Myth of the muse.
After the end of the Spanish civil war, REMEDIOS VARO left her hometown Madrid to live in Paris,. The Surrealist group lead by Andre Breton was at that time predominantly made up of men. Many women felt positiv about the support and encouragement they received by members of the group. But at the same time, almost without exception, women artists saw themselves as functioning independently of Breton’s inner circle and the shaping of Surrealist doctrine. Remedios Varo summed up what that meant for her as well as other women. ” I attended those meetings where they talked a lot and one learnt various things. Sometimes I participated with works in their exhibitions. I had a certain affinity. ” But Varo wasn’t old enough and became merely .as she decribes it, ” A timid, humble listener . I had an open mouth within this group of brilliant, gifted people”.
Other women painters had different ideas. Dorothea Tanning said in an interview: ” I noticed with a certain consternation that the place of women in Surrealism was no different than her place in Bourgeois society in general.”
” Bullshit”, said Leonora Carrington when asked how she felt about the Surrealists identification of women as muse. Many other women Surrealists ,no doubt , felt the same way. Breton’s vision of the ‘ free and adored woman’ was of no practical help for women., especially women painters.Surrealism sought to make the whole psychosexual field of human experience available to the artist. Paintings by Remedios Varo include, over and over, the delicate ‘heart-face’ with the long sharp nose and thick mane of hair that marked he own identity.
For Varo and Carrington the path of spiritual evolution belonged to women.. Both women had become involved with Tibetan Tantric and Zen Budhism. Prior to these involvements however their work already revealed a sensitivity to the idea of an evolutionary feminine consciousness and to seeking out the source of women’s creative impulses.
In 1939 Varo and her husband , the French poet Benjamin Peret, escaped to Mexico and it was in the 1940 ties that a creative group of exiled painters and writers flourished in Mexico.
Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo developed a close emotional and spiritual relationship which propeled their work into maturity. The two women friends, in France, now became fellow travellers on a long and intense journey that lead them to explore the deepest resources of their creative lives.
For the first time in the history of the collective movement called Surrealism, two women would collaborate in attempting to develop a new pictorial language that spoke more directly to their own needs. Carrington recalled that, ” Remedios presence in Mexico changed my life.”
During the war Varo didn’t produce many paintings. She worked at a variety of jobs none of which paid well and inhibited her own painting. She designed costumes, helped build a diorama documenting World War 2, designed advertisements for Aspirin and painted furniture in interior design showrooms. Varo filled notebooks with accounts of dreams and short stories, invented games and magic formula.
Together with Carrington the two women build and furnished a small model living room, filling it with painted cardboard and papier mache, furniture and they appeared to have co-authored at least one Surrealist play, during that period.
Remedios Varo remained in Mexico until her death in 1963.