I subscribe to The Times Literary Supplement (TLS), a much more erudite weekly bit of intellectual journalism than The New York Review of Books, which focuses on contemporary politics and other such matters more than on the history of the many things that interest me. Sometimes the depth of TLS sends me to Google or other reference sources – including books (!) – because of its profound adherence to a refreshing intellectualism.
But, sometimes, I jump up and dance like Jennifer Beals did in the film “Flashdance,” yelling, “Yes!,” when I come across an article that calls up one of my earliest booky loves.
The latest enchanting TLS article led me down a path of remembrance, to a visit I made to Mexico City in 2008, with an article curiously titled “Coherently Irrational,” by Peter Read, about British artist-turned-expatriate-in-Mexico Leonora Carrington. On the way to the national anthropology museum on Reforma, a most French-influenced avenue in the most intriguing capitol city in the Americas, during that 2008 visit, I noticed odd sculptures of pigs and explanatory signs emblazoned with the name Leonora Carrington. Ms. Carrington died in 2011 at the age of 94 in Mexico City, after years of exile, and now – finally – there’s another celebration of her art in her native land, England, the first in twenty years. I urge any of you within striking distance to plan a trip and see female genius finally acknowledged.
Descended from upper-crust British aristocrats and presented at court to George V, Ms. Carrington also painted superb surrealistic canvases, hobnobbed with the artistic greats of the 1930s – including the great Max Ernst, who became her lover in spite of a vast age difference, and influenced one of my favorite artists, Remedios Varo. And vice versa. In fact, I first learned about Ms. Carrington through an exhibit of Remedios Varo‘s work in Mexico City when I spent a semester studying at a Mexican university. Frida Kahlo apparently called Ms. Carrington, Ms. Varo, and photographer Kati Horna “those European bitches” … . But that’s grist for another mill.
You may well be asking how do Surrealism and these artists fit into exile and food? Food did come into play when I read this: “… she sat at a restaurant table and covered her feet with mustard, and served cold tapioca dyed with squid ink to guests as caviar. Visitors to the rue Jacob might wake up in the morning to a breakfast of omelet full of their own hair which she had cut while they slept.” André Breton also recalled smatterings of Ms. Carrington’s food life in New York, where “she served dishes as carefully crafted as her paintings, including a challenging combination of hare with oysters, based on recipes from a sixteenth-century English cookbook.”
Both Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo lived their lives as exiles. Exile presents a new way of being, looking at the world, a fresh approach, and novel interpretations. Which many artists and writers and others have done. And still do.
A second chance, as it were, that’s what exile offers, most of the time.
Exile takes many forms, as I tried to explain in an earlier post. And, thus, food, cooking, cookbooks, and menus will thus no longer be the bedrock of this blog, in spite of its moniker “Gherkins & Tomatoes,” both ingredients distinguished taste sensations nonetheless and worthy of art, as witness the painting by Spanish artist Luis Melendez, who inspired the name of this blog in the first place in 2008.
Nonetheless, in spite of that distinguished pedigree, I revert happily to my original status as a writer in love with whatever the world throws along the path: books, art, food, travel, whatever. © 2015 C. Bertelsen