Bishop in her Bedroom, 1968
Silver gelatin print
Edition 2/75, printed by Neil Selkirk
35.6 x 36.2 cm
Stamped “A Diane Arbus photograph”, signed, titled, dated, and numbered by Doon Arbus, Executor.
Diane Arbus’ portraits provide a compelling, though often unsettling, cultural anthropology of mid-century America. Honest and stark, her images of fringe groups and social outcasts were often captured over the course of personal relationships the artist forged with her subjects.
Bishop in her Bedroom (1968) is a unique interstice in Arbus’ work, where her studied portraiture blends with photojournalism. Arbus published a number of photo-essays in magazines such as Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar, penning articles as frank and captivating as the images they accompanied. Bishop in her Bedroom was to be included in her unpublished The Bishop’s Charisma, which followed Bishop Ethel Predonzan, a ‘spiritual advisor to Hollywood stars”.
This rare gelatin silver print shows Predonzan in her flamboyant boudoir in Santa Barbara, California. Daubed in sunlight, the bishop’s eyes are turned upward, her hands twisting out of prayer in the midst of revelation; yet, the Styrofoam crucifix at her side infuses her communion with tongue-in-cheek absurdity. Arbus’ eye is at once sympathetic and discerning, revelling in her subject’s mystique while questioning the inherent kitsch of this self-described head of the Cathedral of the Creator, Omnipresence Inc.
Diane Arbus (1923-1971) remains one of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century. After leaving a career in commercial photography in 1956, Arbus turned her camera lens onto unconventional subjects: circus performers, eccentrics, nudists and transvestites, as well as mundane middle-class families. Her intimate portraits of society’s outsiders garnered widespread acclaim since their exhibition in the Museum of Modern Art’s 1967 exhibition New Documents, alongside images by Garry Winogrand and Lee Friedlander. Arbus’ repertoire has been the subject of numerous exhibitions and books, including a recent survey exhibition and catalogue, Diane Arbus: In the Beginning, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2016); and a major retrospective that toured Jeu de Paume, Paris; Fotomuseum, Winterthur; Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin and Foam Fotografiemuseum, Amsterdam (2011-2013). Arbus’ groundbreaking photographs are housed in major public and private collections internationally.