The Militant Muse - Love, War and the Women of Surrealism by Whitney Chadwick
“Being an artist” over the past centuries conveys an image of a field dominated by men. “Why was that”? One could assume that either women were not attracted by this field and instead preferred to embrace only the role of muses OR they were not good enough for the history of art to remember them. The truth of course is very far from either of these statements.
“The Militant Muse” takes us to “moments in history”, the 1930’s, ’40’s, 50’s, providing a glimpse of the often-complicated relationships between muses and artists, showing how muses have sometimes “shapeshifted” into ground breaking artists themselves. It talks about feminine relationships, about inspiring and being inspired by each other, about strong human emotions, about the art of writing letters, emotional survival in traumatic times, about art as a way to “document” one’s reality and emotions - and last but not least, the importance of friendship and camaraderie.
I was familiar of course with Frida Kahlo, Lee Miller, Valentine Penrose and was delighted to start researching the other characters of this book: Jacqueline Lamba Breton, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington.
What I can promise you is that by the end of the book you will have fallen in love with at least one new artist. For me it was Leonor Fini … her work made a huge impression on me. I found myself reflecting on her paintings for hours and hours. Be prepared to be amazed.
From my Baccalaureate and a degree in engineering, to guiding English and Russian speaking tourists and a group of talented Russian dancers; from helping a British company to navigate a licence to operate a new tv channel in a country new to them, to helping clients of Romania's first advertising agency to reach my country's new consumers; from launching my country's first colour magazine for just us women, to launching my own ad agency; from marketing condoms and staging rock concerts at home and in Lesotho and Swaziland to raise awareness in young people of HIV/Aids, to promoting the farming of plants for supply to a new organic perfumery sector as a way of helping our disadvantaged communities; from improving my understanding of the workings of the mind, to becoming a civil servant in London working to influence the attitudes of Britain's young muslims; and from intuitive painting to now illustrating my own books ...... yes ... I think I can claim to have reinvented myself many, many times.
It is my strong belief that we all have a mission ... a mission to help and to support each other, a mission to help other people to discover and to connect with their unique voices, to help them to find their path, to cheer their efforts and to support them along their way.
This is my underlying message ......the message I want to send through my colouring books and journals ..... to see life as a journey ... totally unpredictable, always imperfect ... yet perfectly imperfect.
This is my underlying message ......the message I want to send through my colouring books and journals ..... to see life as a journey ... totally unpredictable, always imperfect ... yet perfectly imperfect.
A few days ago I had a lovely time painting a few random shapes on an old canvas. It made me feel so good, filled me with so much positive energy that I wanted to create another painting with the same approach. I have started by changing an old intuitive painting but somehow things didn't seem to go in the right direction and suddenly ... while watching a documentary on Arthur Conan Doyle and his famous detective Sherlock Holmes .... 2 shapes arrived on my canvas ....out of the blue .... and I've started to smile .... years ago my best friend in Romania used to call me Sherlock and I called her Watson .... she is my soul sister and this painting represents our connection .... soul to soul. The idea is .... if your painting doesn't seem right ...........change directions.
I hope that you will enjoy the visual step by step process :)
Living by the sea is a privilege. It took me a few years to acknowledge this ... it is only when living in the now started to be a bit more than just a sequence of words ........ when from time to time i stepped into a different world where time seemed to be infinite ... without a clear past or future .. but a continuation of ... now(s).
Having a walk reminds me of this (because just like many of us ... i forget and need to re learn again) .... enjoying a cup of coffee and reading a new book reminds me of this ...... discovering a new recipe reminds me of that .... discovering a singer I connect with in seconds reminds me of this .... aren't we lucky to have all of these unexpected reminders! aren't we lucky!
I am reading "Writing as a way of healing" by Louise DeSalvo and because if it, i am coming across writers I love and respect .... Alice Walker, Isabel Allende .... how good to be reminded that journalling was and is so much part of their lives. Sometimes words come easy ... sometimes they don't ... one is stuck, frozen ..... when words simply didn't want to come to me, i took to the paints and brushes and found another way of communicating .............. but i will always appreciate the written word .... and will go back to it when the time is right.
Self expression is key ... through the words, paints, music .... self expression heals and saves ... lives ... maybe yours as well .....
And cooking ... cooking is another way of expressing yourself ... especially cooking new dishes .. ingredients are like different mixed media materials or like different words ... one can combine them in a multitude of ways .... it's still about creativity, process and only as a bonus ... the result.
The other day I came across "I quit sugar for life" by Sarah Wilson and felt compelled to buy it. I am not sure I want to give up on sugar completely but I like the notion of combining ingredients in such a way that sugar cravings will be a past thought. I am just curious and I will definitely try the recipes .... they look lovely and .. colourful ... Here is a first recipe ... with a personal twist as well as respecting a recipe 100% is just ... not me :)
Avocado and cottage cheese luxurious lunch
1 ripe avocado mashed
2 TBsp cottage cheese
1/2 juice of a lemon
1 tsp mixed grains (see photo above)
Once you have the ingredients .. just mixed them all together and .... OLE! You are done! Serve them on rice biscuits, oats biscuits, corn biscuits, even bred but hey ... we are healthy now aren't we so just look for a healthier option.
And as a treat ... put your feet up and listen/watch to this mesmerising concert ....
I don't know about you but sometimes, especially when the weather is heavy with dark clouds and heavy rain, when the wind seems to go on forever, when my head seems to explode because of the stories I tell myself, I need to do something creative to help me snap out of the self hypnotic trance I put myself into (we are all specialists at this you know that don't you). Today ... cooking was my solution ... cooking something new ..... :)
Earlier this week, while going through my pile of magazines I came across a recipe for biscotti, a delicious sort of Italian biscuit I just love having while sipping my coffee in Costa Cafe. (I will definitely have a little bag with me next week while having my coffee in one of the coffee shops in Eastbourne)
Before sharing the recipe with you let me tell you that it is very, very easy to prepare and also the result is delicious.
Walnut and cranberry biscotti
What do you nee:
2 eggs plus 1 extra beaten for glazing
150 g caster sugar
250 g plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
50 g walnuts chopped
50g dried cranberries or any other berries (you don't need to respect exactly the quantity really)
Whisk the eggs and the sugar together in a bowl. Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, a pinch of salt and the chopped berries.
Leave the dough to rest in the fridge wrapped in cling film for about 1 hour. (the dough should be a bit soft but also a bit sticky)
Preheat the oven at 200 degrees C, or gas mark 6 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
Once the dough has rested, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll into a rectange about 28 cm long and 5 cm wide. I cut this in 2. Put them onto the lined baking tray, brush with beaten egg.
Bake for 20 min. Check if it is ready with a skewer. Take out from the oven and leave it to cool.
Reduce the temperature to 180.
When cool, cut into think slices and lay flat on the lined baking tray, bake for 20 more minutes and don't forget to turn them halfway through cooking .. until a big golden brown.
Allow to cool and ... start eating and sharing with friends.
OK so by the time I had my first few slices of biscotti and sipped my coffee I was already feeling better and ... with an episode of NCIS in the background ... (I love watching TV while cooking) ... it was time to try a new recipe ... this time ... sweet potato burger.
Here is what you need:
600g sweet potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp ras el hanout (Maroocan spice mix yum yum)
50g almonds (like a powder)
a handfull of pumpkin seeds
Bake or boild the sweet potatoes until soft. When soft, scoop out the flesh and set aside. Meanwhile gently fry the onion and garlic in a bit of oil. Add ras el hanout and continue for a few seconds.
Combine all ingredients and let the mixture rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Form the mixture into burgers or smal ball size shapes. Coat them in flour and fry them on both sides.
Enjoy them pipping hot or cold with mustard, sweet chilli, various relishes.
I came across these words earlier today while reading a magazine called Flow, a magazine I highly recommend to any creative soul. It was probably no surprise that I came across this message while listening and watching a superb "All star tribute to Joni Mitchell - Lifetime Award Concert" from 2000.
I came across this artist at the beginning of the year, again by a so called accident ... on a late winter night (thanks to a documentary shown on TV, about her life) when i was recovering from severe back pain ... I was and still am mesmerized....
Although i was not part of the flower power revolution/movement I can feel and cheer, the instrumental role she had in expressing the deep feelings of a generation ...."suffer elegantly" in front of our eyes ..... her willingness to show vulnerability and help other ... feel listened to and understood........
And coming back to the first words, I am surrounded by a feeling of sadness ... thinking that many people from my parent's generation (living in a dictatorial Communist regime) ... stood ... frozen by fear ... on an imaginary land called their lives ... not even daring to look outside the "fishing tank" , too afraid to express their emotions ...... too afraid to LIVE and not only EXIST.
I do believe that the ones who embrace art as a channel of self expression transcend the reality, bleak as it might be and evolve, connect easier with like minded people, dare to challenge themselves, their fears, have a richer and more meaningful lives.
So, what are you waiting for? Launch yourselves on every wave .... write, sing, paint, draw, perform, sketch .... it will transform your lives.
After a grey, cold and damp autumn and winter one cannot but be grateful for the oh so many acts of kindness performed by nature .... first of all it brings back a multitude of colours and it brightens our days so so much with
.... a bit of red ...
......a bit of white
.........a bit of yellow
.........a bit of blue
What a beautiful invitation from nature for us all ..... to perform more acts of kindness ...........
"The center of human nature is rooted in ten thousand ordinary acts of kindness that define our days" - Stephen Jay Gould
And last but not least ...here is a movie I warmly recommend. It will make you think, smile, cry and ... treasure the acts of kindness.
"The cooked seed" by Anchee Min is another great book that has found its way to me and not the other way round. I picked the book from the Oxfam shelf not because I recognized her name but because of the book's title .... and then because of the book's cover. A part of me was intrigued by the sad expression and silent determination of that face! It shouted out to me that it was a face that would tell many stories. I was hooked ..I knew that I wanted to read her story, I knew that her words would resonate with me on many levels. And I was right.
It came as a surprise that Anchee is already a very successful writer and that I hadn't heard about her until now knowing the way I search the web for inspirational figures. Thanks to Amazon, two more of her books are already on their way to me ... Empress Orchid and The last Empress.
Follow your heart - an alien concept for Romanians and Chinese during the Communist times
The moment I opened the book and began to absorb the reality for her of growing up during the cruelty of the Cultural Revolution in China my mind started to drift into the past, mine and hers, trying to connect the two worlds of China and Romania.
In Ceausescu's time, the commercial relationships between Romania and China were strong and although there was not a constant flood of Chinese products onto our market, from time to time we were able to queue for hours to buy Chinese toothpaste MAXAM ( I will never forget the lovely minty aroma and taste), milk chocolates in a coin shape, cotton T shirts, lots of miniature porcelain statues (some portraying Chinese deities who I had no real knowledge of at that time ... now I know it was Kuan Yin)............
We are much more than we think we are.
At school I remember learning a lot about Chinese dynasties, about their art, some things about their geography but I certainly don't remember being aware of what the daily life of Chinese people was like. I remember also the international trade shows (once a year in Bucharest) when the Chinese stands were the talk of all of us - always mesmerizing colours, shiny ornaments, colourful leaflets (because the magazines and newspapers in Romania were all black and white at that time) .... plus we, the children, were always offered the luxury of sweets.
"The cooked seed" talks about the impact of an insane regime on the life of its people .. the way it distorted and corrupted the minds of the many, the non stop brainwashing, a systematic destruction of the self, extreme humiliation and transformation of the individual into nothing but a tool owned and used by the system as it pleased.
Like in all totalitarian regimes, some people dare to try and escape ...some succeed ... others don't. In "The cooked seed" the reader follows Anchee to America where only her determination and immense resilience help her to overcome ... rape, exhaustion, divorce, a long journey to learn English, endless deprivations. In spite of this she learned how to succeed in a completely different culture despite the bitter hardships and endless setbacks.
An inspiring life? It reminded me that even my life in Romania could have been worse. So, you bet! Transformational? Much more! A must read? YES, YES, YES. Remember, it's "The cooked seed", buy it.
Books ... find me .. not the other way round. I know that .. i feel that ... There is also something that tells me what type of book to read and when. I do believe that there is always a time to read a particular book and not the other just as there is a time to paint and there is a time to contemplate. Some books wait years on the shelves to be open, others like the one I am going to talk about today ... don't wait at all ... are immediately opened and read ... almost without a break.
Years ago in Romania, before 1989 we used to queue for many hours to buy the latest international novel ... Shogun, Gone with the wind ...... yes queue and many times the stock finished right in front of you. Such was life!
Intuition - because the colours come to be … in their own order :)
In England I am really lucky ...... lucky with the fantastic second hand book shops where you can find absolute jewels at a fraction of the price and the charity shops where one can find books again at - sometimes - ridiculously low prices.
This is how I came across "Supernatural" by Graham Hancock ... ... what attracted me was first of all the cover :) with a beautiful intuitive painting on it (I found out later that it was by a Peruvian artist Pablo Amaringo) and the words ... "Supernatural; of or relating to things that cannot be explained according to natural laws".
I feel more and more that science is very far from being IT ... it it way too much a black or white type of approach ...i just feel that there is so much more in between those barriers ... and the partnership between science and intuition is the "ground" where miracles happen.
"The hypothesis is that it was this democratisation of altered states of consciousness, the possibility for the entire community to share in the life changing visions and encounters that had previously been limited to a very few (shamans), that brought new, more open, more creative, more innovative, more flexible, more intuitive and frankly more intelligent ways of thinking to a point of critical mass in society after society and ushered in the single most decisive shift ever to have occurred in human evolution. " - Graham Hancock
Could it be, as shamans in the Amazon repeatedly assert, that the plants really do open a channel of communication to supernatural realms and teachers. "
Graham Hancock takes you on a journey ... one that starts 35,000 years ago with the art caves in France, Australia, Spain, South Africa, following by extraordinary experiences among the shamans in the Amazon area, the Maya civilisation, continuing with fascinating stories about fairies, gnomes, aliens, exciting interviews with neuroscientists, anthropologists, and so so much more. He really does the work of a passionate detective, travelling not only physically but spiritually all around the world not only in nowadays times but also in times long gone.
This book with make you feel alive, it will make you think, it will help you push the invisible barriers of the so called reality.
"There are 2 kinds of people - one kind you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final self ... you know you can expect no more surprises from it .. the other kind keep moving, changing .... and making new trysts with life and the motion of it keeps them young." - Robert Fulghum
Stories ...... we all love them ...... children and adults .. .... stories have layers ... it's up to you where you want to stop ... many times, your soul processes old memories, lets go of the past , helps you enjoy life more, see life ... in colour.
As part of the National Storytelling week 2014 i want to share with you as story I really , really like ... a story that speaks to me on quite a few levels and I am sure you will enjoy it as well. Much to my delight when i read the story, I knew imediately which painting to post next to it ... it is called ... Little Elf and ... i painted it some months ago.
"The almost tragic story of a tender Elf" - by John Bradshow
Once upon a time there was a tender little elf. He was a very happy elf. He was bright and curious and knew the secrets of life. For example, he knew that love was a choice; that love involved hard work; that love was the only way. He knew that he could do magic things and that his unique form of magic was called ... creativity. The little elf knew hat as long as he truly created, there would be no violence. And he knew the grateast secret of all - that he was somehting rather than nothing. He knew he was being and that being was everything. This was called he secred of "I AMness". The creator of all elves was the Great I AM. The Great I AM always was and always will be. No one knew how or why this was true. The Great I AM was totally loving and creative.
Another most important secret was the secret of balance. The secret of balance meant that all life is a marriage of opposites. There is no life without physical death; no joy without sorrow; no pleasure without pain; no light without darkness; no sound without silence; no good without bad. True healt is a form of wholeness. And wholeness is holiness. The great secret of creativity was to balance a wild creative unfocused energy with a form that allows that energy to be.
One day our tender elf, whose name by the way was Joni, was given another secret. This secret scared him a little. The secret was that he had a mission he must do before he could create forever. He had to share his secrets with a ferocious tribe of non-elves. You see, elf life was so good and wonderful that the secret of that wonder needed to be shared with those who didn't know anything about the wonderment. Goodness always wants to share itself. Each elf was assigned to one family of the ferocious non-elf tribe. The non-elf tribe was called Snamuh. The Snamuh knew no secrets. They often squandered their beings. They worked endlessly and seemed to feel alive only when they were doing something. Some elves referred to them as DOs. They also killed one another and engaged in war. Sometimes at sporting evetns and music oncerts they trampled one another to death.
Joni entered his Snamuh family on June 29th, 1933 at 3.05 AM. He had no idea what was in store for him. He didn't know that he would have to use every ounce of his creativity in order to tell his secrets.
When he was born, he was given the Snamuh name of Farquahar. His mother was a beautiful 19 year old princess who was ravished by a need to perform. She had a strange curse on her. The curse was a neon build that rested in the middle of her forehead. Whenever she tried to play, have fun, or just be, the light blinked on and a voice said, "Do your duty". She could never just do nothing and be. Farquhar's father was a short but handsome kind. He also carried a curse. He was haunted by his wicked witch mother, Harriet. She lived on his left shoulder.
Anytime he tried to just be, she screamed and yelled. Harriet was always telling him to do something.
In order for Farquahar to tell his parents and others his secrets, they needed to be quiet and stop doing long enough to see and hear him. This they could not ; his mom because of the neon bulb, and his dad because of Harriet. From the moment he was born, Farquhar was all alone. Since he has the body of a Snamuh, he also had the feelings of a Snamuh. And because of his abandonment, he felt furious, deeply frustrated and hurt.
Here he was a tender elf who knew the great secrets of I AM and no one would listen to him. What he had to say was life giving but his parents were so busy doing there duty, they could not learn from him. in fact, his parents were so confused, they thought that it was their job to teach Farquhar to do his duty. Anytime he failed to do what they thought was his proper duty, they punished him. Sometimes they ignored him by putting him in his room. Sometimes they hit him or screamed at him. In fact, Farquahar hated the screaming the worse. He could take the isolation and the hitting was over with quickly; but the screaming and endless telling him about his duty went so deep that it even threatened his elf soul. Now, you cannot kill an elf's soul, because it is part of the Great I AM; but it can be so badly wounded that it seems like it isn't there anymore. This is what happened to Farquhar. In order to survive, he stopped trying to show his mother and father his secrets and instead pleased them by performing and doing his duty.
His mom and dad were very unhappy Snamuhs . (Actually most Snamuhs are unhappy unless they learn the secret of the elves)
Farquahar's dad was so tormented by Harriet that he used all his energy to find a magic potion that took away all his feelings. But the magic was not creativity. It actually took away his creativity. Farquahar's dad became like a "walking dead man". After a while, he stopped even coming home. Farquahar's Snamuh heart was broken. You see, every Snamuh needs both his father's and his mother'slove in order to let the elf in him tell his secrets.
Farquahar was overwhelmed by his father's abandonment. And, since his father could no longer help his mother, her neon bulb blinked more intensely. Consequently, Farquhar was yelled at and cajoled even more. By the time he reached his 12th birthday, he'd forgotten he wa an elf. A few years later, he learned about the magic forgotten he was an elf. A few years laer, he learned about the magic potion that his father used to kill Harriet's voice. At 14 he started using it often. While in the hospital he heard an inner voice urging him to wake up. The voice that moved him to wake up was the " being" voice of his elf soul. For you to see, no matter how bad it gets, the elf voice will always call a Snamuh to celebrate his being. Joni never gave up, he never stopped trying to save Farquar. If you're a Snamuh and you're reading this, please remember this; You have an elf sould in you that is alwyas trying to call you to your being.
When Farquhar was lying in the hospital, he finally heard Joni's voice. That made all the difference. "