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December 29, 2007


Thank you for the link to this article on Magical Realism. I wonder if the work of Remedios Varo could be considered in this category as well?

Varo's work certainly has a Magical Realist quality, but I think she's more properly defined as a Surrealist. She was deeply involved with the Surrealist movement, after all -- first during her student years in Madrid, and then during her years in Barcelona and Paris. When the Germans invaded Paris, she was part of the Surrealist group who fled Nazi persecution (with the aid of the New-York-based "Emergency Rescue Committee," set up to save artists and intellectuals), settling down with other Surrealist writers and painters in Mexico in 1941.

Although her work changed and matured in Mexico (influenced by Mexican art, by her friendship with Leonore Carrington, and by her metaphysical explorations), I'm under the impression (someone correct me if I'm wrong) that Varo still defined herself as a Surrealist painter -- although she gradually broke with some of Breton and Peret's more strict ideas regarding Surrealist theory.

(I'm a big Remedios Varo fan. She was partially the inspiration behind the character of Anna Naverra in my novel The Wood Wife. Have you read Janet Kaplan's biograph of Varo, "Unexpected Journeys"? Terrific book.)

Charles Vess has defined a catagory of fantastical art that he calls "Visionary Art" -- as distinct from the tradition of the English Fairy Painters (including most of the Golden Age illustrators and their modern equivalents) and the American Pulp tradition (and it's modern equivalents). Visionary Art, if I'm understanding Charlie correctly, includes magical works by artists who seek to portray a deeply personal vision, one that's often spiritual or metaphysical in nature. Shulamith Wulfing's work, for example; or Odilon Redon's. Varo's later work, in Mexico, could fall into this catagory because it comes out of her personal explorations into spiritual, metaphysical and occult ideas.

I'm a big Varo fan, too. Of course you are right; Varo is strongly associated with the Surrealists. But I also think that an artist can have characteristics that put her in more than one category. Although she doesn't seem to fit Schmeid's traits of Magical Realism, she does fit by other definitions that cite ordinary situations rendered in a magical way. The Surrealists seemed to rely on bringing the unconscious to the surface for examination in their work, while Varo and Carrington (and Fini) tend to examine the individual human condition, and very often, the feminine human condition. I think that Varo's work is much more personal and existential as opposed to the Surrealist's political and Freudian tendencies.

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About this blog

  • The Journal of Mythic Arts was a pioneering online magazine dedicated to Mythic Arts: literary, visual, and performance arts inspired by myth, folklore, and fairy tales. Published by The Endicott Studio, co-edited by Terri Windling & Midori Snyder, JoMA ran from 1997 to 2008.

    This blog was active from 2006 - 2008, and is kept online as an archive only. Please note that no new material has been posted since 2008, and links have not been updated.

    For more recent discussions of Mythic Arts, fantasy literature, and related topics, visit Terri Windling's Myth & Moor and Midori Snyder's Into the Labyrinth.

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