Miro and Microscopy: A Surrealistic Naturalist?
by Richard L. Howey, Wyoming, USA
Hidden in an old file folder, I recently found a list of some titles that Joan Miro gave to some of his paintings. They reminded me of the joy and whimsy that is sometimes embodied in art. In many instances, just looking at the paintings of Miro is sufficient to communicate a sense of playfulness. Clearly, from the titles he gave his paintings, he was poking fun at that part of the art establishment which placed great emphasis on the importance of the title in “understanding” the “meaning” of a particular canvas. A single example will readily make the point. Imagine yourself in a museum and you see a pleasant and brightly colored abstract painting and then you look down at the small title card to the right of the canvas and read: “Dog excited by a moonlit night haunted by love-making birds.”Immediately you know that there is some kind of funny business going on.
You look back at the painting–only a hint of a dog or birds–maybe the vaguest suggestion of a moonlit night, but even that is uncertain. I suspect that Miro was having a hell of a good time inventing outrageous titles and chuckling to himself when he imagined us trying to make sense of his non-sense. What fun! And perhaps he experienced outright glee when curators and academics began writing “learned” articles about the subject.
Furthermore, as I looked at title after title in relation to its painting, there was rarely much of anything to establish a relation between title and painting. So, in this article, I am going to take a series of my microscopic images and use Miro titles underneath them and since Miro was apparently unconcerned about any significant correlation, I shall adopt that posture as well. In other words, I shall be largely indifferent as to whether or not you can find any relationship between my image and Miro’s titles. And just to make it more interesting, I may throw in a few titles of my own devising and you can play a game and try to decide which ones are Miro’s and which ones are mine.
However, to start off the games, I’ll show you a few Miro paintings with their real titles and then I’ll add my image for that title.
The title of this work is:
“A drop of Dew Falling from the Wing of a Bird Awakening Rosalie Asleep in the Shadow of a Cobweb”
O.K., we can see the head of Rosalie in the upper left, and a bird flying in her direction (which looks rather fearsome, rather like a pterodactyl), several other birds scattered around the canvas (2 of which look startled), what may be 1, 2, or 3 spiders spread around, and one small cobweb and possibly a large one circling around through most of the canvas. As for the dewdrop, well, you’re guess is as good as mine and, of course, there are a bunch of things that to my eye look like protozoa.
And here’s my version, for that title.
If you don’t think there’s much relation between my image and Miro’s title, you may be right or you just haven’t drunk enough to let your imagination kick in.
Next, another Miro image.
The title of this work is:
“Dragonfly with Red-tipped wings in pursuit of a Serpent Spiraling toward a comet.”
And, again, here’s my image for that title.
A third Miro with the title:
“The smile of the flamboyant wings”.
My image is quite different, in fact; it bears virtually no resemblance to Miro’s image but, in my view, it nonetheless fits the title.
Two more Miro paintings and then I’ll just stick to my images.
This next one is called:
“Hope of a Condemned Man”
And here’s my version.
And here I think my version is distinctly better, so if you agree, I’ll sell you a copy of it for much less that what you’d pay for a Miro.
This last one is simply called “Dancer”
And once again, my image for that title.
Now, for the real fun–Miro’s titles, just my images, but perhaps 2 or 3 titles of my own or perhaps not. Maybe, I’ll let you know at the end, or maybe not. If you send a donation or an article to Micscape and then send me your e-mail, I’ll reply by letting you know which titles are my own. I won’t hold my breath; I’m betting that I don’t get any responses, but I would love to be proved wrong.
As above, I’ll give you the title first and then my image.
The title is: Woman with disheveled hair greeting the sickle moon.
It looks like this title was tailor-made for this image and, but the reverse is the case. There are some discs from Ascorbic acid and then a few extra touches courtesy of the wonderful innovations of computer graphics.
The title is: Woman with blond armpit combing her hair by the light of the stars.
Here we have a modified image of the head of a Chaetognath or “arrow worm” and the introduction of a few stars.
Title: Personage in a burning forest.
Here we have a modification of some crystals of Epsom Salts (Magnesium sulfate) using the graphics warp function.
Title: The red fish bone pierces the blue feather of the bird with pale beak.
This is a photograph of a poppy from our garden last summer. It has also been modified using a warp function. The bird is, of course, hidden behind the blue feather.
Title: Personages Magnetized by the Stars marching to the music of a furrowed landscape.
The small light blue and pink crystals are Calcium chloride viewed with polarized light and then manipulated with star magnets while listening to an oboe concerto of Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf.
Title: Dialogue of the Insects.
Clearly these are purple ants talking philosophy across orange caution barriers.
Title: Personages in the Night guided by the phosphorescent track of snails.
No question but what we have snail tracks produced with the cooperation of Orange G crystals which have morphed in interesting ways.
Title: An Eye Staring Into the Bright Blue Lake of the Universe.
Just as advertised. This is a cross section of an intriguing fossil amoeba shell (foram) which is millions of year old.
Title: The bird flies off to the Zone where plumage grows on the Gold-ringed hills.
This was originally a quite nice diatom arrangement which has been transformed through the use of a “texture” function. The bird just happened to appear.
Title: Woman at the border of a lake irradiated by the passage of a swan.
Clearly the experience has made her bipolar with the psyche on the right being manic and the one on the left in a state of angry depression shrieking at the swan. The original image was a drop of the biological stain Nigrosin left to dry and crack. Both by itself and mixed with other reagents it can produce weirdly interesting effects.
Title: Sunburst wounds the tardy star.
It’s obvious which star was tardy; that central one is hemorrhaging plasma. These disks are from Ascorbic acid; Voldemort provided the destructive sunburst.
Title: The sparkling gold bird encircles the thought of the poet.
This is a closeup of a sea urchin test which has been split open to reveal the Aristotle lantern in the center. The appearance of the poet at the center just goes to show the power of poetry or as Marianne Moore put it: the challenge of poetry is to present “imaginary gardens with real toads in them.”
Title: The bird-rocket aims the pitchfork skidding down the cascade toward the black point.
Oh, no, he who’s name must not be spoken is at work again and this time he’s in the guise of a little yellow bird.
Title: The mauve of the moon covers the green of the frog.
The original image was of deliquescent Calcium chloride which had not yet shed its water to form crystals.
Title: Half Brunette, Half Redheaded Girl Slipping on the Blood of Frozen Hyacinths on a Blazing Football Field.
Here our Chaetognath or “arrow worm” makes an appearance again.
Title: Thirteen Dragonflies in Pursuit of Azaleas.
An image of a cross section of a sea urchin spine using a multivision filter. The dragonflies were attracted by the bright colors and dove into the image and got stuck in the ink.
I hope you had some fun with this unorthodox approach to art and nature. In this time of dreary politics and enormous human suffering, it necessary at times to take refuge in silliness and eccentricity. To that end, I recommend the diet of the wonderfully wacky French composer, Erik Satie:
“I eat only white foods: eggs, sugar, grated bones, the fat of dead animals; veal, salt, coconut, chicken cooked in white water; fruit mold, rice, turnips; camphorated sausage, dough, cheese (white), cotton salad, and certain fish (skinless)."
All comments to the author Richard Howey are welcomed.
Editor's note: Visit Richard Howey's new website at http://rhowey.googlepages.com/home where he plans to share aspects of his wide interests.
Published in the June 2019 edition of Micscape Magazine.
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