Arts, Celtic Studies and Social Sciences

Holy Oily Bodies: Surrealism, Women and the Elixir of Life – Dr Tara Plunkett

Research Seminar – Dr Tara Plunkett (University College Dublin) Holy Oily Bodies: Surrealism, Women and the Elixir of Life

Holy Oily Bodies: Surrealism, Women and the Elixir of Life Arcane 17, the Surrealism-founder, André Breton’s 1944 vision of rebirth steeped in hermeticism took inspiration from the seventeenth card of the tarot, ‘The Star’, traditionally pictured as a semi-naked woman, against a backdrop of stars, pouring one urn onto water and another onto land. The poet’s post-war recourse to a symbol of hope, renewal and resurrection bound up in the life-giving properties of the female body and rooted in the legend of the Holy Grail was deliberate. This discussion will centre on visions of rebirth depicted by two female Surrealist artists, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo, described by Breton as the leading lights in Surrealism in the late 1940s, both of whom drew inspiration from symbology linked to reproduction, rebirth, and the Grail vessel. While Breton could be lauded for advocating the metaphorical and social elevation of women, it will be argued that he failed to capture the complexities of female identity which Carrington and Varo investigated in their Mexican works, including the co-authored play El Santo Cuerpo Grasoso. This paper will therefore consider the very distinct ways in which Carrington and Varo turned to Grail imagery to paint the multifaceted nature of female identity and sexuality, and the extent to which these works, like Arcane 17, functioned on an esoteric and an exoteric level, calling for power to be placed in the hands of women.

Category: Conferences: Arts Celtic Studies and Social Sciences
Date:
Time: 16:15 - 17:30 pm
Location: CASiLaC Room – O'Rahilly Building 1.24
Target Audience: All welcome
Admission Price: € Free
Contact: Prof Nuala Finnegan
extension 3271
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