand up.

And I was the only one.

It was the best decision I ever made in my whole life

because he took this young 14 year old kid and showed

him all the tricks to the trade, and I started work

the last week of December of 1960 and they decided

at The Northern Echo in Darlington that they were

going to have a new editor who was coming in to

revamp the paper, Sir Harold Evans, who was

voted the greatest editor of the last century.

He was my second mentor.

Harry said to me later in years, he said to me, "You know,

Wrighty," Oh, by the way, John Lennon gave me that nickname.

He said, "You know, Wrighty, I heard it comin."

I said, "What did you hear?"

He said, "The 60s revolution, I heard it comin."

The Babyboomers had boomed and there were 25 million of them.

20 million in America, five million in Great Britain.

And he realized they had to have a voice, and his

first ever supplement was the Teenage Special.

He wanted coverage of everything that was

happening in our area, and so he was the chronicler

and he asked me to be the illustrator at 16.

I got the job at that newspaper as a junior darkroom boy.

My duties were to wash the floor, make the chemicals, make

the tea, file the negatives, literally I was a runner.

I'd go with senior photographers on

assignments and run back with the plates and

develop them, print them, so on.

That's how it all began.

All the other photographers that Harry

had acquired, inherited of the Northern Echo were all

World War II age.

They had no idea who the Beatles were.

And so he said, "Do you want to do it?"

I always put my hand up, you know?

Never put my hand down.

Always say yes.

He said that I can't give you any extra money, can't

give you any overtime.

You won't get any time off.

And you can't have any expenses.

Do you still want to do it?

Yes, so that was how I started.

But the thing was, I was far too young to drive, so I

had to go on me bike, you know, and I had a huge plate camera.

And inside the bag it weighed probably about 35 pounds.

And inside of there were 14 plates, glass negatives.

That's what I had to carry.

And also inside of the bag was a flash that was as

big as a Bentley headlight.

So I had to strap that all to the frame of my bike

and I was out in all weathers photographing

this revolution, the 60's Revolution.

We were there at the beginning, and my first

ever portrait for the Teenage Special I went and

photographed Miss Ella Fitzgerald.

Over the years I've just been so lucky.

With the assignments I've been given, I've went and

photographed every celebrity.

I've done 'em all.

I learned never be in awe of any of 'em because they

are looking at you as a professional and they

expect you to be a professional and if you

are, they will sit down, buy you a drink, and

they'll talk your hind legs off because they love it.

But if you go in with an LP cover and say, "Oh, can

I "have your autograph, please.

"Your last LP was absolutely fantastic."

You've had it.

You've lost 'em.

So I met the Beatles for the first time February

the ninth, 1963.

There couldn't have been more than 200 people in that theater.

That night it was a snowstorm in Sunderland

County, Durham, England.

I heard this sound.

It went boom.

Love, love me do You know I love you

So I pulled everything off the bike, run round the front

into the auditorium, took this picture and that was

the beginning of the Revolution.

And according to the National Portrait Gallery

in London, the picture I took of them onstage is the

earliest known photograph of the Beatles live on stage.

Many of the Beats pictures I have never saw the light of day

because they weren't famous, which is quite remarkable.

I had a whole series of photographs, portraits, of

them, their reactions backstage.

The night that JFK was assassinated, again the

only photographer there, November 22, 1963.

Not one of those photographs ever saw the

light of day until they were published in my book

which came out in 2008.

In all of those assignments, or whatever

you want to call them, I never went to work.

I never worked a day in my life.

For me it was, it was just an absolute passion.

I look upon the fact that my still photographs are a

historical record of things that happened

during all of those decades that I worked.

I never saw it as art.

I saw it as a craft.

I saw it as a profession.

And I realized that what you have to do to beat all

the others, sometimes there's 20 other

photographers there, you had to get something different.

It was all about decision-making.

It was all about being imaginative.

I never went out as, say as graphic art

photographer could do and go out and create

something like a Picasso would.

I never did that.

I was a boots on the ground photographer and always

have been and I wouldn't change anything for a golden cow.

No, never, enjoyed every minute of it and still am.


New Mexico PBS dot org and look for COLORES under

What We Do and Local Productions.



Funding for COLORES was provided in part by:

Frederick Hammersley Foundation

...and Viewers Like You


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