by Sylvie Schwartz
We are now in the second half of November. It’s cold without snow (the only fun part about the cold), windy, and I have homework to do. Brainstorming essay after essay, writing visual analysis after visual analysis - in my most refined academic terms - I sometimes get lost in the dullness of art. The art often isn’t dull, but the brushstrokes are. And who wants to get lost in the actual brushstrokes anyway? Instead of the bleak November landscape wrapped up in school, I’d rather live in the mind of Remedios Varo, the 20th Century Spanish painter and anarchist who lived in exile in Mexico City alongside other European ex-patriates such as Kati Horna and Leonora Carrington. So here are some visual analyses of the type I’d rather be doing: Six (an arbitrary number, like Buzzfeed) Paintings by Remedios Varo and Why I’d Like to Live Inside Them:
1. Vampiros Vegetarianos (1962)
Three tall and skinny boys sit at a table in an underground cathedral. Their faces may be pale and wan, but they have been dressed by Rumpelstiltskin and they look radiant, clothed in clouds spun with gold. There are wings on their hats. They are kind to their pets: part-chicken, part-ferret. They are focused, but not on what they are doing, nor on each other. They each look intently somewhere at nothing. They are draining the fruit that sits in front of them of its blood. Their healthy eating habits give them a nice glow. There is one more place-setting at the table. I’d like to think it is for me.
2. Locomocion Capilar (1959)
In this painting, we live in a special city. It is walled. It has many narrow brick alleyways between buildings and doorways to pass through. Men float on their beards, wear clouds on their heads and birds fly underneath them. They hang onto their mustaches like handlebars, to steady themselves or to steer? They are like the Gentlemen in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But they are nice, and they do not want to remove your heart. If you said something to them, they would say “shh” and lead you to a cozy library where a cup of tea and a plate of warm scones are waiting. I am the woman on the left, ghostly, preoccupied, pulled towards a window by the alluring facial hair of a mysterious stranger.
3. El Vagabundo (1957)
This is the vagabond. He is totally self-sufficient. His clothes are his vehicle. He does not need to walk. He is powered by a set of windmills, one that that glides alongside him and one that is one the top of his head. He is the perfect image of environmentalism, living among the trees, living off the breeze. He lacks nothing. His library, his cat, his pots and pans, are all efficiently stored inside his outfit. He’s even got a window to look out of. He needs no home. He is a vagabond by choice. He doesn’t need us. If I met him on his path in the wood, I would ask him for a cup of tea. I’d want to know what book he’s reading and what the name of his cat is. But he wouldn’t answer, he’d continue on his way. He doesn’t need me.
4. Energia Cosmica (1956)
The options in this painting are endless. I could be the wall and pet my cat. I could be the cat with magic coming from my butt. I could play the violin. I could be myself. I could live in this room, where sunlight pours in through two holes in the wall and feed the plants that grow on the floor. The mold that grows on the wall could become my friends. I could play the violin with the mold on my wall. Some would say the room is decrepit, but this room is alive. One would be so lucky as to live in this room.
5. Au Bonheur des Dames (1956)
These women are plants and they are bikes. They live together in a palace that it also a library. There are trees inside, and art. These women are highly evolved. They form a very elite society, and they are working hard to find the answers to all of our most burning questions, like Who, and What, and Why, and Where. They will save the world some day and then they will go back to work. Saving the world is only something to do over breakfast. They will go on to answer more questions, like Is, and How, and Can. In the evenings, they read Rimaud’s Illuminations to their trees, which grow even taller. They prosper and eat nothing but horse chestnuts. They begin to study music. Debussey is their favorite.
6. The Creation of the Birds (1957)
In a world without birds, I can think of no loftier pursuit than the creation of birds. Birds are created by an owl-woman, alone in her castle, by channeling starlight onto a drawing, done with an instrument that stems from her heart. Her heart is also a violin. Colors come from a contraption too complex to understand. This is our creation myth: birds come from music, art, love, starlight, and something else that we can’t quite know.