member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Passing Through the Curtain

Passing Through the Curtain

Entering the Magic Garden:
A new collaboration with the lovely Vesna:

A New Scent

At first, I saw only the bright light, I sensed something new. My mind couldn't immerse itself in the beautiful details until the heart sent its approval. Or, was it the other way around?
Is it all right to enjoy this? May I go on with this adventure now, here? How will this change me? Should I warn somebody that I may be gone forever? Will I be recognized when I come back?
"I can't come back", I said to myself. Time travels only forward, and life just goes on.
So, I relaxed, and let myself indulge.
It was a new scent.
The scent filled my nostrils and therefore forever changed my breath.
The scent covered my face and softened the way I look.
The scent gently landed on my eyelids and made me close my eyes and see more.
The scent flooded my mind, it sank old chains and balls and let new ideas be born.
I felt the scent as it traveled down my spine.
It was powerful like an ocean wave; it was unavoidable like an arrow arched from the birth of the Universe.
My body became the house to the fire, like a volcano. My hair turned red like lava.
My lips and my heart became One: Speaking of nothing but Love from that moment on.
--poetry by Vesna

The painting was also inspired by this piece by Vesna:

Her hair today again had a new shine. It was more red and made a different kind of frame around her face. “I’ll never finish this portrait”, he thought. He really needed the provision from this painting but he didn’t feel angry that the work was prolonging. Little Elizabeth, his daughter, brought light and warmth to the studio with her presence. One day her hair would have the color of gold, the other day the color of a young chestnut, or, like today, the shine of bronze. He looked through the window and saw his wife planting purple flowers. It seemed to him like the grass around her was all blue. His heart sent colorful fireworks through his eyes. “Maybe it is time to paint what I feel, not what I see,” he thought. Then the inspiration came by itself, he didn’t have to call it.

Notes from Zoe:
The plants that her image begins to appear through are all versions of the Hellebore. I had been thinking of the hellebore because of its legendary ability to cure insanity--thus, it formed a symbolic curtain between this world, filled with insanity, and the world of the magic garden, where one could suddenly and naturally be cured of it, and filled with magical abilities as a result...The idea was for there to be a certain location in a garden where, at a certain hour of the night, one could pass into an otherwise invisible garden, where certain plants grew that one had to have special knowledge to use. The hellebore is one of those plants.
In A Contemplation Upon Flower: Garden Plants in Myth and Literature, by Bobby J. Ward, it says:

“...the black hellebore, presumably Helleborus niger, was supposedly favored by witches who used it in their charms because they believed that one ‘finger’ of its lobed leaves was evil. According to legend, only a witch knows which one!....
Traditionally, even the collecting of black hellebores was considered dangerous because of their connection to witchcraft and sorcery. It had to be done in a specific, prescribed way; Pliny instructed drawing a circle around the plant with a sword and while lifting the root saying certain spells or prayers, entreating permission from the gods. The mystic rites for collecting, according to some versions, suggest looking to the east to be sure that no eagle witnesses the process; if it does, the gatherer will waste away and die within a year.”

Legend has it that the Black Hellebore (so named for the color of its root) successfully cured many famous cases of insanity, including that of Heracles, and that of the daughters of Argos, who had been driven completely wild by Dionysus.

Its use throughout history went in and out of fashion, because of the dangers caused by using it carelessly--whereby it became a poison (Hellebore is the ancient Greek word for food that kills).
In The Anatomy of Melancholy, it says “They that were sound commonly took it to quicken their wits, (as Ennius of old, Qui non nisi potus ad arma--prosiluit dicenda, and as our poets drink sack to improve their inventions)...” but later it began to be rejected as a poison; for example “Constantine the emperour in his Geoponicks, attributes no other virtue to it, than to kill mice and rats, flies and mouldwarps...” Later, it was picked up again as a medicine, and those that use it say it only has to be prepared correctly to work as a medicine: Brassivola “brags that he was the first that restored it again to its use, and tells a story how he cured one Melatasta, a madman, that was thought to be possessed, in the Duke of Ferrara’s court, with one purge of black hellebore in substance: the receipt is there to be seen; his excrements were like ink, he perfectly healed at once...” Some used a linen dipped in a warm concoction of hellebore and placed on the forehead to cure melancholy, some put it in an inhalant or a perfume.
And Paracelsus told us, “It is most certain...that the virtue of this herb is great, and admirable in effect, and little differing from balm itself; and he that knows well how to make use of it, hath more art than all their books contain, or all the doctors in Germany can show.”

The large bloom at the bottom left is from the type of Hellebore called the Christmas Rose, because it blooms as early as December. Its delicate scent and large, lovely petals bloom heartily even in the snow. We were imagining these winter blooms appearing in a corner of a larger garden at a secret hour of the night, their dew-strengthened scent opening the curtain between worlds, and the girl shimmering out of one and into the other.


  1. Beautiful painting, Zoe, I love the colors and the joyful mood it spreads, and the refined poetry by Vesna complementing it,you are just Great, girls!:)
    Oh hellebores topic is also actual for me:) as we planted our first hellebores last autumn (one carmine red and the other yellow with brown spots). I'm a bit hesitated that it's poisonous but can't wait to see them blooming covered with snow this spring!

  2. A beautiful painting -- I love the botany! I'm fascinated by this collaborative process as well. The writing here is so much richer than your typical aritist's notes.

  3. thanks, brian--it makes me very happy that you think so.
    zara, that will be magical! i hope you will take photos, i would like to see it. i'm glad you like the painting; i agree that the poem is fabulous :)

  4. I love the poem and the painting, and specially both together :).
    And I wonder Zoe, why the empty eyes?? I'm sure there is a reason for that.

  5. Hello, zoe.

    Love the poem and painting!! I love the colors,the Hellebore, and the white lily!
    You mentioned the scent and I think scents play an important role in our spirituality and they can sometimes lead us to a deeper (higher) realm.
    <a certain location in a garden where, at a certain hour of the night, one could pass into an otherwise invisible garden>
    ↑ very interesting!! Here the magical time is thought to be just before dawn!!

  6. migue--
    i'm glad you like them! vesna's excellent inspiration :) in her poem, she hints that during the transition from one world to the other, she can close her eyes to see. the idea in the painting (to me) is that her eyes are wide open, though they do not see in the way that we expect...

    thank you for your kind words and visit! i hope the magical time is not right before dawn, as if that's true i will never be awake for it, haha.

  7. Zoe, this is a beautiful post. I've seen Hellebores all over the Balkans. The Macedonians and others avoid the flower, afraid to be near a plant witches use. They believe in witches (versterki). But I didn't really know anything about the plant so got a crash course from Wikipedia. Wow! A second reading of Vesna's poem blew me away. She captured everything, from history to a dash of John Lenon and The Fifth Dimensions...And the painting is so perfect. Thank you for so much!

  8. Thank you so much Kitty for your comment, I really like your blog and I will be visitng you:)