“Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West Travel Log, Vol. 1”
“Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West Travel Log, Vol. 1” is a visual biography of an actual event in the life of English modernist 20th-century author Adeline Virginia Woolf and her close ally British novelist, poet, and garden designer of Sissinghurst Castle (Kent, England), Victoria Mary ‘Vita’ Sackville-West, Lady Nicolson. In the summer of 1927, they embarked on an enthralling journey from London to Yorkshire, United Kingdom, to view the Total Solar Eclipse on June 29th (Wednesday: the day of the week when the influence of the planet MERCURY is most keenly felt – books, communication, correspondence, diplomacy, gossip, healing, herbalism, history, libraries, mass media, mathematics, mental prowess/ intellect, reading, school/ education, the sciences, students, teachers, travel, visiting, vocal music, wisdom, writing). Virginia Woolf had chronicled this once-in-a-lifetime “23 second” occurrence in her diary. My re-imagined artistic narrative is loosely based on “The Mysterious Universe” by Sir James Jeans, 1st Edition published 1930 (Cambridge University Press); a gripping book that she had avidly read.
I’ve uncovered historical elements that were in the public domain (with no known copyright restrictions) which I’ve re-mixed and re-used, as colorized digital manipulations onto decorative papers, as archival pigments prints. I’ve hand-cut each fragment into collaged puzzle-pieces – and have fashioned an accordion-fold picture book. There was no real rhyme or reason to the composition of the pages – much like the hap-hazard arrangement of the constellations in the enigmatic night sky. Leslie Stephen, Virginia Woolf’s father, was a distinguished man of letters who engaged in the Victorian passion of natural history, including astronomy. Young Virginia, who didn’t receive a formal tutelage, spent much of her early formative years, among his vast archive of knowledge. She would later write, “I owe all the education I ever had to my father’s library.” Virginia Woolf owed a greater self-confidence of her many personal assets to her friend and colleague Vita. The two women bonded over their restrained childhoods and emotionally inattentive parents. Vita convinced Virginia that her ailments had been misdiagnosed and that she should focus on her own diverse pursuits. Stargazing became a crucial aspect of their world.
Title: Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville West Travel Log, Volume I
■ Solar Eclipse of June 29, 1927; trip from London to Yorkshire, U.K. ■ Passport of Virginia Woolf dated: 22 Mar 1923 Foreign Office
■ Based on: The Mysterious Universe by Sir James Jeans, 1930
■ (Cambridge University Press), Pages 163, Dewey Decimal 504
Artist: Unnamed (Pen Name: Maureen Hawthorne)
Date: © 2019 April
Title: Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West Travel Log, Volume 1
Medium: Handmade Artist’s Book (one-of-a-kind) with digital manipulation of historical elements, archival pigment prints, Collage of hand-cut decorative papers, metallic ink
Size: 78” L x 5” W x 6 inches H
Location: University Libraries, University of South Dakota, Vermillion
Public Art Program: Bound and Unbound V International Exhibition 2019 Juror: Jessica Drenk, MFA U of AZ; Rochester, NY
[Digital Archives at USD Libraries, Vermillion]
Artist’s Statement | Dreamscape with Leonora Carrington (Mexico City, 1954) — Collage w/ hand-cut found paper/ historical elements, 26″ H x 18 inches W, (C) 2020
British-born surrealist painter and novelist Leonora Carrington (b. 6 April 1917 – d. 25 May 2011) said, “I warn you, I refuse to be an object.” Born in rural Lancashire, England, and educated by governesses, tutors, and nuns – she was expelled by two schools for her rebellious behavior. While seemingly the ideal muse for numerous prominent men of the surrealist movement, she rejected that position. Carrington was quoted as saying, “I didn’t have time to be anyone’s muse, I was too busy rebelling against my family and learning to be an artist.”
In London, Leonora met and fell in love with Max Ernst, who was 26 years her senior and married. With the outbreak of World War ll, he was arrested for making degenerate art and imprisoned by Nazi camps. Due to her crushing break-up from her lover and muse, she fell into deep emotional distress. She was later taken to an institution where she was tortured by Dr. Morales at an asylum in Spain. En route to Portugal, she was able to escape with the help of a nurse. Carrington later settled in Mexico City, where she lived and worked until her death at age 94.
My archival research is Lady Standing at a Virginal, oil on canvas, 20.3” H x 17.7” W, Johannes Vermeer, circa 1670-72. Location: National Gallery, London. With my feminist spin, I’ve reimagined revolutionary Leonora Carrington who was a founding member of the Women’s Liberation movement in Mexico during the 1970s. She was fascinated by cultural artifacts which decorated her living quarters, including the long black glove belonging to fellow artist Frida Kahlo.
My work concerns itself with the intricacies of the collective unconscious. As a feminist artist living and working at 7,000 feet near the sacred San Francisco Peaks in Northern Arizona, icons are very much a part of my daily life. The revered sciences of antiquity were recorded in secular and religious symbols which sum up certain esoteric principles and therefore form layers of fabrications and enigmatic language. Most cryptograms condense a multitude of meanings into one entity and can be interpreted in a cosmic or human sense. Obscure dreams or nightmares of past, present, and beyond often have no key and can be arduous to unravel. Apparitions or disconcerting images act as truth of reality or are deceptions of paranormal communications that serve to distort or omit the complete truth. My art pierces the veil of remembrance with the creation of unpredictable remnants and is an exploration of feminine mythos intended to leave a seductive mark on obscured alignments. Recollections of cultural personifications and allegory are a vital channel of expression. The recurring arc can be equated with the egg – a sacred pictogram in the cosmology of every people, representing the immense process by which biospheres and all living beings are born. G-d has been a womyn since the beginning of time – a reminder that archeologists believed divinity was considered female for the first 200,000 years of human life on earth. The ovule contains positive and negative forces which together emit camouflaged existence with hidden meanings. The loveliness of the moon has inspired all of humankind since the beginning of time, especially the magical night sky which rhapsodizes our stellar sisterhood. I’m somewhat more myself in my sleep when my body is in a state of slumber when images and illusions are formed.
Maureen Hawthorne is a pen name used as a substitute for the artist, in order to render her participation the featured writer project anonymous. The artist has been creating artwork since 1970. Since founding an art studio, she has worked primarily in femmage, book art, collage, digital manipulation, painting and satire. Her thought-provoking pieces have been shown extensively in regional, national and international shows in 40 states. Hawthorne received her BFA in painting and worked as a journeyman color separation artist on high-fashion catalogs in the graphic arts industry. Her visionary artwork responds to historical and world events. Human, civil, and worker’s rights have been important social issues early on.
Rarely does she commit to one style — choosing rather to let her keen intuitive perception and vivid imagination guide her from one theme to the next. She gains visual pleasure from unraveling the feminine mystique while peeling away layers of buried eidetic memory in her art practice. More recently, she’s been exploring the aristocracy, multi-ethnic, Afropunk identities of Paris & London, complex racial dynamics — and has been reviving & reimagining neoclassical portraiture. She has lived in Northern Arizona for 3 decades. Her work is informed by the people, place, and color palette of her surroundings, and by her personal life experiences of violation, loss, grief, hardship, assault, oppression, torture, injury and resilience: arising from what remained of the char. Some womyn are lost in the fire while other womxn are built from it.
Hawthorne has had a varied and interesting career; she has worked as a type setter, museum gallery attendant, apprentice dot etcher, and journeyman color separation artist on high-fashion catalogs in the graphic arts industry for Anne Klein, Ann Taylor, Bergdorf Goodman, Bonwit Teller, Estee Lauder and Neiman Marcus.
Since leaving academia, the patriarchy, and pseudoscience behind (some things are folktales and mis belief), her ingenuity has flourished. Hawthorne is interested in making contemporary art that challenges the prevailing narrative. The Feminist Art movement has argued that re-appropriation and re-signification is a cross cultural process by which disregarded or oppressed individuals can reclaim artifacts or images that were previously used in a disparaging manner and uplift them in a way that brings about socio-political empowerment for under-represented womyn. She stays true to her instincts and is always authentic.