Monday, November 9, 2015

Not Mexican Enough, Nor British Enough

Leonora Carrington in Mexico
I didn't have time to be anyone's muse... I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.  -- Leonora Carrington
The more I learn of Leonora Carrington, the more interested I become in her work. I'm also fascinated by how because she does not "fit" into a neat artistic category --- too feminist to be a surrealist, too Mexican to be a European painter, too British to be Mexican --- Carrington seems to have been left out of many arts narratives. If she has been claimed by any nation, it's Ireland. Carrington's mother was Irish and so was her nanny. Much has been made of the influence of the nanny's stories but I don't think Carrington would have agreed. She seems to have created her own universe of hybrid beasts, gender-mixed people, and shifting perspectives.

What I love about the video I posted yesterday is that we can hear Carrington in her own words as she gets annoyed with her distant relatives line of questioning. "The world is visual" Carrington insists. And yet she also wrote short stories, a novel, and a memoir. The Hearing Trumpet, categorized as "speculative fiction," is worth the read and different from anything else I've recently read -- not a great novel -- but a great read.

I shared some of her paintings with students in my "Women in the Arts" class today. A conversation on perspective, fantasy, and horses ensued. My students will also write ekphrastic poems based on her paintings. It's been a good day.

Detail from Samian

Here's a small window into her work -- much of what my students said in class today. These ideas are from The Art Story. 

Carrington shared the Surrealists' keen interest in the unconscious mind and dream imagery. To these ideas she added her own unique blend of cultural influences, including Celtic literature, Renaissance painting, Central American folk art, medieval alchemy, and Jungian psychology.

Carrington's art is populated by hybrid figures that are half-human and half-animal, or combinations of various fantastic beasts that range from fearsome to humorous. Through this signature imagery, she explored themes of transformation and identity in an ever-changing world.

Carrington's work touches on ideas of sexual identity yet avoids the frequent Surrealist stereotyping of women as objects of male desire. Instead, she drew on her life and friendships to represent women's self-perceptions, the bonds between women of all ages, and female figures within male-dominated environments and histories.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Leonora Carrington -- The Movie -- The Surrealist -- The Writer

The Giantess by Leonora Carrington
"Leonora Carrington (1917-2011) escaped a stultifying Lancashire childhood to run off with Max Ernst and hang out with Picasso and André Breton in 1930s Paris. She fled the Nazis, escaped from a psychiatric hospital in Spain and became a national treasure in Mexico. What happened to one of Britain's finest - and neglected - surrealists?" Here's a compelling video with footage of a young Carrington and an interview with the older Carrington. The more I learn about her, the more I want to know. Here's another piece I did about her that shows more of her work and a bit of biography.

Carrington painted and wrote in a way that seems unprecedented. She states that the only person in her family that painted was her mother who would decorate biscuit tins for jumble sales. A few of her paintings are in the art museum in Dublin and more at West Dean College in West Sussex, former home of Eduard James. James, Carrington's patron,  advocated strongly for her work and she was part of a 1947 surrealist show in the Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York.

The Inn of the Dawn of the Horse, 1939

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Happy Birthday, Stephen Crane --- All This In 28 Years

In 1896, Crane (1871-1900) endured a highly publicized scandal after appearing as a witness in the trial of a suspected prostitute, an acquaintance named Dora Clark. Late that year he accepted an offer to travel to Cuba as a war correspondent. As he waited in Jacksonville, Florida, for passage, he met Cora Taylor, with whom he began a lasting relationship. En route to Cuba, Crane's vessel the SS Commodore, sank off the coast of Florida, leaving him and others adrift for 30 hours in a dinghy[1]. Crane described the ordeal in "The Open Boat". During the final years of his life, he covered conflicts in Greece (accompanied by Cora, recognized as the first woman war correspondent) and later lived inEngland with her. He was befriended by writers such as Joseph Conrad and H. G. Wells. Plagued by financial difficulties and ill health, Crane died of tuberculosis in a Black Forest sanatorium in Germany at the age of 28.

Here's a poem by Stephen Crane

"A Man Said to the Universe"

A man said to the universe:
“Sir, I exist!”
“However,” replied the universe,
“The fact has not created in me
A sense of obligation.”