Temple of the Word: (Post-) Surrealist Women Artists’ Literary Production

Georgiana M.M. Colvile


European Surrealists’ exile to the New World, mainly New York or Mexico City, during World War II or earlier, proved an enriching and liberating experience for several women involved. As artists they tended to adapt better to new surroundings, where they were appreciated and given individual exhibitions of their work, for example in New York by Peggy Guggenheim, Julien Lévy et al. (Europeans Isabelle Waldberg, Leonora Carrington and Jacqueline Lamba and Americans Dorothea Tanning and Kay Sage). In Mexico, Carrington, Remedios Varo and Alice Rahon had shows at Inez Amor’s gallery among others.
Most of these women had undergone severe traumas during or before the war and needed to express them in writing as well as through plastic art. Like their male counterparts, they usually produced interdsciplinary work, but unlike the men’s, most of their writing and much of their iconography was at least partly autobiographical. Another motivation for writing along with other creative drives, was the appreciation of new discoveries as they explored a new land: grandiose western panoramas and especially Amerindian, Mexican and Caribbean native cultures, rituals and art.
Most male Surrealists rushed back to Europe when the war was over, while many women chose to stay (Carrington, Varo, Rahon, Horna, Sage, Bourgeois), or returned later (Lamba, Waldberg).
This essay deals with the nomadism of fifteen European, American and Mexican women artist-writers before, during and after World War II and its effects on their work.

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