Today’s post comes from Simone Levine, Class of 2013 and Art Center Student Docent.

Loren MacIver. American, 1909-1998. Spring Forms. 1948. Oil on canvas. Purchase, Matthew Vassar Fund. 1949.3.1

Currently on view at the Los Angeles County Museum is “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the U.S.” This exhibition includes works by female surrealist artists dating from the early 1930s through the late 1960s, and includes works by Frida Kahlo, Kay Sage, and Dorothea Tanning. As surrealist art, these works are inspired by the specters of the subconscious, brought forth by the artists from the recesses of their minds. Yet, unlike their male counterparts who typically rendered female figures as images of sexual desire, the female surrealist artists of “In Wonderland” subjected their own subconsciouses to reflect upon their self-identification. Among the works exhibited is Loren MacIver’s Spring Forms, on loan from the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center’s permanent collection.

Like many of MacIver’s works, Spring Forms preserves ephemeral objects of nature by capturing their forms on canvas. In Spring Forms MacIver rendered three sprigs of vegetation (which remind me of shooting stars or fireworks) as well as a circular form toward the bottom of her composition that resembles a lunar eclipse. Her black wash around these forms does not ground them in a fictive three-dimensional space. Instead, the flowers and moon remain floating, as if they were visions in a dream, brought forth by the celestial bodies that they echo. Through combining these forms with shimmering light effects, she produces an ethereal image that composes a poetry of the fleeting and illusory. Indeed, MacIver seems to evoke the imagery of stars and moons of Elizabeth Bishop, a poet and Vassar alumnae who was a close friend of MacIver’s. Perhaps the final stanza of Bishop’s 1955 poem “The Shampoo” was inspired by a dance of celestial bodies similar to that of MacIver’s in Spring Forms:

 

The shooting stars in your black hair

in bright formation

are flocking where,

so straight, so soon?

–Come, let me wash it in this big tin basin,

battered and shiny like the moon.

 

“In Wonderland” is on view at LACMA through May 6th. The exhibition will next travel to the Musée National des Beaux-Arts in Quebec (June 7–September 3), then to the Museo de Arte Moderno, Mexico City (September 27–January 13). For more information, visit http://www.lacma.org/art/exhibition/in-wonderland.

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