Friday, September 26, 2014

Arty Farty Friday ~ REMEDIOS VARO

Remedios Varo - at first I thought it to be the name of a male, but it's not. Remedios Varo's name given at birth was María de los Remedios Alicia Rodriga Varo y Uranga. In Spain names do take on a more epic quality than in most other countries of the world. Anyway, Remedios Varo, as she became known, was born on 16 December 1908 at 10:45 pm in Anglès, Spain. Her father was a hydraulic engineer, he taught her to draw in a style which had later clear influence on her artwork. Varo used imagery related to her father's profession. Complex pieces of imaginary machinery can be seen in her paintings, which draw also from her studies of alchemy theories and processes. Her figures are thought to be autobiographical. Science, dreams, witchcraft, mysticism and humor thread through her psychological or spiritual subject matter.

Educated in Spain, in Madrid and Barcelona, rumored to have taken classes together with Salvado Dalí. She married painter Gerardo Lizarraga, then, apparently without benefit of divorce married, or (it's not clear) conducted a lengthy affair with, French poet Benjamin Péret. During the Spanish Civil War they fled to France. Settled in Paris. She soon gravitated towards the city's arty bohemian surrealist groups. Varo and English surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington became friends at this time, a friendship that survived for the rest of Varo's life.

As World War II began Varo relocated yet again, this time to Mexico City. Most of her her artwork was created in Mexico, where she was also able to pick up her friendship with Leonora Carrington, who had also fled to Mexico.

In order to cover living expenses, Varo took a variety of jobs: furniture painting, costume design, toy-making, commercial illustration for a company selling pharmaceuticals, and scientific drawings for Venezuala's Ministry of Public Health. Her marriage/association with Péret ended on his return to France. Her third husband-to-be, Austrian businessman Walter Gruen then entered the scene. Wed in 1952, she no longer needed to rely on odd jobs for her livelihood. Her true creative potential now emerged.

Varo's longtime interest in mysticism, alchemy, magic and, oddly, science co-exist in her paintings. Many, or most, of these are explained as being an exploration of the female psyche. It was only around the time she died suddenly, of a heart attack, in 1963 when her career was thriving, that women were beginning to assert their independence after centuries of treatment as second-class citizens. Many of her paintings need to be viewed with this in mind.

A few examples of her work, some with explanation taken from Women as Mythmakers: Poetry and Visual Art by Twentieth-Century Women,by Estella Lauter. The book has an error in Varo's year of birth, by the way. She, as many women will, knocked a few years from her age for public consumption. It was not until her death that her true birth year was discovered.

Please click on the images for clearer and/or bigger versions:

 La Revelación (1955)

 Embroidering the Earth's Mantle

Re the painting titled Embroidering Earth's Mantle, explanation from Janet A. Kaplan's biography of Varo,
"Unexpected Journeys" ~
In the central panel of the autobiographical triptych, Embroidering Earth’s Mantle [...], Varo offered a closer look at the life of a convent student.... here captive in a tower, (they) work as in a medieval scriptorium, embroidering the mantle of the world according to the dictates of a “Great Master.” This hooded figure reads from the catechism of instructions while stirring a broth boiling in the same alchemical vessel from which the girls draw their embroidery thread. Each girl works alone, embroidering images onto a continuous fabric that spills out from table-height battlements around the facets of the tower. Together they create a landscape with houses, ponds, streams, boats, animals, and humans, all nestled within the folds of the fabric. Theirs is the traditional work of the convent, where needlework was deemed a skill appropriate for cultured young women.

Characteristically, Varo treated such tradition with irony. Among the girls working diligently, each at her own table, guarded by a comical veiled figure who lurks in the background playing a flute, Varo’s rebellious heroine has “embroidered a trick in which one can see her together with her lover” [...], their rendezvous subtly visible in a rendering hidden upside-down within the folds that flow from her table. In a masterful variant on the myth of creation, she has used this most genteel of domestic handicrafts to create her own hoped-for escape. Unlike Rapunzel and the Lady of Shalott, Varo’s young heroine imprisoned in the tower is not merely a metaphor for confinement, but also an agent of her own liberation. [...]

 Energia Cosmica

 Papilla Estelar (1958)

Papilla Estelar = either Stellar Porridge or Celestial Pablum, or similar.
(Page 90 of Estella Lauter's book linked above)
"[This painting creates] an image of female nurturing...The protagonist is seated at a table inside an octagonal enclosure in the sky. She is grinding the food from the stars and feeding it to the moon in its cage. She is at once powerful and impotent. Because the moon is waning, it seems likely that she is saving it from death...A closer look at her setting reveals the source of her ambivalence; although there are steps leading from her enclosure, she could not take them unless she could walk on clouds... [She] is as caged as the moon..."
Often seen as an autobiographical artist, Varo uses these women as her stand-ins exploring the occult, the Kabala, and alchemy.

 Creation of the Birds
Page 84-5 of Lauter's book "...protagonist has assumed the form of an owl in order to paint birds who will come to life and take flight for the first time... She dips the brush, attached to her own violin (in the place of her heart), into paint from an alchemical alembic where the substance from the stars is stored. With her other hand, she holds a triangular magnifying glass to intensify the light from the moon... The woman/owl gives wings to her visions of the birds."
[Page 91] "... [This] is her image of what will be required if human creators wish to make a world in which all the species of life can survive. Her choice of the owl, always a figure of wisdom, is clarified by the information that the pre-Hellenic, Cretan Athena was a patron of the arts and a goddess of renewal ..."

 Three Destinies

 Analogy of Winter

El otro reloj'  -The Other Timepiece (1957)

Sympathy (Sympatía), [Originally titled, The Madness of the Cat – La Rabia del gato], 1955

The "Sympathy" painting is mentioned in a very good biographical essay on Varo at a blog called Femspective. See HERE. The author offers one mundane explanation of this painting; I see another explanation, related to astrology. Does anyone else see the same?

 Premonicion (1953)

Varo doesn't appear to have as much interest in astrology as in the occult generally. There is one painting of "Taurus", but it's not as special as the rest of her work. There is oblique reference to astrology here and there among her paintings, if one looks for it, but I've found no evidence that she was "into it" to any extent.

 The World
Earth Air, Water, Fire - see?


Remedios Varo's natal chart with data from where it is given an AA (very reliable) rating. Exact place of birth, Anglès, Spain, wasn't available on my software's atlas but it offered Zuera as nearest available. This puts placement of all planets the same as's' there are just three minutes of difference in the ascending degree.

I see her astro-signature, as it relates to her art style and choice of subject matter, reflected by Venus/Mars in Scorpio in harmonious trine to Neptune in Cancer. Venus, planet of the arts is being energised by Mars, which accounts for Varo's energetic support artistically for her gender and the need for equality of the sexes. Neptune's link to imagination, dreams and fantasy feeds into her way of illustrating her points in such a creative manner.

There's a nice chain of sextiles linking Neptune at 16 Cancer to Jupiter (her Sun's ruler) at 14 Virgo, to Mars/Venus at 14/22 Scorpio to Uranus at 15 Capricorn. I like to find such chains, they indicate a kind of smoothness in the way a person is using their energies in co-ordination, to successfully manifest their talents...depending on which planets are involved, of course.

There are also 3 oppositions in Varo's chart: Sun/Mercury opposite Pluto/North Node; Moon opposite Saturn; Uranus opposite Neptune. Her Sun and Moon, major components of her personality, are each opposed by a planet relating to intensity or rigidity/limitation. Maybe these two oppositions acted as drivers and brakes in her nature? The third opposition, Uranus-Neptune forms to link each end of the sextile chain already mentioned. It's a Cancer-Capricorn cardinal opposition framing the sextile-chain. One could say, whimsically, that in so framing, it seems to exclude Saturn and Pluto from the major mix, leaving a calmer, sweeter, more integrated configuration to hold sway.


mike said...

Another unknown-to-me artist, Twilight. I find her fascinating and her paintings extraordinary for their content. Her paintings remind me of the Gothic style of the 12th - 14th centuries. A quick glance at her Wiki gave her style as irrealism, which is a new descriptive for me: " describe something which, while unreal, is so in a very specific or unusual fashion, usually one emphasizing not just the "not real," but some form of estrangement from our generally accepted sense of reality."

Wiki also states that ownership of quite a number of paintings Gruen gave to Mexico City's museum is in dispute due to her marriage legalities. One should always divorce before remarrying...LOL.

Her paintings are so loaded with details that it's difficult for me to see and-or interpret significance. You mention a possible astrological influence in "Sympathy"...yes, I can see what appear to be natal chart wheels or the zodiacal circles. And the linear connections between stars or points of light could be deduced to be aspects. The lines connect from the wheels to the 3D points of light, perhaps showing dimensionality to the 2D chart. Her use of multiple wheels that connect in various shared points could also be interpreted as synastry.

The Uranus in Aries-Pluto in Cancer square of 1931-1932 hit her natal Neptune-Uranus opposition (therefore the chain of sextiles you indicated), which would have greatly propelled her. Interesting that the square of her time is almost a mirror-image of ours...Uranus was-is in Aries, Pluto then in Cancer, now in Capricorn the opposite sign.

mike (again) said...

Off topic - The next time you can't decide a topic for your blog, simply write a derisive essay holding fellow astrology bloggers in contempt, thereby inferring and promoting yourself as superlative blogger.

This author apparently finds the information he provides to be very important...the comments indicate this essay was published a year ago, and again this month:

Twilight said...

mike ~ Her art is intriguing isn't it! The images on my blog are really too small to appreciate the detail in them. There are larger versions around the net, here and there, which I had meant to link to, but got myself otherwise involved and forgot!

Hers was a mirror image of our own times ? Hmm interesting to ponder upon that. Much of her content relates to female struggle, now less stressful than then (for most of us in the West anyway - still horrendous elsewhere). Now the struggle is for "we the people" to find our voice. I wonder how she might have portrayed that in a painting? :-)


mike (again) ~ Ooooh-er! I think my BP went up a few notches as I read that piece. Dearie me!!

He made one or two good points but smothered as they were in such judgmental language and attitude, they got lost among my rising blood pressure at the cheek of it all!


Can you guess what I did first?
Yep. Looked for his date of birth. Not to be found, but at Amazon from, I guess a book cover I noticed:

Being a Cancer, I felt a stronger alignment with my mom

Well black mark #1 to that astrologer from this dabbler, who, by all his standards ought rather to be scrubbing the kitchen floor. "A Cancer"??? What exactly is "a Cancer?"


I'd be wise not write more about him, otherwise I'd become overly judgmental myself.

mike (again) said...

By mirror-image, I meant the square aspect...Uranus is in the same sign then as now and Pluto has flipped from Cancer to Capricorn. The square aspect then held tremendous political and economical discord and collapse in Europe, which led to WWII, and essentially economical collapse here in the USA, with later involvement in WWII.

My blood pressure was OK when I read the "How to Write...", but my vainglory-O-meter detector registered in the red, danger zone. I was tempted to leave a comment, but decided his essay spoke for itself.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes, I see. So can we hazard a guess as to what the Capricorn mirror means, Aries/Uranus remaining the same and Capricorn taking the place of Cancer? Maybe the signs don't signify much, but the aspect being the same does. Just more trouble, trouble, trouble, I suppose.

I skimmed through comments, re the mentioned astrology article, noticing most were of the brown-nose variety. ;-/

It's a pity that when an obviously talented guy has something to say, he feels he has to say it in such an unpleasant manner, and in doing so distances potential future readers - and buyers of whatever wares he is, or will be, selling. He has certainly distanced moi.

LB said...

Wow, thanks Twilight. If not for your post, I might never have discovered this amazing artist.:)

I think her art *was* about "we" the people, conveyed through her own unique lense. Whatever wrong we do to the one, we do to all.

The array of meaningful details, as well as the sense of isolation, abandonment, ostracization, even imprisonment of the characters in Remedios' paintings gave a cosmic voice to the **collective's** spiritual rage channeled through her natal Liliths. Both True and Mean Lilith (in Virgo) are very close to her Virgo Ascendant coming from the 12th and square her IC/MC axis. Art was her way of serving.

Wikipedia (mike already linked it, but here it is again) also mentions this "sense of isolation" and the use of "emblematic androgynous figures":

I think prominent Lilith can operate a lot like prominent Pluto, in that the recipient is made painfully aware of unpleasant truths - whether they consciously realize it or not, these truths affect us all!

Healthy expression demands a way be found to channel the energy constructively (rather than self-destructively), often creatively through divinely inspired art or through mindful activism/advocacy.

Ruler of Remidios' Virgo Ascendant, Mercury, was also placed directly opposite her Pluto-NN in the 10th (in Gemini), so she was meant to have a powerful voice.

I can see how all those lovely supportive aspects you mentioned, Twilght, allowed for an easy flow of energies.

I think the oppositions helped too. At their best, oppositions can help us to better understand ourselves and the world we live in through our encounters with others. The two sets of oppositions in Remidios' chart (Libra Moon 1H opposite Aries Saturn 7H, and Mercury-Sun-SN in 4H opposite Pluto-NN, 10H) could be indicative of hard lessons learned as a woman artist struggling to be recognized in a male-dominated field, also her rejection of traditional religious and political ideas.

According to the same Wikipedia article I linked to above, male surrealists of the time generally confined women to limited roles.

There are so many layers here, to this woman and her art, I could go on and on! I love art that tries to convey something universal.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Oh, thanks for those very good extra astrological pointers!

I'm glad you like her work. I do too, spent a lot of time just gazing at some of it here and there online.
Beyond what some have seen as her art portraying a feminist viewpoint - of her times - it can all easily be updated by thinking of it in a more universal way - which is likely what she intended anyway.

In the first image in the post "The Revelation" she has implied that even though things change they remain the same (I think), time running in cycles.
So, her paintings will remain relevant for ever, to any who make an effort to see their meaning.

I picked a few I found interesting, and some with explanations. There are dozens more of her paintings, accessible via Google Image.

Her friend Leonora Carrington's work might interest you also, LB - it's similar but different. Though sometimes it is hard to differentiate. Pop Leonora Carrington's name into Google Image and you'll see what I mean. I still prefer Varo's paintings though.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Though you couldn't have (consciously) known it, this post goes to the heart of something that's been troubling me related to my art and the value in what I create now compared to what I believe I once created. Now I get it.

Must be our *exact* Sun-Moon conjunction at work once again.:)

Strangely, Remedios' chart echoes my own in some ways. Our angles are conjunct, as are our 6th house Chiron placements - mine is close to the vertex as well. My Liliths (True and Mean) aren't in the 12th (they're in the 8th), but my Pluto in Virgo (in relationship with my BM Lilith) is.

I'm still having my Nodal Return - in my natal 2nd and progressed 12th trine natal and progressed Chiron and conjunct natal Venus, ruling artists!

Thank you, Twilight.:)

LB said...

Adding how transiting Jupiter is conjunct my natal 12th house Uranus right now and opposite my natal Chiron. The supporting trine/sextiles from transiting Uranus in my natal 8th can't hurt either.

It's like a light bulb suddenly went on in my head!

Twilight said...

LB ~ That is good to know! I'm pleased that we have full and reliable data for Varo too, which isn't always the case for some artists in these posts.

Those light bulbs are just what we need to feel good, from whatever source, wherever!

LB said...

After reading about one of Varo's many lovers losing an eye in a scuffle with another lover over her honor, it reinforces my thinking that art provided a much healthier (and safer) outlet for her passions!

Twilight said...

LB ~ Very true. She must have been quite a charismatic character.

David Macadam said...

Can I agree with LB. You really have a knack of finding odd (and very good) artists that have escaped or avoided the attention of the artistic press.

Twilight said...

David Macadam ~ I do enjoy sniffing around, rootin' 'em out. :-) Thank you for that kind remark.