Ink, watercolor, and gouache on paper
25 x 22.25 x 1.375 in. (63.5 x 56.515 x 3.493 cm)
Gift of the Marie Eccles Caine Foundation
The sensitive drawings and paintings of Marjorie Cameron— known simply as Cameron—describe a magical realm of metamorphosis and protean transformation. Featuring symbolic creatures in imaginary landscapes, her delicately articulated artworks rival those by fellow surrealists Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Ithell Colquhoun, and Leonor Fini. With their refined draftsmanship, formal command, and imaginative power, they seem prescient of fantastical works by contemporary artists such as Kiki Smith, Amy Cutler, Karen Kilimnik, and Hernan Bas.
Cameron’s most notorious role was as the wife and spiritual avatar of scientist and mystical thinker Jack Parsons, one of the founders of Cal Tech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and, until his violent death, a star pupil of black magic impresario Aleister Crowley. Despite her association with the occult, Cameron’s artworks portray a fanciful, even wistful lyricism. Her many tender drawings of her daughter, Crystal, depict a sprite, seemingly the embodiment of a mythological figure. In the early 1960s Cameron corresponded with Joseph Campbell, mentioning her interest in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces, as well as in the fiction of Hermann Hesse and Isak Dinesen. Consumed by myth and the idea of protean growth, she represented the processes of metamorphosis and transformation in hundreds of line drawings where ominous figures and landscapes emerge from uniformly striated, passionately articulated ink marks.
Other gouache drawings and paintings portray mythic figures of her own creation engaged in ritualistic acts. In this untitled work a mysterious cloven-hoofed figure sits sidesaddle on a statuesque horned beast that seems ready to obey his mistress’s command. Dark spiked emanations spring from the female figure’s head like a demonic halo. Cameron skillfully manipulates the ink, watering it down to suggest a kind of billowing black cloak. A heraldic shield is in place to ward off enemies. To heighten the drama, Cameron isolates the scene on a at island of space, cut off from the outside world.
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