The Suppressed Memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan
Sex, Syphilis, and Psychoanalysis in the Making of Modern American Culture
University of New Mexico Press 2012
New Books in American StudiesNew Books in ArtNew Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in BiographyNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network January 29, 2013 Oline Eaton
The art salon is sadly less prevalent in our day than in days past, but it is far from obsolete. In its heyday, the salon provided people- particularly women Natalie Barney, orPerle Mesta)- with an extraordinary power to shape cultural tastes and contemporary art.
In the early 20th century, Mabel Dodge Luhan’s salons in Florence and New York drew astonishing talents to her doorstep. Her gift for bringing artists together so they might collaborate and draw inspiration from one another played out even more grandly at the art colony she and her third husband founded in Taos, New Mexico. Over the years, they would play host to such luminaries as D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, and Georgia O’Keeffe.
Though she’s remembered more for her gift for building artistic communities, Luhan was an artist in her own right. Her book Winter in Taos is considered a classic of New Mexican literature and her four-volume memoir vividly explores the changes in Victorian sexuality, politics, art, and culture as the modern age approached. However, despite their candor, the memoirs were not wholly forthcoming: Luhan’s writings about her struggles with depression, sexuality, and venereal disease were restricted at the behest of her family until the year 2000.
In her excellent biography, The Suppressed Memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan: Sex, Syphilis, and Psychoanalysis in the Making of Modern American Culture (University of New Mexico Press, 2012), Lois Rudnick- who has been studying Luhan’s life for over 35 years- explores these newly available documents, presenting Luhan’s writing alongside her own analysis, to draw new conclusions about Luhan’s life, loves, and work.