Tag Archives: Surrealism



Well… no, it’s not mine… but “Birthday” is the title of this beautiful Surrealist painting by the amazing Dorthea Tanning.


I was reminded of this painting yesterday and I had a completely different reaction to it than I have had in the past. This time, I feel like I was looking at myself. I am coming up on some big changes and moves in my personal, professional, and academic life… and I felt like the symbolism in Tanning’s self portrait really leant itself to those kinds of feelings. Tanning stands in the room, bare-chested and vulnerable but at the same time gives off a sense of self and internal (read emotional) strength through the gaze of her eyes and the placement of her hand on the knob of the door; the first open door in a long stretch of rooms, each separated by opened doors. At Tanning’s feet, a mystical, winged creature waits patiently, ready to follow Tanning loyally through each door. Perhaps this creature represents all the currently intangible possibilities that lie just through those doors that do not exist in her reality yet… but they are certainly coming!

When I have personal moments like this, I am reminded about why I love Art History SO MUCH. I am really jazzed about starting school and getting to a place in my career when I can contributed to the immense art historical scholarship that already exists.

And, while I have you… if you are interested, a little background on this incredible woman, in her own words…


“Dorothea Tanning was born in 1910 in Galesburg, Illinois and attended Knox College in her hometown before studying painting in Chicago (haunting the Art Institute where she learned what painting was.)   In 1941, now in New York, she met the art dealer, Julien Levy, and his surrealist friends, refugees from Nazi occupied France. Late in 1942 Max Ernst visited her studio, saw a painting, (Birthday), and stayed to play chess. They would have 34 years together, at first in Sedona, Arizona (a mere outpost at the time).  Here she would continue to paint her enigmatic versions of life on the inside, looking out:The Guest Room, The Truth About Comets, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Interior with Sudden Joy, Insomnias, Palaestra, Tamerlane, Far From. By 1956 Max and Dorothea had chosen to live and work thenceforth in France. Though Paris was headquarters, they preferred the country quiet lure in Touraine and Provence. These years included, for Dorothea Tanning, an intense five‐year adventure in soft sculpture: CousinsDon Juan’s BreakfastFetishRainy Day CanapéTragic TableVerbXmasEmmaRevelation or the End of the Month, Hôtel du Pavot Room 202.

Max Ernst died on April 1, 1976 and Dorothea faced a solitary future. “Go home,” said the paint tubes, the canvases, the brushes. Returning to the United States in the late 1970s, and still painting, Tango LivesWoman ArtistOn AvalonDoor 84Still in the StudioBlue MomDionysos S.O.S., she gave full rein to her long felt compulsion to write.  Words, poetry.  Written, read, heard.  Would she join these voices even then? Her poems have since appeared in a number of literary reviews and magazines, such as The Yale ReviewPoetryThe Paris ReviewThe New YorkerThe Boston ReviewThe Southwest ReviewParnassus, and in Best Poems of 2002 and 2005. Her published works include two memoirs, Birthday and Between Lives, a collection of poems, A Table of Content, and a novel, Chasm.” (From the Biography page on Tanning’s own website)


Dreaming a New Dream…


You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. — C.S. Lewis

I saw this quote today on a fellow blogger’s site today and it took the wind right out of me. Maybe you’re like me (…or maybe you’re not) and you tend think about what could have been. Obviously, there is no sense on having those kinds of thoughts unless you have some sort of intention to change the present and the future.  So, this is where I find myself…

I graduated exactly one year and two weeks ago. Considering how long it took me to earn my BA (due to changing majors and other stuff), I had never felt happier. I suspect that very few things in life give this kind of feeling of accomplishment. I discovered my “passion” pretty late in my education and it was truly by accident. So, it felt good to finally see this through to the end and discover that I was actually really good at being an Art Historian.

I think that because I have been having these kinds of thoughts lately,  I had a very strong reaction when I saw these surrealist inspired oil paintings by a recent college graduate from Nashville, TN named Alex Hall.  (Side note: from what I can tell, Hall is currently without representation– so…….. just sayin’…..)


Anyway, after graduating from college, Hall found himself in the same position as many of us recent graduates– new degree, no job, mounds of debt from student loans, and a very uncertain future. In an attempt to probably work out his emotions and fear, Hall created this series entitled, “Relativity”. Not only can the viewer really get a sense of how palpable Hall’s worries are, but there is a helplessness and almost resolve to just continue to fall.




Frankly, these paintings scared me– made me feel sick to my stomach. Not because they are bad (because they clearly ARE NOT)… but because I could relate so much to that feeling. However, in conjunction with that new found quote from C.S. Lewis, I was reminded that I don’t have to be fearful. In fact, I should use my concerns or fears as the catalyst to get myself going.  I can make things happen for myself. The life I want IS possible. How’s that for introspection!

Avant-Garde?…. those look like cat scratches…



“An original is a creation motivated by desire. Any reproduction of an originals motivated be necessity. It is marvelous that we are the only species that creates gratuitous forms. To create is divine, to reproduce is human.” – Man Ray
This seems like a really great quote to prompt this next post as it is filled with reproductions taken with my silly, little iPhone. I don’t know how the rest of you feel about Modern art or avant-garde art of the early 20th century… but I bloody love it. Let me be the first to say though that I did NOT always feel that way. I really just didn’t get some of it… why lie? I didn’t get all of it. But then, something really great happened. In my last year of college before graduating, my academic advisor demanded that I take courses out of my area of expertise…. what do you mean I can’t ONLY learn about Byzantine and early Medieval Art? That’s crazy. I rolled my eyes and said fine… never mind that taking more modern art courses would only make me a better and more rounded art historian. But I’m a Taurus and I’m stubborn… so, there’s that.
I enrolled in a class devoted to Marcel Duchamp and Dada. This is probably once of the best choices I ever made academically. This class was one of maybe 2 or 3 that were being taught in the ENTIRE WORLD… and my professor is one of the most knowledgable on Duchamp, so I can’t tell you how I lucked out. But, the point of this post is not to brag, but to only say that we all have to remember to give things a chance. You never know what you will learn and see or how the knowledge you gain will change your life. I still don’t understand modern art.. but I think a lot of times that’s what the artist is shooting for. They want the viewer to question what they are looking at and to be critical… because in that critique is when we as the viewer develop a connection to any given piece- even if it is a negative one.
Since I’ve been out of school, I have missed having conversations with my peers about art and about learning, so when a friend of mine asked me to go to the Art Institute with her, I jumped at the chance. I don’t normally spend a lot of time in the Modern Wing of the AIC, but they are currently celebrating the 1913 anniversary of Chicago The Armory Show, so we decided to scope it out. No matter how many times I go to AIC I never get bored. The friend that I went with had also studied art history, so it was so fun to listen to everything she said and just soak up her knowledge. I had such a great time and it really reignited my love for Dada, Surrealism, Duchamp, and Modern art in general. Below are images from AIC by heavy hitters Francis Picabia, Fernand Léger, Max Beckmann, Marc Chagall, Réne Magritte, Georges Braque, and Joan Miró. There are SO many more pieces and artists that come out of these monumental art movements from the early 20th century. Please enjoy and check them out in real life at the Art Institute.