Surrealist Women: Mina Loy

 

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Mina Loy
The Forrest Gump of the international avant-garde, Mina Loy had the unerring knack of being in the right place at just the right time. Born in London in 1882 to an Hungarian Jewish father and an English Protestant mother Loy caught the tail-end of the fin-de-siecle in Jugendstil infatuated Munich in 1899. She moved to Paris in 1903 and entered the circle of writers and artists centred around Gertrude Stein. 1907 saw her de-camping to Florence where she spouted Futurist aphorisms with Marinetti and his cohorts. 1916 saw Loy sail for New York where she promptly made the acquaintance of Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray.

It was in New York that she met and fell in love with the love of her life, the heavyweight champion of the Dada-verse and nephew of Oscar Wilde, the poet-boxer Arthur Cravan. They were married in Mexico City in 1918. Afterwards they intended to move to Argentina; however lack of funds and the fact that Loy was pregnant with Cravan’s child meant that only Loy took the commercial liner while Cravan set off in a small sail boat with the intention that they would met again in Buenos Aires. Cravan was never seen or heard of again; presumably the boat capsized and he drowned in the Pacific, however his disappearance has led to some wild and improbable theories, my favourite being that Arthur Cravan became the mysteriously reclusive, anarchist novelist B.Traven, famous for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre that was made into a film of the same name by John Huston and starring Humphrey Bogart.

The twenties saw Loy in the thick of modernist Paris. She published her collection of poems Lunar Baedeker and with the backing of Peggy Guggenheim opened a shop selling decorated lamp-shades. In 1933 she begin her close friendship with the German Surrealist Richard Oelze (see The Expectation) which resulted in her posthumously published Surrealist novel Insel, with its insightful (though disguised) portraits of Andre Breton, Max Ernst and Salvador Dali. Loy states that there is something ‘fundamentally black-magicky about the surrealists.’

Loy moved to America in 1936, this time for good. She settled in the Bowery district of New York City which was soon to become the world’s art capital. Here she made collages out of the rubbish she collected around her home and be-friended the shy Surrealist artist of Utopia Parkway, Joseph Cornell.

A Week of Max Ernst: Saturday

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The Stolen Mirror-Max Ernst 1941
Saturday’s A Week of Max Ernst is a lesser known work from the incredibly fertile period of 1940-1942. Painted in California while living with Peggy Guggenheim whom he was soon to marry, the dual female figures would again appear to be Leonora Carrington. He had recently learnt that after leaving her behind in France, Carrington had suffered a severe mental breakdown that had resulted her being institutionalized in a Madrid mental asylum, a period she recorded in Down Below, an account of what Carrington called her adventures ‘on the other side of the mirror.’ Legend has it that when her wealthy industrialist father learnt of Leonora’s fate that he despatched her beloved nanny to rescue her in a submarine.

The Stolen Mirror has a particularly limpid quality. Decalcomania was again a major component, especially in the  wounded, diminished figure on the left, a warped, petrified reflection of the towering female on the right with her regal furs and attendant creatures. In between a rampart skirts the water’s edge leading off into the vast distance, past small islands and man-made mounds crowned with mythological monuments.