Monday, October 15, 2012

Authors on Artists: Amy King on Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, and Frida Kahlo

Paint Is the Abyss’ Law, Living the Accent:
Marginalia on Absorption

by Amy King

Paint Is the Secretion of Scene on Leonor Fini’s Set    

I now confer status on you. As in, everything is as
good as the next thing. Better yet, in this season,
I am implicitly requesting your death  
on a platter. That said, should I begin without
interrogating the
great mystery that separates
dark matter from the everyday? Dive into beauty untinged by
the detritus of degenerative mechanics? But

(my own gut, packed with neurons,
neurotransmitters and proteins that learn along
a complex circuitry like and with the brain, balks
upon thinking into such chasms. To begin
in legitimacy is to acquiesce, to play like a harpsichord
down the keys of your spine a deceit –)

the great lie that lives lived are nothing
in the considerations of art made, dissected
for channels of human knowledge – That is, to instruct in
the room and board of sterilized parts. Pardon my French.                 These schools, 
            summoned by the handshakes of those
in the know, Order & brother Logic, condense
along the lines of the social paradigm of the
day’s matter. Or as Leonora Carrington
put it to a Freudian who once claimed
she was not adjusted, with bow tied on:  
“To what.”

So instead of shelving cadavers “to what,”
I’ll begin in tree time.                          When the Dogwood fell
from lightning last winter, it lay in the park for months. 
Powderpost beetles warmed, and the bark held firm. 
By April, its horizontal body bloomed full white
blossoms that met with spring’s fragrance everyone who
walked the paths along its limbs.   
The Dogwood did not know it was dead. 
It, lying in its own knowledge, was alive and did not heed
otherwise. It flowered for months its wine
with blood-tinged petals in tree time. 
Poet Paul Eluard
concurs, “When it’s Fini, it begins.”
And so the approach.  

Leonor Fini Photo by Andre Ostier (1951)
Ego & the Abyss

Where is the vapor barrier between “no children” and
“childless”?  What contains a secreting absence? 
Woman stands, at key corners and check points,
for the “(w)hole unfilled,” and makes
way in cultural stilettos daily.  As it happens,
the space of spiked nothings accommodates great deals. 
So Leonor Fini rejected marriage
as an institution and ducked the cloak of motherhood
on similar terms.                      Frida Kahlo, a continent over,
submitted, “Painting completed my life. I lost
three children… Painting
substituted for all of this. I believe work is the best thing.”  

(Crayon’s culture without adherence to social
requirements.  Breaking the seal of life without.)

When the Surrealists convened to discuss
women’s sexuality, only one man among them called
attention to the absence of women, the diva panel. 
A serious line of query: but little did they take up,
in gestures toward liberation, how they would
re-pivot the systems that position men
as the primary discussants of women’s bodies
and exactly in what way those reified daisies
should be viewed and treated, in what rows
(and how).

So what way does she make?   (How) does she
make way?
An ego may be a stand-alone smokescreen, a fiction in
translucent gauze with items carefully pinned,
presenting the world with the story of a person. 
In two-way fashion, the gauze is a lens to see through

too. (I am talking about reading lives from the master I contest.
I am writing as material interest, a gaping abyss.)

But this is only one version.  An ego is also an interaction,
an interplay of psychic forces, not in mere exchange,
but as colluding energies that manifest ghosts. 
An ego can be the plaything between, the alchemical
threshold of coming together, our third-element,
an unnamable ghost that constructs something from
us, psyches that meld and
mate, dispersing                       matter.                                  Enters, the Sphinx.

(With an insurmountable sheen, Leonor Fini
returns to the scene, with mask and breasts and spikey mane,
attaching to the roof of one’s skull, having swallowed hard
the glow of such names:  witch, sorceress, la maga, mamba,
Lilith and Eve – she sees.  Fierce and feline,
with one yawn against muse fantasy: 
the energized conquest of femme-enfant.)

The Law of Intervention

In a letter to Paul Demeny, Arthur Rimbaud submitted
that the search for a new poetic language would
be transformed if women broke from their servitude
and sought their own ideas and forms.
As such, Leonor Fini’s friend and fellow
painter, Leonora Carrington believed
in “a powerful female force rising”
but warned of “vulgarizing
interpretations,” believing
that naming a power is to reconstruct it
in the masculine. Or as may be deduced,
signifiers are as cultural as economic. 
What one crafts as the month’s aesthetic flavor,
one may also reap in readings, jobs and loot,
based on the demands of logocentrism, or what
gets rolled out in the “language of the father.”  
Or as George Carlin observed on fatherly
returns, “You don't need a formal conspiracy
when interests converge. The owners of this country
went to the same universities and fraternities,
they’re on the same boards of directors,
they belong to the same country clubs, they have
like interests, they don't need to call a meeting because
they know what is good for them...and they are getting it.”
Carrington, like Fini, play-thinged with the Surrealists,
along with a small crew of female artists and painters. 
These associations drew sideways
beyond the frame,
either as a by-product of romance
(i.e. Carrington and Ernst),
or as cloistered by Andre Breton himself, where, “The art of Frida
Kahlo is a ribbon around a bomb.”

(Despite sleight use of Surrealist-marked techniques, the women
wore the cloaks of fringe players or further erased
themselves from muses to edge their art
beyond the laws Breton & friends serialized and pounded out. 
An interloper might speculate they intuitively
excused themselves to become something the group could not delimit.)

Leonor Fini had read Freud’s inner trappings by the time
she was sixteen and was derailingly aware
of the good doctor’s theories as Surrealism’s springboard. 
Denuding said manifesto hounds, she responded, “I
disliked the deference with which everyone treated Breton. 
I hated his anti-homosexual attitudes and also his misogyny. 
It seemed that the women were expected to keep quiet
in café discussions, yet I felt that I was just as good as the men. 
Breton seemed to expect devotion, like a pope, and wanted me
to become ‘a sheep in his gang’. I enjoyed the attention
I received, but I refused to join his group. I never
saw the point of being part of one group, and I disliked
Breton’s habit of holding tribunals, excommunicating
wayward surrealists… publishing lists of books
one shouldn’t read. I have never been very interested
in ideologies, and I refused the label surrealist….
I preferred to walk alone.” 

But she did not walk alone. 
She moved unsanctioned in Fini time.

Living Is a Corner Lens that Makes Up Space   

In this, our late capitalism cornering the market
on personal wealth and satiation,
mutual responsibility and social justice wilt
beside assertions of power positions
and their objects of inferior signification.
That is, in corners.
Systems are historical, and no group has yet
ousted the set-up to replace it
with fairness for all.  Nor free-for-all.
We call for more triumph-of-the-underdog stories
and casts and satiate ourselves cheering the imminent
winner who will clamor to next in line, top-side. 

By the measure of Real Housewives, Fini and Carrington,
both lovers of Max Ernst at opposite times,
should have hated one another.  Instead, their friendship
spurred their development as painters
at a time when an all-male revue ran the show,
war loomed and dictates of the fairer sex were to
inspire animosity, not camaraderie and nurturance.  
Fini engaged in all manner of friendships
and romances that the avant-garde Surrealists
condemned and declared distasteful. 

What gets lost, or dismissed, in the investigations
to change world orders is as obvious as that question
posed by the single Surrealist who noted the absence
of women in discussion. That which is construed
as the feminine. Here I do not refer to anything akin
to de Beauvoir’s rejection of an “eternal feminine”
through which men project transcendence as cave shadows. 
Here I do not ask for the simple exchange
of maternal metaphors to battle phallic excess. 
Here I do not ask for adherence to “woman”
as metaphor for liberation
from Western mono-logical thought, or shadow puppets.

Here I ask for something ghostly and ghastly,
that which systems of knowledge don’t notate
and attempt mockery or ignore as the phantom of. 
The real unreal.  The irrational.  An unbelievable turn
of shadow boxers to brazen beautiful fists that shape & burn. 
That which is relegated to wayward worlds
of emotion and nature, the pitiful and feared.
That which shuns complicity by complicating with ambiguity
and simultaneity. A particle in two places at once. 
The mercurial unfixed and uncertain transpiring
from consciously-crafted, studied attempts. 
Engagement with the intuitive and

what happens in the material of communication. 
That which says my gut can think
and knows that black holes are still hypothetical. 

The Accents of Collaboration

As in, assess the difference in complexities
of action with the Surrealist poet, Benjamin Peret,
yelling his hatred for the church at passing priests
on the street versus Fini donning a Cardinal’s scarlet
robes to walk about Paris in sensual fashion
explaining how she ‘loves to wear the clothes of a man
who will never know a woman’s body’.  

If “woman” is Foucault’s “discontinuous
and illegitimate knowledge” that counteracts
‘claims of a unitary body of theory which would filter,
hierarchize and order in the name of some true knowledge,’
then Jane Gallop pumps that heel:

Levi-Strauss says woman is both a sign and an exchanger of signs, thus hers is the place in organized culture that evokes another “more primitive” epistemology in which all objects were also considered endowed with subjective status. Might not one of the goals of what we so ambiguously call “women’s studies” be to call into question the oppressive effects of an epistemology based on the principle of a clear and nonambiguous distinction of subject and object of knowledge? Rather than attempt to banish it, I would like to take advantage of the ambiguity of “women’s studies,” in that it retains woman’s traditional peculiar vantage point as neither quite subject nor object, but in a framework which sees that vantage as an advantage and not a shortcoming.
The Alcove- An Interior with Three Figures (1939)

Or to put it mildly, why shouldn’t woman,
in insurrectionary fashion, embrace her enigmatic,
precarious state and confound
traditional assignments by integrating myths
of the masculine into her representations – and so forth. 
Let’s look to Fini’s The Alcove: An Interior with Three
 Women, which, with the placement of a breastplate
on Leonora Carrington, suggests the masculine   
guardian and protector, but the implications
are conflated with the feminine
in the form of confidant, lover, nurturer, etcetera,
vis-a-vis the room’s intimacy, discarded clothing,
the title’s suggestion of equal status, hands held,
gazes exchanged. Thus the scene is no easy read –
it is the setting of something indeterminate
and simultaneously intimate and monumental.

Sink into also Fini’s strategies in light
of her statement to the writer, Rodriguez Monegal:
Men are basically less masculine than they think,
or than they pretend to think. It is a very old throw-back
In The Tower (1952)
that leads them to accentuate those traits
at the expense of deeper ones ... I am for a world
of non-differentiated, or little-differentiated sexes.” 
Her emphasis in depicting delicate and androgynous
male bodies draws out the suppressed feminine
qualities in men, which are not married to biology,
as well as culling a mercurial openness and curiosity
for female guidance as suggested in her painting,
In the Tower. Fini represents herself as well
in bold dress exposing cleavage, but the typical muse
and object of desire are eradicated
by her striking raven black contrasted
with the man’s red and nudity, her height, direct gaze
and obvious command at the illuminated portal. 

Without hazarding too deeply into reductive
readings of Fini, one more footnote is in order
regarding her self-portraits as sphinxes.
In Greek mythology, the sphinx was female,
half-human and half-lion. Fini stated,
“I remember I wanted to be like the sphinx I saw
in the garden of Miramar Castle in Trieste. I wanted
to think like it, to be strong and eternal, to be
a living sphinx. Later, I felt that the combination
of half-animal, half-human was the ideal state. 
I identified with the hybrid.” The enigmatic nature
of the sphinx renders the depiction, especially
in the standard hierarchy, ever more complex. 
Similarly, Frida Kahlo has aligned herself
with such hybridity; in The Little Deer Kahlo is
severely pierced and should be death itself, but her gaze is one
Little Deer (1946)
of certainty and alignment with her solitary position,
where she dwells with the elements
(a broken limb and lightning flash) around her. 
Likewise, both painters stand keen, firm-eyed, to explore
the generative embrace of the less-than-ideal death
conditions, decay and pain. They lay claim on these liminal states
in the service of the transformation in the feminine subject.    

Further, the farther away many of these painters got
from Surrealist tendencies, the more their mastery moved,
and elaborately their vocabulary grew. 
They created beyond the stuff of Surrealist dreamscapes.
The abyss called out, and the yawns shifted on to vertiginous


Someone may ask, what does a poet read in a painting? 
Why the lives of these women
who removed themselves to gather in as from the margins? 

To which I might suggest that the margins
have gotten a bad rap. The theorist, bell hooks,
suggested their value in the 90s, that choosing to work
from the margin “shapes and determines one’s response
to existing cultural practice and one’s capacity to envision new,
alternative, oppositional aesthetic acts. It informs
the way we speak about these issues, the language we choose.” 

The margins as place of refuge have been popularly
shut down as anti-social and self-isolating. Fleeting irrelvance. But this
misnomer is based on the notion that margins
are hermitry-inducing,
if one has the privilege of choice. Some cannot choose
the margins; they are forced cages. For others, a reprieve
from which one may emerge and engage. 
Thus one refreshing aspect in the face
of these women and their rejection of the promise
of celebration and liberation by a group seemingly full
of potential to debunk historical authority. 
They made their own way, affecting social conditions,
in various fashions, in their own time, without
the authorial approval of a majority to proceed. 

(Helene Cixious from another early text, “Woman
must write her self:  must write about women and bring
women to writing, from which they have been driven
away as violently as from their bodies – for the same
reasons, by the same law, with the same fatal goal. 
Woman must put herself into text – as into the world
and into history – by her own movement.”)

The bodies left behind are painted and numerous. 
Cixous would say, an ensemble. Some ghosts seek matter,
so between us we may need a medium to matter in,
to make matter in. Bodies are borders that work
in countless registers, and I am talking about reading
lives through and into the matter I seek.

I am, at this point, unwilling, as a good citizen should be,
to divorce the lives from what is produced and proceed
in my own time, or tree or Fini time, to question that
which takes place in the many pixelated, painted, and
molecular forms mingling between us. 
Since language “takes place” in some material, I hope
to read ever more bodies and explore the transfiguration
that occurs in the “exchange” between writers, painters,
the text and the reader, in all of the ghosts
borne from such work.     

Absorption, a Postscript

The “Shocking”                      torso                                      laid claim
to the market for                                                                            eleven years.
The hourglass bottle,              woman, a                                         dress
modeled after                                            Mae West’s bodice,
full of fragrance.                                       The feminine.

                                                                           The lid of a flower bouquet works in
                                     the lilt of a woman’s for a ball of roses.
Transparent glass of                        dark                                        amber serum.
                            Fini’s adopted fetish     for mannequins,
                                                                                                                the marrying kind. Appropriately,
                                                                 her adoption shifted the misogynist symbol
                   of an armless,                faceless,               orificed body.
                                                                 Penetrable.          The Fini twist turns that form
inaccessible;                           glass holds no holes.     Transparent,
                            nothing to            witness,               nothing                        to photograph.
                            The beholder knows the interior as exterior.
                            A conflated holster that performs the gaze’s
         mechanics.                                                         Nothing but reflection.
                            An a priori looking.   The desiring knows
                                                                 only one’s own flesh through the bodice.
         With looking into          a glass bottle,                Fini shows
                                                                 them to themselves, carnivorous cavities
in action. However,

the bottle as herself is consumed
         through use, not through vision, splashing
                   essence along their torsos. The body becomes
a vacuum, and doubles, as wet presence symbolique.
         Rather than absence for the female consumer.
                   Social butterfly, Mae West, sexual, desiring and
anti-subordinate. Bottle metonymy. 
         A parody of desire with hips and breasts. 
                   (Enter Sheela na gig in Laura Mulvey fashion.)
Accessible item of whimsy, the defused bomb
         stings the unwitting grabby consumer.
                   The bottle sings of fullness, with room for absence,
in transparency, its own abyss of essence,
         a presence, this emptying vessel of beauty
                   that shocks with the art of amber darkness clearing

to a world that contains only us.


Of her most recent book from Litmus Press, I Want to Make You Safe, John Ashbery described Amy King's poems as bringing “abstractions to brilliant, jagged life, emerging into rather than out of the busyness of living.” King conducts interviews for VIDA: Woman in Literary Arts and teaches English and Creative Writing at SUNY Nassau Community College. Visit her online @ for more.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Cut By Butterflies, Reanimation Complete

Welcome to our triumphant return!

After a five month hiatus, Bright Stupid Confetti is back with a brand new look, an official domain name, and a whole lot of material for your viewing pleasure.

Two new additions to the site:

 (i) Each month will feature one or two Guest Curators. Learn more about the upcoming curators who will be taking over in November and December by clicking on the tab above.

(ii) Each month will also feature original essays on contemporary artists by contemporary authors. Likewise, learn more about the upcoming contributors by clicking on the tab above.

If you would like to be considered for a Guest Curator spot, or if you would like to submit an essay on a contemporary artist, click on the contact tab above.

Help spread the word about bsc's return, and make sure you follow me on Twitter to receive updates.

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you enjoy...

If the curator is indeed the inheritor of Duchamp’s contextual break, then how precisely do we thematize the enclosure of contemporary art that curators themselves have been tasked with maintaining and expanding?


Glen Luchford

The rudiments of sentences are ancient without a mouth needing to remember
what it is losing as it lets those words out, something eviller than what they
even mean right now, something too evil to be known right now

Or ever.


Wormies make promises and twine body-fingers
my soft knives connected to a white whale sac.
I have left holes everywhere in my sleep
when all along
I had thought that sleep was in the potato.
The potato spurn me.
Proudly I wore my veil of spuds now shame.
Upon waking there is ovum everywhere
little bloods sitting where I cannot see them.
How to keep track?

San Poggio

I think something very particular about silence in the encounter with the art object. There is often an embarrassment at silence, an embarrassment which generates chatter, or generates too fast a response in order to fill that space rather than allow it to exist. This space is necessary for us to experience our anxieties, our uncertainties, our feelings of doubt, our feelings of ambiguity. To allow for that unhingedness is a very affirmative thing. Silence should be celebrated.

Pamela Pecchio

If I seem obsessed with the apple tree
it’s only because I can’t believe
how many blossoms are on it.
In love you count on every word.
It is impossible not to be ordinary
if you are ordinary
but you can pretend.

Jazmín Sanz

The abyss the abyss the abyss the abyss
is a window built of tinier windows
made from individual grains of sand.
When one looks through this window
it is as if their eyes are unopened parachutes,
it is as if the abyss were a word, a mist, a wish
rollicking between being and believing.

James Griffioen

I hold my legs
like two chicken drumsticks.
I could rip them off.
I am capable
of nothing
but black words
on a white tongue.

Sonia Kacem

Mélodie Mousset 

Claudia Comte

Blood on the floor

then on the pillows

There is a place
on the backs
of my hands
for you

Petra Collins

Haruhiko Kawaguchi

Mark Menjivar
You Are What You Eat is a series of portraits made by examining the interiors of refrigerators in homes across the United States.

For three years I traveled around the country exploring food issues. The more time I spent speaking and listening to individual stories, the more I began to think about the foods we consume and the effects they have on us as individuals and communities.

An intense curiosity and questions about stewardship led me to begin to make these unconventional portraits. A refrigerator is both a private and a shared space. One person likened the question, “May I photograph the interior of your fridge?” to asking someone to pose nude for the camera.

Each fridge is photographed “as is”. Nothing added, nothing taken away.

These are portraits of the rich and the poor. Vegetarians, Republicans, members of the NRA, those left out, the under appreciated, former POWs, dreamers, and so much more. We never know the full story of one’s life.

My hope is that we will think deeply about how we care.

How we care for our bodies. How we care for others. And how we care for the land.

My point is that mainstream contemporary art simultaneously disavows and depends on the digital revolution, even—especially—when this art declines to speak overtly about the conditions of living in and through new media. But why is contemporary art so reluctant to describe our experience of digitized life? After all, photography and film were embraced rapidly and wholeheartedly in the 1920s, as was video in the late 1960s and ’70s. These formats, however, were image-based, and their relevance and challenge to visual art were self-evident. The digital, by contrast, is code, inherently alien to human perception. It is, at base, a linguistic model.

Noé Sendas

The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something

Lissy Elle

LA A man is walking down the road. A Canadian goose falls right on his head; at the same moment there’s a triple rainbow and the guy has a heart attack.

MA That’s a fantastic image. Have you ever done something with it?

LA Occasionally I use it to snap myself out of trances. What about you?

MA I have very strange dreams now from which I wake up in complete horror. They repeat during different periods of my life. I can’t explain them. They have something to do with the disturbance of an order that is not supposed to be disturbed.

Paul McCarthy

Poppy Jackson

Liza Sylvestre

Jason Ramos

“I feel very influenced by ball culture,” she says enthusiastically. “A lot of my friends are in and out of that scene, and growing up my sister was really involved in it. She came out of the closet when she was fourteen, and her friends would always be over our house talking shit and dancing, and I would just watch them and pick stuff up.”

Elizabeth Nagle

Christos Tsimaris

Steve Roggenbuck - "Somewhere in the bottom of the rain"

Carabella Sands

(frank turns to a spot at the back of the stage and flicks a switch and a blank computer screen can be seen, the white of the screen is the only light on stage. frank sits on the computer and clicks things in a non-random seeming way for ~30-40 minutes or until the audience is uncomfortable enough where maybe 10-20 have outright walked out of this production.)

Marcus Appelberg

Film: Françoise Romand, Portée (2012)

Music: Bernard Vitet and Jean-Jacques Birgé (1976)


When I was young
I used to play this game

in which I’d stick my hands into the closet & pretend
that what I couldn’t see wasn’t there.

Sometimes when I brought
my hands back into the light

there’d be a little gift
in the palm.

A polished stone,
a single drop of milk.

Boo Ritson

When we look at a flower, a strange kind of hypnotic aesthetic symbiosis occurs.

Ulric Collette

Why do you waste your time and mine by trying to get value judgments? Don't you see that when you get a value judgment, that's all you have.

Justine Otto

From the room inside the room, from the house inside the house, memories of a one-legged father and various acts of jurisprudence haunt the mysterious creature who writhes in somatic isolation from one waking nightmare to another. In ONE two writers have produced textual bodies, one speaking for the interior and the other describing the exterior, while a third writer has assembled these two bodies into a single grotesque symphony of chimerical language. A hitherto unprecedented collaborative experiment, ONE defies categorization and heralds a new approach to exploring the boundaries of authorship and narrative.

Norbert Bisky

DC You see personality as an art form. Warhol was interested in personality and depicted it in his work, but while he would erase himself, your personality is the fabric of your art. Your art is your personality, and within that personality there are layers of other personalities. It’s quite complex.  

JW I’m so glad you say art — I can’t say that word out loud because that’s up to others to decide. I would never say I’m an artist. I hate when you ask people what they do, and they say, “I’m an artist.” I believe I’ll be the judge of that. Saying somebody’s work is art is a good review. But what was the question? Oh, about my personality. It’s completely in my photo shows because I’m still the one telling those twisted little narratives. I’m telling them in a different context and in a different world, but as in the films, I’m making fun, in a way, of something that I really, really love. I think that is the personality of all my work, no matter if you like it or not.


Elizabeth Hepworth