I found myself in the Tate Modern the other day, preparing to take in the Dorothea Tanning exhibition. For those of you who don’t know Dorothea’s work, she was a surrealist painter, who married Max Ernst. She was born in rural America in 1910, moved to New York in 1930, discovered the freedom surrealist expression gave her and followed that path for her 70 year career, eventually dying in 2012 aged 101. Over time her work changed and adapted to new approaches, mediums and so on but she remained true to the surrealist love. It was small but lovingly curated and fascinating.
I often think of life as having a surreal tinge to it – not necessarily of the sort Dorothea’s work expressed with her occasional pin sized head added to a foot or a vagina housed in an armpit – but in her fascination with what might be behind numerous doors, or how we can experience moments in a sort of corrupted scale.
I stood in the queue for a coffee and cake, processing what I had seen. A couple of women in front of me were talking about the exhibition. They were probably my age, sensible haircuts and shoes, nothing frivolous in their dress. The subject of their discussion was a room Dorothea made, a very unexceptional room save for the various body parts seeping out of the sofa or oozing out of the fireplace.
In particular a pair of pink buttocks appeared to be exploding from the wall paper.
Having ordered two lattes and a slice of Madeira, they continued their debrief.
‘I think they were a woman’s’
‘No definitely male. Donald’s are the same type.’
‘Really. I imagined his would be more pendulous.’
‘Oh no. He was in the Guards, you know.’
The barista looked up, causing them to pause. ‘Chocolate on those?’
I did wonder if she was referring to the coffees or Donald and his Buttocks Of Military Bearing…
I sat near the picture windows, and thought I’d capture St Paul’s that is directly opposite. In the event even the picture I took was almost surreal.
Life:Art, huh? Can’t make it up.