Desire to Capture, Desire to Expose - Section 3
For H.D., classical tropes and her own life were as close as the images she cuts and pastes together on the pages of her album. On this page, these three sepia toned frames feature three different shots of a toddler-aged Perdita, H.D.’s daughter. The nude body of the female child engaged in freeform play amidst the flowering bushes of a garden stands out in contrast to the highly stylized and formally articulated bas-relief. Perdita plays with a clay urn, but the viewer cannot know for certain if the urn is a classical artifact or a modern day garden ornament. Through the act of gluing, H.D. links the image of the child at play with the dancing woman of antiquity highlighting their conjoined identities. Time in this film strip flows in both directions— just as this woman lost to time was once a small child playing in the garden, Perdita will grow into a young woman who poses and fashions herself.
H.D. was a friend and patient of Sigmund Freud and this page in particular recalls the images in his essay Delusion and Dream, based on the novel by Wilhem Jensen. Jensen describes the fascination his archeologist protagonist Hanold develops for a bas-relief of a young girl walking. He names the figure Gradiva, “the girl splendid in walking,” after Mars Gradivus, the god of war. After dreaming her into ancient Pompeii, he then chases her to the modern city where he meets a woman he identifies as his fantasy. Slowly, over the course of the novel, this woman, who he calls Gradiva but who the reader comes to learn is in fact named Zoë, cures him of his delusion, enabling him to recognize her not as the girl from the bas-relief, but as his childhood friend and neighbor. On this page, H.D. mirrors this progression from idealized sculpture to innocent play.
In this short note, Freud thanks H.D. for the unexpected gift of his favorite flowers. The two enjoyed a lively correspondence and a deep and productive friendship. They first became acquainted when she visited him in Vienna in1933 and he helped her to explore her bisexuality through analysis. She later published a memoir Writing on the Wall (later renamed Tribute to Freud), based on this experience.