The work of Spanish-Mexican Surrealist painter Remedios Varo is sometimes playful and sometimes moving, but it is always wildly creative and fantastically original. Varo is one of my favorite artists to write about because her work is so strange (strange in the most delightful way, I might add).
After fleeing Europe during World War II, Varo became one of the leaders of the famed Mexican Surrealist movement. Although Mexican influences are not obvious in her art, she captured the elements of fantasticism that are so common in Mexican art. She used her painting to bring this fantastical world to light and to explore the emotional and psychological responses it occasions. Varo was influenced by religious mysticism and magic, and it is clear that she tried to infuse spiritual meaning into her paintings.
The Creation of The Birds demonstrates this quality within her work. The piece depicts a bird-like creature busily engaged in crafting tiny, exquisite birds that fly away into the night. The theme feels both familiar and foreign; the subject is reminiscent of the creation myths the world over, yet, at the same time, it is a unique and original image. Here, we see a myth of Varo’s own creation, capturing a bird deity crafting his feathery offspring on a tidy workbench. The bird-like creator holds a magnifying glass, which he uses to direct streams of starlight into the birds. This light seems to be the animating force that gives the birds life. The creator also has a small, stringed instrument around his neck, a symbol of energy in other Varo paintings.
The tone of the painting is almost religious, reminiscent of pieces like Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Here, Varo explores the spiritual energy of creation, taking her bird-like creature as the life-creating god.
There is also a reference to Varo’s own work as an artist. The bird-god seems to use only dainty paint brush to bring the birds into the realm of existence, a nod to the power of the artist to create something out of nothing, making painters deities of their own imaginary worlds. Like the bird-god, artists are givers of life, and this creative energy is at the core of The Creation of The Birds.