Sculptor Malvina Hoffman (1885-1966) Writes Her Fourth Book – Through Me
I know, this headline sounds crazy, but it’s true! I was captured by a muse and oh, what a ride it’s been! Sculptor Malvina Hoffman first found me at the home of her great nephew Chip. We began dating in 2008, and he invited me to his beautiful condo overlooking the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, Florida. When I first entered his home I was struck by an unusually large number of incredible sculptures. “Who is the artist?” I asked. He told me it was his great aunt Malvina, and then shared a few stories of her life. Words like Rodin, Paris, around- the-world, largest commission history of bronze, were mentioned, but I couldn’t hear him, because I was love struck. My muse grabbed my heart and that was it.
No doubt, Chip brought me back to his apartment as a move to seduce. It worked, I fell hard, I fell hard for Malvina Hoffman. The good news is Chip and I also later fell in love and married in 2013!
But, Malvina – I was an amateur collector and art lover. I traveled and visited enough museums to know many different artists in history and today, but I never heard of Malvina Hoffman. This made me mad, she was magnificent. At that moment, Malvina picked me to tell her story and bring her back to her rightful place in history, art history and American history. I had no choice. My destiny was fated.
Over the past six years I studied, researched, wrote and rewrote her story. My first draft was in first person, I didn’t like it. I took the 70,000 words and rewrote them into third person. Malvina’s bronze self portrait still sits on my desk and she watches over me, even now as I write this blog. While I wrote she pushed me, prodded me and demanded I tell her story well.
Malvina did leave me once. She simply disappeared. I was shattered and went to a famous medium to find out why (desperate people do desperate things). My mother first came through, but I told my mother I didn’t have much time and needed to talk to my muse. Malvina made herself known, she was a very successful businesswoman, an intellectual and artist – she did not play games. “Stop writing about my love life,” was the general message I received through the medium, who relayed this message via the fourth dimension. I was writing about her love life, my title was ‘Love Letters to Malvina.’ I took this message very seriously and promised to not go there. Malvina came back to me and I didn’t betray her trust. Five years later my book (co written by the muse herself) Beautiful Bodies – The Adventures of Malvina Hoffman, found it ‘s way into the literary world. My hope is you will fall in love with Malvina as I have. Her story is Forrest Gump – like, in that she knew everyone and was in the middle of everything in early 20th century history. Not only that, but she was one hell of a sculptor. She was awarded a front page obituary in the New York Times, such was her fame. Malvina is now forgotten, like most women artists. It’s time to bring her back to her rightful place in art history, to the head of the class, remembered as when she died “America’s Rodin.”
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2 thoughts on “My Muse Made Me Do It”
Mavina Hoffman was part of promoting racism and stereotypes for the advantages of white people through her sculptures in the exhibition “The Races of Mankind” in 1933 at Field Museum. Should she really be remembered otherwise?
@justcurious so glad you brought this up. Malvina Hoffman s best selling book Heads and Tales takes aim at your comments, she was as appalled at the anthropological map as you are. She was awarded the largest bronze commission in art history and paid more than any other artist, ever to sculpt plein air, the people from around the world (no airplanes back then) . She was hired by Stanley Field to show the humanity of the people from around the world. She traveleld intensely for three years to meet the crazy deadline to sculpt 105 bronzes. She was sickened by the scientists at The Field and threatened to walk off the job when she saw their maps. Her book counters their 1930’s science and she concluded all people are one. We are all from the same source and there is no difference between Thomas Watson the founder of IBM and an aboriginal warrior. Malvina’s conclusion: All people want to protect their families, feed their families and have a good laugh. Poet Amiri Baraka, wrote and asked the Field to remove their racist MAP in 1968, not the bronzes. The Field dismantled the entire exhibition, hid her bronzes in the basement for 50 years. The Malcolm X College thought her bronzes represented people of color with such beauty and humanity they soon asked to put 20 in their college. Later they asked for 20 more to show diversity. They never gave Malvina Hoffman credit as artist. Malvina’s grandparents were abolitionists, her sister was the head of the NYC Red Cross for 40 years. Malvina Hoffman served the Red Cross during both world wars and in 1919 went to the Balkans in very dangerous conditions, for nine weeks to report back to the US govt and Red Cross on humanitarian conditions and starvation. Her work helped put into action a plan to help end mass starvation in the Balkans, and Europe after WW1. She is considered a hero in Serbia, and they have filmed 2 documentaries this year and written books on how she saved their people. No one can accuse Malvina Hoffman of racism. She was an artist who loved everyone with passion. She also put together art exhibitions for black artists in the early 20th century (Richmond Barthe, now at t the Whitney, writes to her about it and how beautiful her sculptures are at the Hall of Man) Malvina Hoffman was a commissioned artist doing her job, fulfilling a contract as an artist. Her work is beautiful. She was considered the most important sculptor in the 20th century. Now she’s erased from history with this false tag of racism. When she spoke to promote, she spoke from her heart about the people she met and loved from around the world. Read my book please or read her Heads and Tales. If she was a man, we wouldn’t even have this thread. Another female artist destroyed by the men around her. She was always fighting with the scientists throughout her contractual obligation to fulfill sculpting the many people around the world- whom she concluded were all one. They are simply beautiful and filled with life. Please help restore her truth.
thank you for your heartfelt and detailed response. I do appreciate you taking time out to write and reference books and/or stories. Unfortunately the points you have listed do not counter the fact that her works and participation in the promotion of scientific racism puts her up there with the people (during that time) at Field museum, who made the exhibition “The Races of Mankind”. I like some of the uncommon stories you have mentioned about her but are they enough to erase her name in the books of those who promoted/propagated racism in contemporary history?
One could argue that, the thought of bringing up information of her time working for the Red Cross when she was 17 years, her time in Serbia and her gender could simply be an attempt to garner sympathy (to perhaps overlook that she, being what you intend to describe her as, was part of promoting the generation problem of racism and stereotypes) and to play the victim – which inturn can be deemed highly disrespectful to the actual victims of the exhibition “The Races of Mankind” and its results in reinforcing racism and stereotypes against non-white people.
One would be forced to agree that, during the craze of scientific racism in museums, Malvina Hoffman was given equal recognition as the curators to the exhibition and the (quashed) scientific idea behind the exhibition. During the craze of scientific racism and museums involvment in promoting the idea, her (Malvina Hoffman) “gender” did not play a negative role nor did it discredit her and her elegant works. Why then should we consider this as a reason not remember her with the flaws of the exhibition and the propaganda the exhibition promoted?