I’m not too familiar with the work of Spanish painter Remedios Varo, but her work really reminds me of Leonora Carrington’s paintings. This is hardly surprising as Carrington has named Varo as one of her influences.
Let’s have a look at the work of Mexican Surrealist (yes, another one!) painter Bridget Bate Tichenor (1917-1990). If you had shown me the painting above before I knew about this artist, I definitely would have thought it was a Leonora Carrington piece.
Knowing that it is in fact by Bridget Bate Tichenor, the main difference between the two artists’ work for me is the spiritual feeling of their pieces. Both artists produced work with a profound spiritual presence, but Leonora’s seems more personal and delicate, whilst Bridget’s is comparatively universal and bold.
Needless to say, I love both! I really must go to Mexico one day – it clearly brings out the artist in a woman. I just need to figure out the coldest part and time of year…
Above: Portrait of Bridget Bate Tichenor by George Platt Lynes, New York 1945.
|Education||Slade School of Fine Art, École des Beaux Arts, Art Students League of New York|
|Known for||Painting, Fashion editor|
|Movement||Surrealism, magic realism|
Born in France and of British descent, she later embraced Mexico as her home… She was the daughter of the Virginia born American NBC, World War I correspondent Frederick Blantford Bate and Sarah (Vera) Gertrude Arkwright Bate Lombardi, who were married after Bridget’s birth in 1919. – Chisholm Gallery
Bridget Tichenor’s mother, who was reputedly a well-connected descendant of George III, was the public relations liaison to the royal families of Europe for Coco Chanel. After an arranged marriage Tichenor moved to New York, where she attended the Art Students League of New York. In 1945, after the divorce from her first husband, she married Jonathan Tichenor, an assistant of photographer George Platt Lynes. – Huffington Post
She was among a group of surrealist and magic realist female artists who came to live in Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Her introduction to Mexico was through a cousin she had first met in Paris in the 1930s: Edward James, the British surrealist art collector and sponsor of the magazine Minotaure. James lived in Las Pozas, San Luis Potosí, and his home in Mexico had an enormous surrealist sculpture garden with natural waterfalls, pools and surrealist sculptures in concrete. In 1947, James invited her to visit him again at his home Xilitia, near Tampico in the rich Black Olmec culture of the Gulf Coast. – Good old Wikipedia
Let’s have five days of short stories. We’ll begin today with Leonora Carrington’s The Debutante, a story of a girl and a hyena.
by Leonora Carrington
WHEN I was a debutante I often went to the zoological garden. I went so often that I was better acquainted with animals than with the young girls of my age. It was to escape from the world that I found myself each day at the zoo. The beast I knew best was a young hyena. She knew me too. She was extremely intelligent; I taught her French and in return she taught me her language. We spent many pleasant hours in this way.
For the first of May my mother had arranged a ball in my honor. For entire nights I suffered: I had always detested balls, above all those given in my own honor.
On the morning of May first, 1934, very early, I went to visit the hyena. “What a mess of shit,” I told her. “I must go to my ball this evening.”
“You’re lucky,” she said. “I would go happily. I do not know how to dance, but after all, I could engage in conversation.”
“There will be many things to eat,” said I. “I have seen wagons loaded entirely with food coming up to the house.”
“And you complain!” replied the hyena with disgust. “As for me, I eat only once a day, and what rubbish they stick me with!”
I had a bold idea; I almost laughed. “You have only to go in my place.”
“We do not look enough alike, otherwise I would gladly go,” said the hyena, a little sad. “Listen,” said I, “in the evening light one does not see very well. If you were disguised a little, no one would notice in the crowd. Besides, we are almost the same size. You are my only friend; I implore you.”
She reflected upon this sentiment. I knew that she wanted to accept. “It is done,” she said suddenly.
It was very early; not many keepers were about. Quickly I opened the cage and in a moment we were in the street. I took a taxi; at the house, everyone was in bed. In my room, I brought out the gown I was supposed to wear that evening. It was a little long, and the hyena walked with difficulty in my high-heeled shoes. I found some gloves to disguise her hands which were too hairy to resemble mine. When the sunlight entered, she strolled around the room several times—walking more or less correctly. We were so very occupied that my mother, who came to tell me good morning, almost opened the door before the hyena could hide herself under my bed. “There is a bad odor in the room,” said my mother, opening the window. “Before this evening you must take a perfumed bath with my new salts.”
“Agreed,” said I. She did not stay long; I believe the odor was too strong for her. “Do not be late for breakfast,” she said, as she left the room.
The greatest difficulty was to find a disguise for the hyena’s face. For hours and hours we sought an answer: she rejected all of my proposals. At last she said, “I think I know a solution. You have a maid?”
“Yes,” I said, perplexed.
“Well, that’s it. You will ring for the maid and when she enters we will throw ourselves upon her and remove her face. I will wear her face this evening in place of my own.”
“That’s not practical,” I said to her.
“She will probably die when she has no more face; someone will surely find the corpse and we will go to prison.”
“I am hungry enough to eat her,” replied the hyena.
“And the bones?”
“Those too,” she said.
“Then it’s settled?”
“Only if you agree to kill her before removing her face. It would be too uncomfortable otherwise.”
“Good; it’s all right with me.” I rang for Marie, the maid, with a certain nervousness. I would not have done it if I did not detest dances so much. When Marie entered I turned to the wall so as not to see. I admit that it was done quickly. A brief cry and it was over. While the hyena ate, I looked out the window. A few minutes later, she said: “I cannot eat anymore; the two feet are left, but if you have a little bag I will eat them later in the day.”
“You will find in the wardrobe a bag embroidered with fleurs de lys. Remove the handkerchiefs inside it and take it.” She did as I indicated.
At last she said: “Turn around now and look, because I am beautiful!” Before the mirror, the hyena admired herself in Marie’s face. She had eaten very carefully all around the face so that what was left was just what was needed. “Surely, it’s properly done,” said I.
Toward evening, when the hyena was all dressed, she declared: “I am in a very good mood. I have the impression that I will be a great success this evening.” When the music below had been heard for some time, I said to her: “Go now, and remember not to place yourself at my mother’s side: she will surely know that it is not I. Otherwise I know no one. Good luck.” I embraced her as we parted but she smelled very strong.
Night had fallen. Exhausted by the emotions of the day, I took a book and sat down by the open window. I remember that I was reading Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. It was perhaps an hour later that the first sign of misfortune announced itself. A bat entered through the window, emitting little cries. I am terribly afraid of bats, I hid behind a chair, my teeth chattering. Scarcely was I on my knees when the beating of the wings was drowned out by a great commotion at my door. My mother entered, pale with rage. “We were coming to seat ourselves at the table,” she said, “when the thing who was in your place rose and cried: ‘I smell a little strong, eh? Well, as for me, I do not eat cake.’ With these words she removed her face and ate it. A great leap and she disappeared out the window.”
If you’re not familiar with Leonora Carrington, she was a visual artist as well as a writer and you can see some of her work in the video below.
“One has to be careful what one takes when one goes away forever.”
Sentimentality is a form of fatigue.
“People under seventy and over seven are very unreliable if they are not cats.”
“Reason must know the heart’s reasons and every other reason”
“Military people never seem to apologize for killing each other yet novelists feel ashamed for writing some nice inert paper book that is not certain to be read by anybody.”
― The Hearing Trumpet
Above: The Floor 4706th, by Leonora Carrington
“The task of the right eye is to peer into the telescope, while the left eye peers into the microscope.”
“Houses are really bodies. We connect ourselves with walls, roofs, & objects just as we hang on to our livers, skeletons, flesh & bloodstream. I am no beauty, no mirror is necessary to assure me of this absolute fact. Nevertheless I have a death grip on this haggard frame as if it were the limpid body of Venus herself.”
― The Hearing Trumpet
“Do not give up hope entirely in spite of the horror of your situation. I am mobilising all my mental capacities to obtain your unconditional freedom.”
― The Hearing Trumpet
“The long tentacles of vision and understanding have withdrawn and all that is left to me is the ragged black hole of my loss. Loss and the world around. A noisy puzzle whose solution is another puzzle noisier and more stupid. The circle widens toward nothing.
The answer is hiding somewhere, if I could only read.”
― The Seventh Horse And Other Tales
“The full moon shone brightly between the trees, so I was able to see, a few yards in front of me, the origins of a distressing noise. It was two cabbages having a terrible fight. They were tearing each other’s leaves off with such ferocity that soon there was nothing but torn leaves everywhere and no cabbages.
“Never mind,” I told myself, “It’s only a nightmare.” But then I remembered suddenly that I’d never gone to bed that night, and so it couldn’t possibly be a nightmare. “That’s awful.”
― The Oval Lady, Other Stories: Six Surreal Stories
“Then it seemed that a cloud formed itself into an enormous bumble bee as big as a sheep. She wore a tall iron crown studded with rock crystals, the stars of the underworld.
All this may have been a collective hallucination although nobody has yet explained to me what a collective hallucination actually means.”
“I had a cup of tea, thought about my day and mostly about the horse whom, though I’d only known him a short time, I called my friend. I have few friends and am glad to have a horse for a friend. After the meal I smoked a cigarette and mused on the luxury it would be to go out, instead of talking to myself and boring myself to death with the same endless stories I’m forever telling myself. I am a very boring person, despite my enormous intelligence and distinguished appearance, and nobody knows this better than I. I’ve often told myself that if only I were given the opportunity, I’d perhaps become the centre of intellectual society. But by dint of talking to myself so much, I tend to repeat the same things all the time. But what can you expect? I’m a recluse.”
― House of Fear
From Akutagawa to Ajvaz, here is a handy timeline of Weird Fiction!
I hope you find it useful! Feel free to share it everywhere 😉
This short film is really worth watching if you’re interested in Leonora Carrington. The first few minutes is just her cousin giving some facts, but then there’s an excellent interview with a rather grumpy but extremely inspiring Leonora.
Featuring rare archive footage, this short film follows Leonora Carrington’s cousin and journalist, Joanna Moorhead, exploring the artist’s story.