Friday, August 25, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Dorothea Tanning, artist & writer.

Dorothea Tanning, American surrealist painter, print-maker, sculptor, writer, and poet. She was born on this day in 1910, died in 2012, aged 101.

She certainly had a way with words, as well as paint! This sample of her writing from an article/interview HERE:
Now the doors are all open, the air is mother-of-pearl, and you know the way to tame a tiger. It will not elude you today for you have grabbed a brush, you have dipped it almost at random, so high is your rage, into the amalgam of color, formless on a docile palette.

As you drag lines like ropes across one brink of reality after another, annihilating the world you made yesterday and hated today, a new world heaves into sight. Again, the event progresses without the benefit of hours.

The application of color to a support, something to talk about when it’s all over, now holds you in thrall. The act is your accomplice. So are the tools, beakers, bottles, knives, glues, solubles, insolubles, tubes, plasters, cans; there is no end ...
(Dorothea Tanning)
I considered this the best presented YouTube video featuring Ms Tanning's work. Titles of her paintings are included, making it easy for interested viewers to easily search for a larger version of any which particularly attracts them.

Extracted from one of the many obituaries available online this from The Telegraph:
Dorothea Tanning was born on August 25 1910 to Swedish immigrants who had made their home at Galesburg, Illinois. At the age of five she developed a gift for weeping while reciting tragic poetry, leading her mother to hope that she might make a career on the stage. Two years later, however, she had made up her mind to become an artist.

In her autobiography she recalled that her devout Lutheran parents had been alarmed by a perverse bohemian streak that first manifested itself when, as a child, she always lusted after the villain in Westerns. Aged 15, despite never having heard of Surrealism, she horrified her family by painting a naked woman with leaves for hair.

She left home at 20 and moved to Chicago where, after dropping out of art school, she worked as an artist’s model, an illustrator, and a marionnettist at the World’s Fair, and claimed to have dated a gangster who was called away and murdered while she waited at the bar.

In 1936 she moved to New York, where she supported herself by working as an illustrator. The same year she visited an exhibition of Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art: “I thought, Gosh! I can go ahead and do what I’ve always been doing,” she recalled.

In 1939 she travelled to Paris, armed with letters of introduction to several prominent artists, Ernst among them, but found that most had fled the city, which was on the brink of war. After a short spell with her father’s family in neutral Sweden, she returned to New York on the last boat.

After 31 Women, Dorothea Tanning had her first solo exhibition in 1944, at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York. By then she and Ernst were living at Sedona, where they confronted lizards, scorpions and snakes and played host to a bohemian cast of visitors including George Balanchine (for whom she would design ballet sets and costumes), Henri Cartier-Bresson, Marcel Duchamp, Truman Capote and Dylan Thomas.

To escape McCarthy era restrictions, they moved to France in 1957, ultimately settling at Seillans, a hilltop village in Provence, in a house designed by Dorothea. During the 1960s and 1970s her work was exhibited regularly at galleries in America and Europe. It was in France, too, where she “lived a lot in my own language”, that she developed her writing skills as a “way of talking”. She and her husband never discussed art, she claimed — “We just had fun.” Unlike some critics, Ernst always allowed her independence, never referring to her as “my wife” but always as Dorothea Tanning.

After his death she returned, in 1979, to New York. Alongside her writing, and following a stroke in the mid-1990s, she embarked on a series of 12 flower paintings – lush, dark works which were subsequently collected in a book entitled Another Language of Flowers.

Just one example of her painting:

 Palaestra = (in ancient Greece and Rome) a wrestling school or gymnasium.


Born on 25 August 1910 in Galesburg, Illinois. No time of birth known. Chart set for noon.

A scant few points, because lack of birth time leaves rising sign unknown as well as exact Moon position. I suspect her rising sign might light up the whole picture and bring it more into focus.

I do see her writing talent: three planets in Mercury-ruled Virgo, one at the beginning of that sign, one mid-sign and one in the last degrees of the sign: Sun Mars and Mercury respectively. Natal Mercury links to Uranus (planet of the unusual and unexpected) by harmonious trine (120 degrees) which probably explains the drive to surrealism in her painting. She has the generational opposition of Uranus-Neptune, so with personal planet Mercury in trine to Uranus that draws in the Uranus/Neptune eccentricities of dreamlike imagination. Ideally I'd have expected Venus, planet of the arts to have been hooked up to that in some way, but not so. Venus is in Leo - maybe that Venu/Leo flavour harks back to her early indication of possessing some acting talent (mentioned in the clip above).

Natal Moon at noon was at 7 Taurus - ruled by Venus, but I guess (not sure about this) there's an outside chance that Moon could have been in the very last minutes of the last degree of Aries, if her birth time had been extremely early. At noon natal Moon was uncomfortably close to Saturn, which didn't feel right to me, from the impression I've gleaned of this lady.

Underlining, again, her writing talent I'll finish with one of her poems Are You? This opens her poetry collection A Table of Content (2004), and is a.... profound statement about identity and self-reliance. This comes from an obituary in The Guardian.

If an expatriate is, as I believe, someone
who never forgets for an instant
being one,
then, no.
But, if knowing that you always
tote your country around
with you, your roots,
a lump
… that being elsewhere packs a vertigo,
a tightrope side you cannot
pass up, another way
to show
how not to break your pretty neck
falling on skylights:
… then, yes.

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