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, October 2, 2011

The Artnap Project

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
  Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
  And the mome raths outgrabe.

So, although my father often wanders around the house reciting bits of the Jabberwocky, and although I’m mildly obsessed with other works of Lewis Carroll, this opening gambit pretty much shut my brain down, and I never really took to the Jabberwocky as anything more than the fantastic sound it makes when bellowed aloud. Then I came across this word in The Daily Figaro: Portmanteau.
“Originally, a portmanteau carried a nobleman’s luggage.  Later the word referred to a bag slung onto a horse, which evolved into a suitcase that opens like a book.  Then Lewis Carroll analogized it.  In Through the Looking-Glass, Humpty Dumpty explains that slithy combines lithe and slimy, mimsy hybridizes miserable and flimsy, and so on.  ‘You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.””

Carroll explained it a bit more in his own introduction to The Hunting of the Snark:
“Humpty Dumpty's theory, of two meanings packed into one word like a portmanteau, seems to me the right explanation for all. For instance, take the two words "fuming" and "furious". Make up your mind that you will say both words, but leave it unsettled which you will say first ... if you have the rarest of gifts, a perfectly balanced mind, you will say "frumious".”

There are plenty of portmanteaus in everyday speech, like smog: a mix of smoke and fog. Or motel: motor and hotel. Or brunch: breakfast and lunch.  Everyone remembers “Brangelina?”
A more interesting one is “flabbergast,” the history of which I found on

“Dating to the 18th century and most likely a combination of "flabby" or "flap" and "aghast," the logic underlying "flabbergast," meaning "extremely frightened or surprised," is a bit obscure. My guess is that "flabbergast" was originally intended to conjure up visions of someone so terrified or astonished that they trembled like a bowl of Jell-O. "Flabby," incidentally, is closely related to the old word "flappy" -- to say someone is flabby is to say that they "flap" when they move, which is enough to send anyone to the gym.”

Vesna and I have been on a vocabulary binge, lately, for a project I won’t go into here, and one of the products of it is the following portmanteau:
Artnapping: Art + nap (sleep) + nap (nab/ kidnap). The above black ink drawing was the first image to flesh out the ideas of the story (story to come). Then I decided to finally try my hand at maquettes, those moveable models that Clive Hicks-Jenkins uses in his studio that I love so much:

(Vesna's completed story will go here:    SOON  )

And finally, I worked my way towards this painting:

Capture By Tango
The clock is run by the sign of Pisces, and the juggler tells you the time by the number of glowing orbs he juggles (a concept taken from The Night Circus; more on that amazing book coming soon). If you click the link for the painting, you will see that there are two other female dancers disappearing and reappearing amongst the pillars. The detective has used his trusty phonograph (a weapon much more useful, I find, than the usual detective tool) to descend into the dream and capture the correct dreamer.


  1. I have a new portmanteau, zoellance, it is brilliance, elegance, intelligence...all in one:)
    Your energy is so contagious my dear Zoe, you have no idea:)
    Ok, story coming SOON, I promise:)
    I love the drawing and the painting, incredible work Zoe

  2. This has been a fascinating journey to observe. I particularly like that blue cat giving itself a wash and brush-up in the lower right corner!

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  4. I am a fan of Alice, too! Well, first, when I started reading your post, I had doubts I was reading in English:)) Nice word game it is!
    I love the girl on the 1st b\w pic - you have the ability to paint eyes WONDERfully!
    Curious about the story to come:) ...and about this: why does the man on the last images have white eyes? Any reason behind..?

  5. is a good question--vesna? :D

    merci, elfi! :))

    clive: of everything happening in the painting, the only thing i was certain about from the beginning was the little cat :) it seems that if everything is calm, they go berserk (like in the middle of the night), but if all things are berserk, they can be rather calm...thank you so much for your wonderfully patient tutorials on the maquettes :)

    vesnice, the only thing is that the portmanteau is missing vesna :D

  6. Wow! Amazing artworks all around! I *love* knowing that you have created these two maquettes that can can dance around any time... but then I also love peering in at them in their natural habitats through the windows of your painting and drawing! It was so lovely reading about portmateaux as well... I used to have a friend in high school who was always chanting out bits of Jabberwocky. I always find it interesting how people prefer to combine things one way or another... how some will choose slunch and others lupper (lunch + supper, a meal for days where the hours get away from us). Basically, thank you for the lovely post!!!

  7. hmmm,
    i love both of those:

    there's something so exhilarating when it works...

    i continued my blah-blahing a bit about the painting here:

  8. Hi

    Maybe too late to comment...I have also been curious about the blue cat. Thank you for your explanation about it.

    Hmmmm...I think Jabberwocky is a very interesting being though it only appears within the poem Jabberwocky and never interacts with the rest of the cast. To tell you the truth, I didn't understand the poem the first time I read it because of the nonsense words in it. I imagine that the Jabberwock probably has a symbolic meaning.
    And thanks so much for sharing those fantastic drawing and painting. Both are really brilliant!!

  9. sapphire,
    it seems to me that a lot of the joy of the jabberwocky is in saying it aloud. the phrasing and the fun of the strange words, and the acting that kind of comes naturally when you try to say it aloud, even when you don't have any idea what it's saying? maybe. :)

    thanks for your kind comment :) why would it ever be too late? :)