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Be an Antenna: Of Seizures, Surrealisms, and Leonora Carrington

Leonora Carrington,  Portrait of the Late Ms Partridge , 1947.

Leonora Carrington, Portrait of the Late Ms Partridge, 1947.

In the sky, Mercury is conjunct Uranus in Taurus. Translation: Mercury, planet of communication, intellect, and all things mental, appears near to Uranus, which astrologers consider to be its higher octave. Where Mercury is communication with the mind, Uranus is communication with the universe. If Mercury is communication between two people, Uranus is the notion of channeling — that is, releasing some ownership and allowing intel to come through you rather than come from you. When planetary energies blend like this, they act as a team and so our minds might sync up with their synchronicity. Read: We get imbued with some extra zing, heightened activity in the brain, an extra sense of access.

Leonora Carrington’s paintings and stories are ripe with this Mercury-Uranus fusion, as something seems to use her to communicate to us how silly our notions of reality are, how yes — a hyena could be at a debutante ball dressed in a gown and how also yes — a body can morph into a bird or a beast and how yes and yes and yes — the questioning of reality is the way into a more expansive perspective. She had visions of ghosts — animals and beings moving across her line of sight, which swim around in her surreal paintings and in 1936, she moved to Paris at the age of 20 with Max Ernst, fellow proponent of irrationality in art. By all accounts, they lived in love and beauty and art (save for the occasional battle between Leonora and Ernst’s wife) until World War II, when Ernst was interned as an “undesirable foreigner” and Carrington, understandable ravaged, was involuntarily committed to a sanatorium in Spain. After she learned that her parents had arranged for a longterm stay at yet another mental hospital in South Africa, she escaped to Mexico City (with the help of one of Picasso’s friends), where she lived out the rest of her productive, alchemically-tinged life.

Leonora Carrington,  Bird Bath , 1974.

Leonora Carrington, Bird Bath, 1974.

Carrington saw what many don’t see or perhaps don’t recognize as a form of sight — connections and happenings not typically available in everyday perception. In short, the sorts of things, along with a fiery personality, that will land you in a mental institution in 20th century Europe. Carrington, who said that art “comes from somewhere else”, made Surrealism her chosen mode, which sought to release the creative potential from the unconscious mind. The Surrealist moment so speaks to me I was moved to steal Andre Breton’s Nadja from my poetry professor’s office freshman year of college after he told me of its odd structure and while I’m don’t defend my action, I could not not take it.

Carrington in her studio.

Carrington in her studio.

Around the time I discovered surrealism, I was beginning to experience grand mal seizures, bouts of unconsciousness and shaking caused by unknown forces which made “reality” and “college” seem both odd and at odds. After medication and traditional therapies were rendered useless and I continued seizing, I gave way to the unconscious mind, to the magical powers that lie within and above us, and trusted less and less the Enlightenment ideals of individualism and reason as the backbones of the artistic process, of any process. It’s more fun to be an antenna.

Of seizures and surrealisms and Leonora Carrington’s work and life, Mercurial and Uranian energies alchemize and the impulse to listen to what’s coming through you instead of hoping others will listen to what’s coming from you, reins more supremely intriguing. When I wake from a seizure, a ghost seems as rational as a book, my mother as foreign as a stranger, and my own hand the same as any other hand, which is to say, what we call the real world, the world of objects, becomes surreal and so too can be arranged and rearranged in innumerable configurations.

Brain waves as depicted on an EEG recording.

Brain waves as depicted on an EEG recording.

The planetary placement of Mercury conjunct Uranus reminds us that we are more than our minds, to listen to the buzz of thoughts behind thoughts, the images beyond images, for seriously electrical info, for some ultra rad synapse patterns. Or, as Carrington said, “You may not believe in magic but something very strange is happening at this very moment…”

Currently reading by Leonora Carrington:

Down Below (NYRB Classics)

The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington (Dorothy Project)

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