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Mary Low’s Feminist Reportage and the Politics of Surrealism

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Mary Low and Juan Breá’s Red Spanish Notebook: The First Six Months of the Revolution and the Civil War (1937) narrates their experiences volunteering alongside Spanish and foreign volunteers in

Mary Low and Juan Breá’s Red Spanish Notebook: The First Six Months of the Revolution and the Civil War (1937) narrates their experiences volunteering alongside Spanish and foreign volunteers in Spain in an effort to suppress the Francoist uprising and to transform the country’s social structures. Although their text has received little critical attention in examinations of Surrealism and international Spanish Civil War involvement, Red Spanish Notebook provides a unique and useful example of surrealist documentary photography. The book contains no actual photographs. However, Low periodically uses ekphrasis to undermine dominant notions of journalistic distance, especially in her discussions of Spain’s nascent women’s movement. By describing photographs of foreign and Spanish women on the front lines and the home front, and offering alternative interpretations of the images, Low illustrates the impossibility of objective reporting. In so doing, she brings political attention away from the war itself, and towards Spanish women’s concurrent struggle for equality. This essay examines Low’s use of ekphrasis to argue that she elevates and legitimizes Spanish feminism by reporting social revolution in the style of war journalism, while simultaneously constructing an ethics ofinternational collaboration and sympathy. Through their commentary on the perpetual slippages inherent in supposedly objective journalism and documentary photography, Low’s writings provide unique insight into surrealist feminism.

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  • 2011

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Temple of the Word: (Post-) Surrealist Women Artists’ Literary Production in America and Mexico

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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

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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  • 2011

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 5 No. 1 (2011)

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The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 5 No. 1 (2011) - Table of Contents

“Women in the Surrealist Conversation: Introduction” by Katharine Conley, p. i-xiv.

“Temple of the Word: (Post-)

The Journal of Surrealism and the Americas: Vol. 5 No. 1 (2011) - Table of Contents

“Women in the Surrealist Conversation: Introduction” by Katharine Conley, p. i-xiv.

“Temple of the Word: (Post-) Surrealist Women Artists’ Literary Production in America and Mexico” by Georgiana M.M. Colvile, p. 1-18. 

“Leonora Carrngton, Mexico, and the Culture of  Death” by Jonathan P. Eburne, p. 19-32.

“The Lost Secret: Frida Kahlo and the Surrealist Imaginary” by Alyce Mahon, p. 33-54.

“Art, Science and Exploration: Rereading the Work of  Remedios Varo” by Natalya Frances Lusty, p. 55-76.

Mary Low’s Feminist Reportage and the Politics of Surrealism” by Emily Robins Sharpe, p. 77-97. 

“Waste Management: Hitler’s Bathtub” by Laurie Monahan, p. 98-119.

“Kay Sage’s ‘Your Move’ and/as Autobiography” by Elisabeth F. Sherman, p. 120-133.

“Dorothea Tanning and her Gothic Imagination” by Victoria Carruthers, p. 134-158.

“The Colour of  My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art” by Steven Harris, p. 159-161.

‘Alias Man Ray: The Art of Reinvention’: The Jewish Museum, November 15, 2009 - March 14, 2010” by Lewis Kachur, p. 162-167.

“Review of Gail Levin, ‘Lee Krasner: A Biography’” by Sandra R. Zalman, p. 168-171.

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  • 2011