Monday, August 30, 2010

Art History 101: Leonora Carrington

My older, much cooler sister Jessica has long been singing the praises of British-born, now Mexico-based Surrealist artist Leonora Carrington. Perhaps this is why on a recent trip to the local bookstore a short novel by the 93 year old particularly caught my interest. I knew Carrington created curious and fascinating paintings full of fantasy, but literature was well? I was sold.

The Hearing Trumpet
, originally published in 1974 and written during the 1960s, is a work as imaginative and whimsical as any of her visual art. Carrington's protagonist in the text is Marian Leatherby, who at the age of 92 has been shipped off to a decidedly eccentric home for the elderly by her son and his unsympathetic family. Written in Leatherby's perspective, the equally hilarious and heartbreaking story is as fantastical and entertaining as a children's book, cleverly blurring the line of how she imagines herself to be (still as vibrant as ever) and the reality of her state of being. Did I mention it also has illustrations? The book is both brilliant and relevant.

Much of the artists' work seems strongly influenced by the events of her tragic life. Carrington's lover and fellow Surrealist Max Ernst was forced out of their home in France after being arrested by Nazis and fled to America for safety. Carrigton was so heartbroken at the loss of her love and artistic collaborator that she suffered from anxiety and delusions to the point of being institutionalized. She eventually emmigrated to Mexico where she entered into a marriage of convenience (to secure her residency) never completely healing from the loss of her former life.

Carrington is not only inspiring for being one of so few historically recognized women artists from pre-WWII era, but also because she so successfully translated imagery from deep within her psyche, sharing the things that haunted her and consumed her. I hope you find her work as engrossing and striking as I do. Enjoy the betwitching Ms. Carrington!