Thursday, 8 November 2012

Monolgue for Leonora Carrington, 1917-2011

Leonora Carrington, artist and writer who died in 2011

Monologue/ Interview
(following a comment, I must point out that this is a fictional interview, based on some known facts and my huge admiration for Leonora Carrington's rebellious spirit and her remarkable art)

I do vaguely remember her, that journalist.  What was her name..?  Joyce… something. Whatever it was, she would insist on asking me the silliest of questions:

“Leonora, how does it feel, to be your age?” 

I mean really!  What does she expect me to say to that?  ‘I’m eighty-nine, you know.’

Of course I didn’t say that.  In any case I may not have been eighty nine, I can’t remember exactly.  If anyone asked me now, I’d have to adapt the stupid cliché.

“I’m actually dead, you know!”

She said my life, in those days, would make a great a movie script.  Absolute tosh of course! Mind you, I haven’t been to the cinema for years.  That Hollywood stuff was so unreal and I don’t suppose it’s changed.  All those unconvincingly goodly heroes and unfeasibly villainous villains and the women relegated to be either grieving mothers or simply useless and fainting in coils all over the shop.

I was always determined to be much more useful than that.

Not that father saw it.  I was destined to be beautiful, rich, make a good marriage; that was all I was expected to achieve.  A girl, you see, was not expected to do anything for herself.  Daddy was rich, a clever, self-made man and so desperate to become acceptable in ‘proper English society’.  He wanted to be a Toff and decided that he could buy his way in.

What Daddy decided, was so.

So. I was expected to stop being a little heathen and become a lady. I went to Saint Bride’s, an exclusive convent school.  The nuns failed to comprehend my difficulties; they were quite incapable of recognising any process which was not theirs.  I made up nonsense rhymes.  I painted a picture of Jesus carrying the ass, which apparently was blasphemous. I was expelled.  And another convent, expelled again, for smoking cigarettes.  Also, I wrote with either hand and composed mirror writing, which was obviously the Devil’s work.  I could draw with both hands too, and paint… but that came later.

I told her, that Joyce… what’s her name.  Told her that I was born into a one-hundred-per-cent Philistine family!  My brothers were hunting and shooting types, Father believed a female couldn’t be an artist, it was improper.  Although mother painted quaint little scenes which she would donate to her latest cause, but even she wasn’t so certain it was proper to be an actual artist.  Girls were supposed to be quiet and do what they were told, but of course I was a rebel of the most committed and superior variety.  

Eventually I was sent Florence for the summer to study classical painting.  This was in 1923 you realise, I mean who studied classical painting?  On the streets of Europe were Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Max Ernst.  Classical painting my eye!  And even this was dependant on my compliance.  I was to wear a silken gown, bow to the King and attend a coming out ball.  What a ludicrous malarkey! 

Well I’m a writer, you know, so I had to write a nasty story about that!  I called it The Debutante.  I made friends with a beautiful hyena at London Zoo, and I took her home with me.  She agreed to take my place at that ludicrous ball, and I dressed her in my gown, but her face was a slight problem.  She took matters into her own hands, or rather her own teeth and she ate the poor maid who had come in to help do my hair.  Ate the maid all up except for the face which she wore to the ball!  And of course everybody was far too ‘polite’ to comment, until the hyena grew hungry again and ate the face too, before leaping through an open window and escaping.

I even had to attend ladies day at Royal Ascot, wearing the most ghastly hat.  I managed to lose that to a convenient gust of wind, so I was hidden in a corner, which suited me.  I sat and read Evelyn Waugh.  That wasn’t the thing at all, there was so much whispering and tutting! Quite hilarious!

When I was nineteen I fell for Max, almost before I met him.  It was mother’s fault, she gave me a book with a marvellous painting of his on the cover; “Two Children, frightened by a nightingale.”  Of course I was at Chelsea Art School at the time, mother probably thought I’d find the book useful.  It was certainly that!

The book pointed me straight towards the exhibition and there was Max, blond and graceful and intense with that marvellous beaklike nose.  Max, the bird superior and I became his bride of the wind, it was almost immediate.  We escaped to Cornwall for the summer.  Eileen was there, and Lee and Roland.  Lee photographed us all, I think Paul and Nush came over from Paris.

Was Breton there? I don’t believe so. And Dali?  Of course not!  Why on earth would you ask about that little pervert?  In any case Dali and Breton were seldom on the same continent if they could avoid it!  Thus a surreal meltdown was usually avoided.

Father interfered of course, once he tracked us down.  Max went back to Paris rather rapidly before father could have him arrested for abduction of a minor or some such rubbish, as if I was one of his horses!  I borrowed ten guineas and went to Paris and that’s where I began painting seriously.

I never saw father again.  He actually made that “Never darken my door again” speech!  Can you believe that?  I hardly ever saw mother again either, which was the worst of all that.  But I did write to her sometimes and I spoke to her on the telephone years later, when I was in Mexico.

Why did I never return to England?  What would I want to return for?  What had England, ever done for me, with all its petty class lunacy and snobbery?  In any case I was born Irish, hence those wretched convents, all those nuns, vapid and fluttering nuns or vicious and screeching nuns.  My childhood was miserable.  The smallness of all that wretched nonsense!  That’s all I could write about for years, you know.

My painting was freer.  I owe that to Max, I suppose and to Mexico.  I had two husbands in Mexico, neither of them were Max.  I’m glad I lived and died the best part of my life in Mexico.

I beg your pardon? Was that the exciting, film script part of my life?  The Mexican part?  Of course it was not! I’m an artist not a film star.  The so called ‘movie script’ part, that’s the story that people always ask about.  My love affair with Max Ernst.  You think that’s the only excitement I ever had?  Certain forms of excitement are over-rated, I can assure  you of that.  I’m too old to care for it.

 I’m not talking about any of that, not to you.  Why should I?

I need a cigarette, do you have one?


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