Soon after the San Francisco-born Wood met Marcel Duchamp through composer Edgard Varèse, she flippantly suggested to the artist that anyone could “do modern art.” He told her to go home and do it, and that’s exactly what she did.
Wood’s socialite parents had sent her to Paris years earlier to study painting and drawing, in a fruitless attempt to satisfy her rebellious streak, and she had developed a keen set of artistic skills. So she returned to Duchamp with a drawing—a vaguely representational image suggesting the suffocation of marriage. Duchamp was impressed, and the two became friends. He encouraged her to present two paintings at the first exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists, in 1917. There, she shocked visitors by showing Un peut (peu) d’eau dans du savon, a painting of a female nude with a heart-shaped bar of soap placed strategically between the legs.
Around the same time, Duchamp and Wood, along with writer Henri-Pierre Roché, founded The Blind Man, a short-lived Dada magazine that published art and text by anyone who was anyone in New York’s cutting-edge art scene. Wood sculpted as well, and later made her mark as an important California studio potter. She is still sometimes remembered for her love triangle with Duchamp and Roché, which inspired the 1962 film Jules et Jim.
B. 1888, Elmira, NY
D. 1973, Queens, NY