Monday, April 13, 2009
Remedios Varo Part II
In my first blog on Remedios Varo's work (Mutual Consent ), I mentioned that she often painted characters with their own, perhaps destined, method of travel built into their clothing or bodies: wings, clothing that formed sails, legs that became wheels, mustaches that served as steering bars. In this painting, Tailleur pour les Dames, Varo has created a whole shop to provide useful travel attire:
Varo described the purpose of the costumes in this shop very compellingly:
"...one style is very practical for travelling, the back being in the shape of a boat. Upon reaching a body of water one falls over backwards. Behind the head is a rudder which one guides by pulling ribbons which go to the breast and from which hangs a compass. All of this also serves as decoration. On firm ground it rolls along and the lapels serve as miniature sails, as well as the walking stick in which there is a sail rolled up that unfolds. The seated model is for going to those cocktail parties where you cannot move and one does not know where to set down a glass let alone to set down. The weave of the scarf is of a miraculous cloth that hardens at will and can serve as a seat. The style at the right is for a widow. It is of an effervescent cloth, like champagne, has a little pocket for carrying a vial of poison and ends in a very becoming reptile's tail. The tailor's face is drawn in the shape of scissors [and] his shadow is so rebellious that he has to pin it to the ceiling. The client who is contemplating the models unfolds into two more people because she doesn't know which of the three styles to choose, and the somewhat transparent repetitions of her to either side represent the state of doubt in which she finds herself."
Varo was taught to sew by her grandmother and had designed and made her own clothes since she was old enough to be able, and felt that tailors had no concept of a woman's anatomy or her needs in terms of comfort in real life. This talent came to be very useful in her life in exile, both for the many Surrealist costume parties that were thrown and for work. She worked on costume design for Jean Giraudoux's Madwoman of Chaillot, for Pedro Calderon de la Barca's Gran Teatro del Mundo, and Leonid Massine's ballet Aleko.
Linked, of course, to the theme of clothing with extra sails, rudders, basins and wheels, was the fact of the travel that made these things necessary; travel either for exploration or from forced exile. She was forced to flee so many times, first from stifling convention and a strict, constantly observing (spying, gossiping, expectant) society, but then from Franco, and finally from Hitler. She developed her "signature style" in the home she made for herself in Mexico (where she arrived in 1941), where she felt more welcomed than she ever had before. To illustrate,Emigrantes and Apartalos que Voy de Paso:
In La Tejedora Roja, we see again the theme of the artist (often a weaver or a knitter, as this theme was often in tribute to the domestic arts of women) as creator of life:
For more on the artist's fascinating life and work, I recommend the book Unexpected Journeys, by Janet Kaplan, which is a jewel.