Saturday, September 12, 2015

"Jump I did" - Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) by Priscilla Frank

"Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads and idiots and movie stars, except when you need amusement," Tanning told Salon in 2002. The self-taught surrealist, who passed away in 2012 at 101 years old, enchanted the public with her meticulously detailed canvases depicting richly colored worlds of the imagination.

Her most well-known work, 1942's "Birthday," features a self-portrait of Tanning, breasts exposed, dressed in shabby, Shakespearean garb. Before her feet rests a mythical furry creature with black wings and behind her, an endless path of doorways extends into infinity.

Dorothea Tanning "The Birthday"

"When I saw the surrealist show at MoMA in 1936, I was impressed by its daring in addressing the tangles of the subconscious -- trawling the psyche to find its secrets, to glorify its deviance," she continued. "I felt the urge to jump into the same lake -- where, by the way, I had already waded before I met any of them. Anyway, jump I did. They were a terribly attractive bunch of people. They loved New York, loved repartee, loved games."

Tanning, who in her later years made a name for herself as a writer and poet, was also in love with sculptor Max Ernst. The two were married for 30 years until he passed away in 1978.

Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning, Sedona, Arizona
The names most often associated with surrealism, the avant-garde cultural movement born in the 1920s, include Max Ernst, Salvador DalĂ­, Man Ray, Hans Arp, Marcel Duchamp and Yves Tanguy, among others.

Surprise, surprise, they're all men. 

Thankfully, Sotheby's is now hoping to illuminate the many women artists who deserve equal recognition, those who also expressed the convoluted details of their interior worlds with sharp lines and bold colors. The upcoming exhibition "Cherchez la Femme: Women and Surrealism" will feature more well-known names like Frida Kahlo and Leonora Carrington, along with many even surrealist buffs may not recognize.

"A lot of it is still fairly unknown to the general public, even to surrealism enthusiasts," Julian Dawes, a Sotheby’s vice president who organized the show, explained to The New York Times. "Male surrealists look at women as objects of desire. The female surrealists sort of treat women as looking inward."

by Priscilla Frank, excerpt from 7 Forgotten Women Surrealists Who Deserve To Be Remembered

Shared with permission of the author.

You can read more about the artist at

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