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Magic and Mystery, Fantasy and Fashion: Leonora Carrington in Pop Culture

Leonora Carrington might not be as well known as some other Surrealist artists, but her art has been quietly influential in popular culture and fashion.

Left: Madonna in "Bedtime Story," 1995 Right: The Giantess, Leonora Carrington, c. 1947

Left: Madonna in “Bedtime Story,” 1995; Right: The Giantess, Leonora Carrington, c. 1947

In 1995, Madonna’s “Bedtime Story” music video gained fame as an homage to the work of several female Surrealists. Directed by Mark Romanek, a filmmaker of most recent fame for pop singer Taylor’s Swift’s “Shake It Off” video and rapper Jay-Z’s “Picasso Baby” art film at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, it includes a scene in which the singer opens her robe to release a flock of birds, much like the central figure in Carrington’s The Giantess (ca. 1947).





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The dialogue between Surrealist art and fashion has a precedent long before Madonna. Artist Salvador Dali collaborated with designer Elsa Schiaparelli in the 1930s, and Surrealism continues to inspire contemporary designers. (Visit this Elle slideshow for some recent examples!)

In 2013, W Magazine published a Surrealist-themed fashion editorial photographed at the historical estate Las Pozas in Mexico.

Here are a few photographs from the W feature that echo certain figures and motifs from Leonora Carrington’s art:

Left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Right: Darvault, Leonora Carrington, c. 1950

Top left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Top right and bottom: The House Opposite, Leonora Carrington, c. 1945

Left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Right: Green Tea, or La Dame Ovale, Leonora Carrington, 1945

Left: Tilda Swinton for W Magazine, 2013; Right: Tuesday, Leonora Carrington, 1987

In addition to paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, Carrington created costume designs, stage designs, and playful, esoteric items such as decorative masks over her long career. Surely she would have enjoyed knowing that her work is still a source of ideas for creative artists of all kinds.

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Learn more about Leonora Carringtons life and career here:
www.theartstory.org/artist-carrington-leonora.htm

View the entire W feature here:
www.wmagazine.com/people/celebrities/2013/05/tilda-swinton-tim-walker-las-pozas-cover-story-ss/photos/slide/1

Las Pozas is located near the city of Xilitla in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. It was once owned by Edward James, a major patron of Surrealist art. You can read more about it here: www.xilitla.org

For more analysis of Madonnas Bedtime Story video, see here:
www.wicked-halo.com/2009/05/bedtime-story-deconstructed.html

Mouth as Muse: Francis Bacon’s Fascination Became a Lifetime of Painting

“I like, you may say, the glitter and color that comes from the mouth, and I’ve always hoped in a sense to be able to paint the mouth like [Claude] Monet painted a sunset.” –Francis Bacon

Postwar Irish painter Francis Bacon (1909-1992) is infamous for his detailed depictions of figures’ mouths, often wide open and screaming.

But, his colorful shrieks are more than imaginative. Bacon was an ample researcher, and some pretty gruesome real life images are hidden in his artworks.

“The Massacre of the Innocents,” Nicolas Poussin, 1628-1629.

Bacon’s oral fascination grew when he moved from Ireland to Chantilly, France at age 17.

In the Musée Condé, he encountered his earliest art influence: The Massacre of the Innocents by Nicolas Poussin. He called it “probably the best human cry ever painted.”





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Left: Still from "Battleship Potemkin," directed by S.M. Eisenstein, 1925. Right: Study for the Nurse (detail), Francis Bacon, 1957

Left: Still from “Battleship Potemkin,” directed by S.M. Eisenstein, 1925. Right: Study for the Nurse (detail), Francis Bacon, 1957

Popular culture also permeated Bacon’s obsession with a trip to the art movie house.

The film “Battleship Potemkin” was a self-proclaimed “catalyst” for his artwork and the cry of an Odessa nurse would be direct inspiration later in his career.

Left: Image from “Atlas-Manuel des maladies de la bouche,” first edition 1894. Right: Three Studies for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion, central panel detail, Francis Bacon, 1944.

Finally, he scoured the libraries of Paris for a scientific authority.

In Atlas-Manuel des maladies de la bouche, a French translation of an 1894 German medical textbook, Bacon found his ultimate source material: hand-colored plates of various mouth diseases in all their sore-filled, slobbery glory.

These diseased and distorted oral images would shape the creative canon of this existentialist artist for the next six decades.

“They always interested me,” he said, “And the colors were beautiful.”

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Learn more about Bacon’s life and career here: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-bacon-francis.htm

Julian Bell wrote extensively about Bacon’s scientific source material in this 2007 article for the New York Review of Books: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2007/may/10/the-cunning-of-francis-bacon/

Six Times Chris Burden Was More Extreme Than You

Burden emerged as a performance artist in 1971, using his own body as the material for works. From self-crucifixion to near-death by water dunk, Burden’s art is ritualistic and always extreme. Here are seven times he proved it.

Five Day Locker Piece, 1971 Did your thesis require five days spent stuffed in an art school locker with only five gallons of water? Probably not. He better have gotten an A.

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Images via Frederick Sanchez

Trans-fixed, 1974 Nailed to a Volkswagen Beetle like a Christian martyr, Burden rolled out of a Los Angeles garage, revved the engine for two minutes and rolled back in. Self-given stigmata are now the signs of a bad-ass.

Image via NXT

Velvet Water, 1974 “Burden relentlessly dunked his head in a filled-up sink, trying to inhale the oxygen-rich water. We sat stupefied, paralyzed, until he seemed to pass out, and the monitor went dark, and that was it.” – Jerry Saltz, 2013. Oh.

Doomed, 1975 Burden lay in complete stillness under a sheet of tilted glass for 45 hours on the floor of Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Only when a museum employee, fearing his harm, set a pitcher of water next to him did he smash a ticking clock and end the performance.

His reaction: “I thought, ‘My God, are they going to leave me here to die?’”

That’s dedication.

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Image via Wikipedia Commons

Beam Drop, 2008 (original performance 1984) Sixty I-beams dropped into a trench of wet concrete will definitely make an impact. Dangerous and visceral, this Burden artwork evokes bodily pain in the scraping sound of steel against steel and the splash of unset cement.

Image via Flickr Commons

The Flying Steamroller, 1996 A typical day in Burden’s art may include flying through the air on a counterbalanced steamroller. Art, machine and human transcend all those physical limitations that come with standing on the ground.

For more extreme measures by Chris Burden, click here: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-burden-chris.htm

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Dangerous Art: The Weapons of Performance Artist Chris Burden

Performance artist Chris Burden has taken art, and his body, to the extreme. In the 1970s, Burden made a controversial series that focused on endangering himself with the help of everyday props. His weapons of choice? Guns, cars, fire and glass shards.

Trans-Fixed, 1974.

A Volkswagen Beetle: In a 1974 performance Burden literally transfixed himself to the rear bumper of a Volkswagen Bug with nails through the palms of his hands. Burden, in all his Christ-like glory, was rolled out of a garage and presented to a group of spectators in Venice, California. The engine revved at full throttle for two minutes, symbolizing the sound of screaming pain, and then Burden disappeared back into the garage like an apparition.

Shoot, 1971

 A .22 Rifle: In 1971 Chris Burden got shot. Don’t worry, it was part of his art piece, Shoot. Standing 13 feet away from each other, surrounded by bare white walls, a friend shot Burden with a .22 rifle. He explained his motives as thus: “I had an intuitive sense that being shot is as American as apple pie. We see people being shot on TV, we read about it in the newspaper. Everybody has wondered what it’s like. So I did it.”

Burden later admitted that it was only supposed to be a graze wound, but his friend missed and actually shot him in the arm. Oops. Wonder if they’re still friends?





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Match Piece, 1972. Photo: R. Boss

Fire: Using the heat generated from two transistorized TV sets, Burden lit aluminum foil-wrapped matches and launched them with two paper clips toward a naked woman on the floor. Although not harming himself, the danger of Burden’s previous pieces is still very much present here. The woman is said to have flinched when burning matches grazed her while Burden kept his focus only on the small TVs.

Fire Roll, 1973.

More Fire: In another flame-related performance a few years later, Burden set himself on fire. Burden explained his process simply: “I placed the pants on the floor and saturated them in lighter fluid. I lit the pants on fire and extinguished the flames with my body. I turned on the lights and returned to watching television.” So he used his body to extinguish the burning pants that he was wearing.

Chris Burden, Through The Night Softly, 1973.

Broken Glass: In his ironically titled 1973 piece, Through the Night Softly, Burden slithered across broken glass in his underwear with his hands bound behind his back. An audience uncomfortably watched Burden’s agonizing pain as shards of glass shredded the front of his body. As if this wasn’t enough, Burden went on to purchase late night commercial spots on a local TV station, running a ten second clip of the piece so that the discomfort of pain could be felt within the comfort of homes around California.

What was the point of these acts and how can this abuse of your own body be called “art”?!?

Find out on The Art Story website: http://www.theartstory.org/movement-performance-art.htm

Read more about Burden’s life and career here: http://www.theartstory.org/artist-burden-chris.htm

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