Sunday, January 22, 2017

No apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic

Mujer Saljendo del Psicoanalista, Remedios Varo
In Mexico City they somehow wandered into an exhibition of paintings by the beautiful Spanish exile Remedios Varo: in the central paintings of a triptych, title 'Bordando el Manto Terrestre', were a number of frail girls with heart-shaped faces, huge eyes, spun-gold hair, prisoners in the top room of a circular tower, embroidering a kind of tapestry which spilled out the slit windows and into a void, seeking hopelessly to fill the void: for all the other buildings and creatures, all the waves, ships and forests of the earth were contained in this tapestry, and the tapestry was the world. Oedipa, perverse, had stood in front of the painting and cried. No one had noticed; she wore dark green bubble shades. For a moment she'd wondered if the seal around her sockets were tight enough to allow the tears simply to go on and fill up the entire lens space and never dry. She could carry the sadness of the moment with her that way forever, see the world refracted through those tears, those specific tears, as if indices as yet unfound varied in important ways from cry to cry. She had looked down at her feet and known, then, because of a painting, that what she stood on had only been woven together a couple thousand miles away in her own tower, was only by accident known as Mexico, and so Pierce had taken her away from nothing, there'd been no escape. What did she so desire to escape from? Such a captive maiden, having plenty of time to think, soon realizes that her tower, its height and architecture, are like her ego only incidental: and what really keeps here where she is is magic, anonymous and malignant, visited on her from outside and for no reason at all. Having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of force, she may fall back on superstitions, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disc jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else?
— from The Crying of Lot 49, by Thomas Pynchon.

As with many references in The crying of Lot 49, I didn't know if Remedios Varo was real or fictitious. Real, it turns out. Her paintings are real.

I don't recognize her work as anything I've come across in the past; how can I have lived my life without knowing her? Whimsical yet dark. Feminist. Several of her works would feel at home within the world of The Crying of Lot 49.

I have a particular fondness for Woman Leaving the Psychoanalyst (above), as if she's pulled the cobwebs from her mind, and they are the psychoanalyst.

Oedipa Maas's shrink, Dr. Hilarius, has been trying to recruit her for an LSD study, but she has resisted. She doesn't trust him. I haven't entirely figured out Pynchon's attitude to women, or at least to this woman protagonist. It may not be important. But I have the feeling it is.

Bordando el Manto Terrestre, Remedios Varo

Has a painting ever made you cry?

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