Surreal in the jungle
July 11, 2006 9:03 PM   Subscribe

Edward James (1907 - 1984) was a millionaire Scottish, art patron and surrealist who moved to Mexico in 1947 to grow orchids. After the orchids were destroyed by a freak snowstorm in 1962, he decided to switch to experiments in architecture. He built a monument to surrealism called Las Pozas, just outside of Xilitla. [more inside]
posted by nickyskye (21 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

Builder of Dreams, Said to have been the illegitimate child of King Edward VII, Edward James was a man obsessed by the surreal - keeping company with such artists and luminaries as Salvador Dalí, Leonora Carrington, René Magritte and Aldous Huxley.

Margaret Hooks writes about the life of Edward James and his creation of Las Pozas, Surreal Eden.

He was briefly married to Tilly Losch.

He created a trust.

"It is said that while bathing in the pools at Las Pozas, Edward saw a cloud of butterflies come down toward him through the canyon, their thickness momentarily cutting off the rays of the sun - Edward saw this incredible spectacle of fluttering wings as a sign that this was to be his home and thereafter set about to transform Las Pozas into his Enchanted Garden."
posted by nickyskye at 9:04 PM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

... ah, another wonderful post from nickyskye to be savored in leisure. I have poked through a few links and whetted my appetite - I will need to return again tomorrow to do them justice. But I just wanted to take a minute to say thanks.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:03 PM on July 11, 2006

Seconded! Thanks for this, nickyskye, brilliant job (as usual!).
posted by jonson at 10:22 PM on July 11, 2006

I wonder if Las Pozas is visible from Google Earth...
posted by jonson at 10:23 PM on July 11, 2006

Awesome post. I'd heard of Las Pozas but its one of those things I never took time to learn more about...Thanks!
posted by vacapinta at 10:48 PM on July 11, 2006

[this is good]
posted by loquacious at 11:01 PM on July 11, 2006

Since you mention Leonora Carrington, let me take this opportunity to point people to some galleries of her paintings (that last is at the ad-heavy site maintained by her son).

Elsewhere you can find an interview, her short story "The Debutante," and an excerpt from her delightful novel The Hearing Trumpet.

More links (some dead) are gathered here.
posted by girandole at 11:21 PM on July 11, 2006 [1 favorite]

posted by shoepal at 11:22 PM on July 11, 2006

I'd thought about doing a FPP on Las Posas a couple years ago, but found such a paucity of good sites, I blew it off. There's still a dearth of high-quality photos online, but great job wrapping it all up.

I spent a magical week in eastern San Luis Potosi, driving from one waterfall to the next, & Las Posas was a highlight of the trip, alongside Cascadas De Tamul and Hoya de las Guaguas. It is indeed a wonderful place, and if I could retire anywhere in the world, it'd be Xilitla.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:57 AM on July 12, 2006

More information on the the Margaret Hooks book, Surreal Eden, "captured exquisitely in photographs by Sally Mann, Michael Schuyt, Lourdes Almeida, and others," but not out until November.
posted by wendyfairy at 5:39 AM on July 12, 2006

wow- thanks- an excellent primer on Las Posas
posted by donabean at 7:35 AM on July 12, 2006

I second girandole's Carrington suggestions. She is one of the most important female surrealists and unfortunately quite often overlooked. (Not if I have anything to say in the matter.)
posted by aletheia at 7:55 AM on July 12, 2006

Oh YAYY, Glad you like the post. :)

girandole , I knew nothing about Leonora Carrington, what a great find. Suggest you make an FPP of your post, it's excellent.

Devils Rancher, Marvelous picture of the waterfalls. You're one of the only people I've ever talked to who's been to the Xilitla area. I was also was there for a week, December 1969, just turned 16, in Taninul, which is just a few miles from Las Pozas, but never saw Edward James' place. It looks like James' old home, El Castillo is an affordable vacation place, Taninul too.

wendyfairy, Thanks for the interesting article about the Hook's book. That review says "his mother a beautiful socialite said to be the daughter of King Edward VII". But in Edward's own site it says he was "rumored to be the bastard son of King Edward VII". Yikes. Hard to wrap my synapses around that one. It would make his mother his sister? I must be reading something wrong.

aletheia , Now you got me wondering about female surrealists as a group.
posted by nickyskye at 8:41 AM on July 12, 2006

I wonder if James ever interacted with Remedios Varo, the Mexican female surrealist - he must have.

I've always wanted to draw a sort of map of all the surrealists with lines connecting them, labeled such things as "drew a painting of","slept with","was a rival of","married" etc. - i think it would be a beautiful tangle.
posted by vacapinta at 10:00 AM on July 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

vacapinta, yes. Do it, man. I would love to see such a map.
posted by donfactor at 10:09 AM on July 12, 2006

Brilliant post, cheers nickyskye. (It's posts like this which make me so scared to stick stuff on the front page ;))

Now you got me wondering about female surrealists as a group.
Yeah, I think all the female surrealists get overlooked, what with it, historically, being seen as such a boy's club. There was an amazing exhibition in Edinburgh about 5 years ago of Lee Miller's work (it was a massive, joint affair with Roland Penrose); there's a good David Hare essay which uses that as a starting point here. Also looks like there's a new-ish biography out, which, going by this review, I might have to investigate.
posted by Len at 11:07 AM on July 12, 2006

Wonderful subject, post and additive thread. The trifecta!
Thanks nickyskye and everybody.

[See Giornale Nuovo on Remedios Varo: I, II]
posted by peacay at 12:05 PM on July 12, 2006

vacapinta, I agree with donfactor, that's a brilliant idea. Are you familiar with mind-mapping free software that can help create such a map? There's also social mapping as a plan, but maybe you already know how. Whatever way you accomplish it I think it's a wonderful idea!

Len, Oh please, you've made great posts, but thanks for the compliment. I made some honker, deep noob, front page posts, totally screwed up and more than once. One FPP I somehow didn't include the URL in the right place so it was blank, lol, just "posted by" etc. arrrgg. My first FPP generated 0 comments. Nuttin'. I'm delerious when there's more than 6 comments. Obviously, am still learning. So I encourage you. We all have something to offer.

peacay, What an exciting find, Remedios Varo! Visual treasure! Just love it when a thread gets happily plumped up with additional fun. Her's brother's charming descriptions of the paintings in your second link are really amusing: This woman leaving the psychoanalyst’s office [below] drops her father’s head into a small circular well (which is the proper thing to do when leaving the psychoanalyst). The basket she carries holds yet more psychological waste: a pocket watch, symbolizing the fear of arriving late, et cetera. The psychanalyst’s name is Dr. FJA (Freud, Jung and Adler).

Just loved that. My cuppa surrealism.
posted by nickyskye at 7:05 PM on July 12, 2006

This is a wonderful post — I can't wait to pass it on to my sister the nut about Scotland — and very well organized. How cool is it to plan a front entrance to your own place that includes a "giant aviary and monkey cage."
posted by LeLiLo at 7:06 PM on July 12, 2006

One of those on the list of "things to do before I die", just returned and was not disappointed. The four hours of driving on sharp mountain curves and sheer dropoffs with my wife clutching my arm the entire time was worth it. The landscape does not look like the rest of Mexico, high peaked hills looks like photos of China river valleys. Costs about $2 to enter the site, with the few visitors it has annually, surprising they can maintain it as well as they do. Some time ago there was talk of a group of artists getting together to repair some of the cement statuary which is crumbling in the jungle enviroment.
posted by cedar key at 9:24 AM on July 13, 2006

cedar key, Wow, so you went there, how cool is that! Man, cliff-hanging car rides can be gruelling. I did that road in a car, without the treasure of having seen Las Pozas, and then took the bus from Tamazunchale, a neat little mountain town nearby. What was your feeling at Las Pozas? Did you stay there at El Castillo? Is Las Pozas still run by the filmmaker, Avery Danziger?

There is an excellent essay by Bud and Arloa Paquin Goldstone about Las Pozas needing conservation and also the work that was done by them.

Our goal was to inspect, photograph, measure and videotape the structures. After reading the supposedly authorative and well-researched articles, which indicated 32 to 36 structures, we actually found 228 structures. For ten busy days, in the rain, we measured more than 100,000 square feet of surfaces and identified in the structures 5,500 cracks of various depths and widths. Our estimates show that 47,000 labor hours would be needed for a conservation crew to repair the damage and to clean the surfaces and rid them of the destructive fungi and lichen rooted into the concrete.
posted by nickyskye at 9:29 AM on July 18, 2006

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