Remedios Varo: The Beautiful, Crazy Sh*T Creatives Do (If We’re Smart)
Remedios Varo created paintings “[…] peopled by owl-artists, insect -geologists, crazed botanists and magical astronomers who overturn our arbitrary assumptions about how things ought to work,” writes Janet Kaplan in Remedios Varo: Unexpected Journeys.
Like many Spanish and Mexican painters of her day, Remedios Varo was a magical realist. And not just on the canvas.
Varo (1908 -1963) gave her cosmic-sized imagination the freedom to roam both her art life and her daily life. By that I mean she found magic in, or made magic out of — regular stuff.
Let’s look at an example:
“Strolling along a Mexican street one evening, she [Varo] noticed plants with beautiful white egglike fruits. Fascinated, she took one to her apartment, set it among her plants on the terrace in full moonlight, and carefully nestled tubes of paint around it. She felt this conjunction of the special plant, her paints, and the moon might prove auspicious for the next day of painting,” (Kaplan).
Are You Like Remedios Varo?
When I first read that story I thought this gal Varo could be slightly unstable or at least taking this whole “I’m a creative” thing too far. But then 10 seconds past.
Embarrassingly, I realized I’ve done similar stuff. Frequently in fact.
I just don’t admit it, apparently even to myself.
But here is what I remembered 10 seconds after reading that passage about Varo and the moon fruit that put me in the same camp as her.
Just last year my boyfriend and I were hiking in Utah, staying at a cabin on the Colorado River next to Arches National Park.
Before I went to sleep on the last night of our stay, I almost unconsciously started arranging natural objects I’d found on the trip along with my writing supplies and a new necklace I’d bought under the amber glow of a harvest moon on the little deck we had overlooking the rushing river.
When I was done I saw I had carefully alternated my found red rocks with pointed clear quartz crystals, and writing pens in a circle atop a new, blank Moleskin notebook. Like Varo, I suppose I was banking on the stuff being infused with the creative enchantment of the place by dawn.
Have you ever done anything odd like that?
If you just nodded your head yes,
I’m relieved I’m not alone, I mean — that’s good news for you.
Why is it good?
Why You Too, Should Be Making Rituals With Moon Fruit
Because I believe that same slightly crazy-ass wiring that has us making moon rituals with art supplies also allows us to see, hear, sense and connect what others don’t.
Our enhanced, alchemical rainbow wiring enables and encourages us to invent, innovate, provoke or delight others with our art.
I argue it’s our very eccentricity that gives us the gorgeous guts to show those inventions, innovations, and provocations to others on canvas or the page.
(For more support on this check out my post, Letting Go of Approval: A Story for Artists.)
We sometimes are ashamed of our penchant to honor our wonder via ritual, it may seem childlike.
But as actor/comedian Ricky Gervais says;
“You have to let yourself go to be creative. Children possess this quality but then seem to lose it as they are told, ‘it’s not the done thing.’ Pablo Picasso summed it up well; ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’”
Let’s look at one final example of Varo’s admirable ability to remain an artist after she grew up.
Remedios Varo’s Letters to Strangers
Varo and her artist friends like Luis Bunuel, Alice Rohan, Kati Horna and others would throw elaborate costume parties or play surrealist games whilst living in exile as war refugees in Mexico in the 1940s.
Varo especially loved composing intriguing letters to complete strangers she chose from the phone book. People whose name or profession piqued her curiosity. Here are a few excerpts of a draft of one of Varo’s amusing letters to strangers Kaplan discovered in the artist’s sketchbook:
I am totally unaware if you are a solitary man or a father of a family, if you are a timid introvert or a bright extrovert, but one way or another perhaps you are bored and wish to fling yourself intrepidly into the middle of a group of unknown persons with the hope of seeing something that interests or amuses you. […] I propose that you come on New Year’s Eve to house number ______ of the street _____ […].
On second thought I am more crazy than my goat.
[…] I am almost sure you will not come; it would require enormous aplomb to do it and very few people have that.
[…]I hope that you yourself are not a gangster or a drunk; we are almost abstemious and semivegetarian”
(Varo Sketchbook, Gruen Archive).
Did Varo send letters like these? Did any of these strangers show up to her parties? I don’t know. But wouldn’t it be inspiring to have had Remedios Varo as your neighbor and friend as artist/writer Leonora Carrington, did?
Varo reminds of Hermes, “the divine trickster.” Hermes ruled over inventiveness, art, mischief, magic, and communication (letters).
I wrote this post to remind us that every day and every situation is a new opportunity for us as creatives to make something out of nothing.
To make magic out of tubes of color, egg-shaped fruit, or letters to strangers, never sent.
Because as Einstein once said: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
What do you think?
Please share your reaction in the comments below. It will make my day and maybe help other artists and writers too. 🙂
You might like these other Charmed Studio Posts:
2 minute video: Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington and Rosa Rolanda