I first came upon Remedios Varo’s work a couple of years ago when I was at the Reina Sofia in Madrid. I walked around a corner and there it was hanging on a wall in the midst of a Surrealist circus and Breton movie that played on a loop. At first glance, her work was familiar and yet completely original. This world of fairytale like creatures in a wonderland filled with electric cats, owl faced writers, and towers filled with girls who sewed the fabric of the world. Paintings named “Woman Leaving Psychoanalyst’s Office” and characters created with such an intricate hand. Although she was initially classified as a Surrealist artist, her greatest work was created after she left Paris and fled to Mexico. The mistress of Breton, and the friend of the famous poet Octavio Paz, her work remained largely unknown. I remain fascinated by her story. The daughter of an engineer born in the Andalusia, she learned at an early age to be precise in her drawings. Varo studied with Dali and maintained a great friendship with Leonora Carrington until she died. Sometimes when I think of writing a story that involves a fantastical land filled with frightening and wonderful characters, I remember Varo’s work. Her characters that inhabit the world she created are still so vivid and original, that it is difficult to imagine a more perfect image than a person walking around with a clock for a heart. If Alice or Dorothy were around they would feel the familiarity of such a place. I have found no other artist that so brilliantly combines the modern with the medieval. The occult, the magic, the brilliance of her work is timeless.
So I drove my daughter from Houston Texas to Richmond Virginia this summer because a flight would have been too easy, and she needed the actual driving time to transition to this new space. She needed the space and the time it took in the pouring rain that morning we left to move beyond her childhood. I needed it too, to let go of her childhood, but that didn’t make it any easier. In the end, I broke down in the parking lot of her dorm house with my aged mother and sobbed for the little girl who used to hide fish crackers in the seat of her wagon and the princess who wore plastic shoes and gleaming crowns. Suddenly in the space of two days and 1323 miles she was on to her new life. I never went away college so I don’t quite know what the experience is like, but I do what it means to let your child go. My son was the first to leave, and now my daughter. Some how daughters leaving is different. It is scarier and fraught with trepidation. I took a flight home to Houston the next day and vowed to find myself again and to let my daughter find herself in this brave new world. I went home and remembered Rumi’s words, “Don’t grieve. Anything you lose comes round in another form.” And so it goes, my relationship with myself and my daughter will take a different shape and that is exciting.