Rebel, goddess, provocateur, cat, sphinx, outcast, muse. The Argentinian-Italian Surrealist Leonor Fini, remains an unsolved enigma that still inspires generations of creators. Until 25th of June at the Tommaso Calabro gallery in Milan, a tribute to the life of a long-forgotten artist curated by Francesco Vezzoli.
She is considered by many art critics, as one of the most influential female figures of the mid-twentieth century along with Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, Meret Oppenheim, Remedios Varo, and Dorothea Tanning. Fini was a virtually self-taught, whose provocative art and eccentric personality quickly garnered her a respectful place in the Parisian art world. In her paintings, strong female characters appear from the classical sphinx to creatures of popular culture, such as the witch and the werewolf. They are often mystical and hybrid, half-human and half mythological beings, women with a deep gaze always looking after men and leading them the right way. As an artist, she had various expressive ways. She created numerous stage and costume designs for opera, ballet, theatre, and film during her lifetime. In her private life, she chose to live as something of a recluse, although she loved to make brief, shocking appearances at formal events, dressed in rococo costumes. Fini wasn’t afraid to be seen as a narcissist; she just was herself completely and didn’t feel any sense of questioning or shame. One of her particular costumes, including an owl mask, inspired the final scene in the erotic novel “The Story of O,” which Fini would later illustrate. In the 1980s, she mainly focused on theatrical sets and costume designs continuing to paint as well, with her works evolving toward a more dreamlike tone, but always with an intense essence of sexual energy. Her gender and sexuality were the greatest ways to perform experimentations, both on the canvas and in real life. As a result, the depictions of her muses are tender and affectionate, often rooted in her association with her subjects, including two of her simultaneous life partners, Stanislao Lepri and Constantin Jelenski. For Leonor Fini different identities were perceived as masks and cats as symbols of wisdom and power. Openly bisexual and anti-marriage, her revolutionary nature never let her comply with the “rules” of a rotten society and this is why her work is more relevant than ever.
“I always imagined I would have a life very different from the one that was imagined for me, but I understood from a very early time that I would have to revolt in order to make that life. Now I am convinced that in any creativity there exists this element of revolt.”
Art: Leonor Fini
Words: Iro Bournazou / @irwb