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Art HERstory: Remedios Varo


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Photograph of Remedios Varo

Photograph of Remedios Varo

Imagine this: a Hellz Bellz model + crazy imagination + painter + (Disney x  Rob Zombie) – a few decades = Remedios Varo

"Vampiros Vegetarianos" (1962)

"Vampiros Vegetarianos" (1962)

María de los Remedios Varo Uranga was a Spanish-Mexican mamacita with a classic look and artistic creations that look like demented Disney settings and characters. She was born December 16, 1908 in Anglés, Girona, Spain. She had a financially comfy childhood because her father was a hydraulic engineer (and no, I don’t mean Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre hydraulics, we’re taking water flow hydraulics). Thanks to Papa’s job, Varo had the opportunity to travel to Spain and South Africa quite often. Taking trips to places most will never see sparked a lifelong interest in math, mechanical drawing, and locomotor vehicles in young María.

"Fenomeno" (1962)

"Fenomeno" (1962)

In her early years Varo attended convent schools and eventually entered Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando in Madrid to complete her collegiate studies. While in college she was briefly married to a fellow student. After her time at RABASF, Varo decided to move to Barcelona to be a part of a more avant-garde art scene. While there she met and married the French surrealist poet Benjamin Péret. Unfortunately, the couple was going through economic hard ships and had to abort their first child. The abortion resulted in Varo becoming barren.

"Cazador de Estrellas" (undated)

"Cazador de Estrellas" (undated)

On top of the loss of their first child, the couple was forced to flee to Paris when the Spanish Civil War broke out. The war devastated the country and the couple was unable to handle any other struggle. While in Paris, Varo came face-to-face with Surrealism. Influenced by Surrealism, Vero became an active artist in the Surrealist circle in Paris from 1937 to 1939.

"Los Amantes" (1963)

"Los Amantes" (1963)

Once again Varo and Péret had to relocate. They were forced into exile from Paris when Nazi’s occupied France during the span of World War II. Afraid of being captured and killed, the pair chose Mexico City as their next destination. They arrived in 1941.

"Armonia" (1956)

"Armonia" (1956)

In Mexico she met artistic heavyweights like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. She had to be star struck!  She didn’t spend all of her time with her artsy pals though. Varo grew close to other exiles and expatriates, specifically the English painter Leonora Carrington and French pilot Jean Nicolle. In dire need of a change, Varo and Co. attempted to make a move to NYC. Her husband’s political affiliations posed a problem for all in their party and they were denied visas. The reason given: you don’t have the right papers. What a crappy cover-up.

"Encuento" (1959)

"Encuento" (1959)

The couple was stranded, broke, and defeated. Varo sold her white sheets to make money for their trip back to Mexico City. She remembered the Muslim dead must be wrapped in white for their final meeting with God. Quick thinking got the couple enough money to eventually made the trip via steamer.

"Energia Cosmica"

"Energia Cosmica"

Varo and Péret split upon return and Vero’s last major relationship was with Austrian born Walter Gruen. Gruen was a concentration camp survivor and living proof that persistence, patience, and faith pays off.  He believed in Varo and gave her the encouragement to focus on painting full time. His push paid off as he knew it would. In 1956, Vero became the first one-woman exhibition at the Galeria Diana in Mexico City. People described her work as ‘post-modernism allegory.’ This chick definitely had the ability to relay a message via oil-based paints and canvas. On top of being dream-like extended metaphors, the paintings of Varo also reflect Irrealist beliefs. Irrealism focuses on the modes of unreality and the problems with defining reality. This parallel is obvious in the mood of her paintings. They are a mix realistic and unrealistic characteristics.

"Invocacion"

"Invocacion"

Sadly, Varo’s work wasn’t as respected as it should have been during her lifetime. She passed away on October 8, 1963 from a heart attack. To honor her memory the Museo de Arte Moderno had a retrospective in 1971. The display of her work in the museum drew the largest audience in Mexican history.

"Naturaleza Muerta Resucitando" (1963)

"Naturaleza Muerta Resucitando" (1963)


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