About this work
New Orleans Museum of Art
In her own words...
1. The peril of angels and geniuses
Snow is falling. We are out with our sleds which we hook onto the tailgates of heavy wagons. We all wear padded boots but there is one child, and that is me, whose feet are like two chunks of ice in their boots. Scene: the snow-covered lawn in front of our house. Lying on my back in the snow I raise my arms and slide them down in the cold white powder. When I get up I have left my print: an angel.
Evening. The whole family is seated under the lamp, around the library table. I am drawing an angel, all naked except for the wings which are feathered, a lady angel with round breasts and a sweet smile. My mother doesn't like my drawing. Lifting my eyes I see them all looking at me as if I were a stranger, the whole family. It's a good thing that I keep my other drawings upstairs, hidden in my toy drawer. They are not inspired by the picture (the only one) hanging on the wall of our dining room, a chromo-lithograph of a Boecklin. It is called Heiliger Hain and shows a procession of veiled figures gliding towards an altar in the forest. I detest this picture as much as I can detest anything. It is profoundly abhorrent to me and makes me think of Sunday mornings in our church and the sermons treating of hell and damnation; there, where I am obliged to sit mouse-quiet for an hour every week, listening to the detailed menaces of divine vengeance which God has reserved for us humans.
So whether the gaze is out on the flat landscape punctuated by neat boxy houses each locked in its rectangular island of grass, or in the dining room with the melancholy shrouds of Heiliger Hain, both views are insupportable and so I look inside of me. And lo! there are mountains a mile high with waterfalls like Rapunzel’s hair. There is a forest so full of yellow eyes it gives off a sulphur glow. And into the grisaille of our nostalgia pour the wonderful colors of imagination. A way of lighting the labyrinth, of leading a life as extravagant as that of a Bavarian prince who, of course, is also a poet.
–from “Dorothea Her Lights and Shadows (A Scenario).” Translated from XXe Siècle, Paris, September, 1976. Reprinted in Dorothea Tanning: 10 Recent Paintings and a Biography. Exhibition catalogue. New York: Gimpel-Weitzenhoffer Gallery, 1979, pp. 26-27.