Purple Diary

[September 28 2015]

Rest in Peace Carol Rama (1918–2015)

Artist Carol Rama has sadly passed away at the age of 97.

“If we take Man Ray’s word for it – and he knew her well – Carol Rama, that major but long-ignored Italian artist, had at least seven different faces…

Born in 1918 in Turin, where at the age of 97 she still lives, Rama remains what is known as an “artist’s
artist.” Lauded by the best of her peers, she is unknown to the general public, despite an oeuvre of unparalleled richness and power. It is still palpably subversive, a sort of anomaly that haunts us today, coming back like a repression.

Too often her works are interpreted as the avowed symptoms of a traumatic childhood. She began painting at the age of 15, with a mother who was institutionalized, a grandmother who was infirm, and a father who underwent financial ruin and committed suicide. For a long time, Rama seemed a double victim — of the art world and of her own family. But she defines herself as a “premeditated madwoman.” And, indeed, her practice is neither therapy art nor outsider art.

Though it makes her seem hysterical or obsessed, Carol Rama depicts amputated, fragmented, hyper-eroticized anatomies: “I choose these things — prostheses, false teeth, shaving brushes, razors because … they are victims of what they are. They have no chance of changing.” She did this in the 1930s, the era of fascism, within an ultra-macho, Catholic Italian society, and she has refused all her life to marry, have children, or step into line.”

– Text by Anne Dressen. Read more from our Visual Essay on Carol Rama in the latest issue of Purple Fashion magazine #24, out now.

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