Sunday, September 20, 2015

Lesbian orgies and a sleeping woman dreaming of penises: Toyen (1902-1980) by Priscilla Frank

Toyen, born Marie Čermínová, gave up her name and adopted an ungendered pseudonym based on the word citoyen, French for "citizen." She frequently referred to herself using masculine pronouns, and was uninhibited in expressing her queer desires through both her life and art.

In terms of her art, she was at the forefront of the Czech avant-garde, known in part for her erotic artworks that incorporated tongues, labia, vaginal openings, phallic chess pieces, lesbian orgies and a sleeping woman dreaming of penises.

"The Smile" - Toyen (1967)

"Toyen's entire oeuvre aims at nothing less than the correction of the exterior world in terms of a desire that feeds upon and grows from its own satisfaction," Benjamin Peret wrote in 1953. Indeed, her work constructs the enigmatic stage for an interior world, one pulsing with erotic urges and animal instincts that do not ask to be explained.

Toyen in 1930
The names most often associated with surrealism, the avant-garde cultural movement born in the 1920s, include Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, 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 here.

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