i went to see the new tim burton movie, “alice in wonderland” yesterday. visually, the entire movie is kind of breathtaking and that’s exactly why i wanted to watch it. there is one image toward the begining when alice falls down the rabbit hole for a very long time and finally lands albeit upsidedown in a tall room with a stunning circular mosaic floor. her long blond hair for one brief moment is extended straight up from her head and floats above her. it sort of gave me chills. the image reminded me of dorothea tanning’s painting, “ein klein nachtmusic”, one of her most powerful early paintings made while she was living with the famous surrealist painter max ernst in a house they built in the desert. when asked about it’s symbolism tanning wrote, ‘it’s about confrontation. everyone believes he/she is his/her drama. while they don’t always have giant sunflowers (most aggressive of flowers) to contend with, there are always stairways, hallways, even very private theatres where the suffocations and the finalities are being played out, the blood red carpet or cruel yellows, the attacker, the delighted victim….’
“between lives” is an autobiography written by tanning and spans much of her life. born in 1910, she is still alive and is considered to be the oldest living surrealist painter. i can’t begin to explain how fascinating her life is. being part of the mostly male-dominated surrealist movement was only part of it. after seeing her self-portrait “birthday” back in ny, ernst fell in love with her and they took up in a small apartment where the both painted. where and how they lived is like a blue print for how to live freely.