Sunday, December 31, 2023

Remedios Varo's "Rebirth" for the New Year


Happy New Year!

I thought a poem focused on Remedios Varo’s “Nacer de Nuevo (Rebirth/Born Again)" would be appropriate as we enter a new year. It was originally published in September of this year by Ekphrasis Magazine online.

Here is the painting:

Nacer de Nuevo/Remedios Varo

You can find the poem here.

I found this painting in Whitney Chadwick’s Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement.


I was working at Border’s Books & Music at the time, shelving books in the visual art section and casually opened this book and landed on the page with this beautifully strange image of "rebirth". 

Something lit up inside me. “What is this?” “Who painted this?” “Where can I find more of this?”

Here was stillness and motion, together, folded into each other like yin and yang in the familiar Taoist symbol.


There was something else: it reminded me of...what? Was there a memory? Maybe a memory from before the brain can formulate memories? A sensorimotor memory, hidden in the cells? A memory from before birth?

My first encounter with this painting was as close to a mystical experience I’ve ever come in the presence of a painting (well, other than Van Gogh’s “Starry Night over the Rhone”).


Remedios Varo

I began exploring the work of Remedios Varo, wherever I could find it. And, in the process, discovered the work of Leonora Carrington, her close friend, fellow artist, and fellow traveler in strange realms.


The Creation of the Birds/Remedios Varo


You can find three blogs I wrote about Carrington and her work in the links below, referencing the friendship between the two artists:

The world of Leonora Carrington, Part I – Early Years

The World of Leonora Carrington, Part 2 – The Alchemical Kitchen

The world of Leonora Carrington, Part 3 – Dark Mysteries, Cosmic Jokes


A good source to learn more about Varo is Janet Kaplan’s Unexpected Journeys: The Art & Life of Remedios Varo.


The blog banner for “noise & silence” above is Varo’s “The Flutist.”


Meeting/Remedios Varo


Here is the beginning of the poem:

Nacer de Nuevo (by Remedios Varo)


She pushes through matted roots, emerges into an earthen room, 
sees the root-sprouted table that holds a water-filled grail. She  

emerges, lit from within, from the sun inside the earth. Call her 
Luminar. In the middle of a busy bookstore, I recognized that  

image though I’d never seen it before. How did she know what 
had been inside me since birth? A hole in the root-ceiling revealed  

a crescent moon, reflected off the water’s surface. She stares into 
the reflection, entranced, pleased, at the threshold of the room she  

has been searching for her entire life, but hadn’t known existed 
until that moment. Call her Liminar. And I stood there, looking  

down at that painting, Luminar as Liminar…


You can find the rest of the poem here.


The lines “Luminar as liminar” came from reading an article about Varo’s work by Ricki O’Rawe and Roberta  Ann Quance (Crossing the Threshold: Mysticism, Liminality, and Remedios Varo’s Bordando el manto terrestre (1961–2)). The article discusses Varo’s protagonists/heroines as liminars, characters who are on their way to initiation into esoteric knowledge, on the threshold – taken from Victor Turner’s conception of the liminal. Luminar is derived from a crude combination of related words in English and Spanish (referencing “luminary”, “body of light”, and “genius”).


Books about or by Remedios Varo (most are out of print, or priced outrageously, but maybe find them at your local library?):
(coming out in April, 2024)
Remedios Varo 1908 - 1963

Still-life Reviving (her final painting)/Varo