Not a lot of words from me this time: just three pictures. This conceptual triptych by Spanish/Mexican painter Remedios Varo is too beautiful not to share, and just a sample of her impressive body of work, rooted in European surrealism, but with a direction all of her own.
The three works, in chronological order, are: Toward the Tower (1961), Embroidering Earth’s Mantle (1961), and The Escape (1962).
Instead of giving my own view, I will reproduce Janet A. Kaplan’s analysis here, taken from her excellent biography Unexpected Journeys:
In the first of the series, Toward the Tower of 1961 […], Varo shows her self-portrait character as one of a group of identical uniformed girls bicycling away from a beehive tower in which they were being held captive, led by a “Mother Superior” figure and by an ominous man from whose bag fly birds that hover overhead as a guardian cordon. […]
In the central panel of the autobiographical triptych, Embroidering Earth’s Mantle […], Varo offered a closer look at the life of a convent student. The same young girls, here captive in a tower, 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. […]
The title of the third panel, The Escape […], attests to her success. Here she is shown with her lover fleeing to the mountains. […] In Varo’s fanciful depiction, the couple flees in a magical vehicle that looks like a furry inverted umbrella floating on a foggy mist. Their capes billow out behind them, catching the wind and acting as sails.
[Janet A. Kaplan, Unexpected Journeys, p. 18ff]
I might be posting more by and about Varo here, or on my tumblr, but for now, I hope you’ve enjoyed these.