La Llamada (The Call) by Remedios Varo, 1961. Oil on Masonite, 98.5 x 68 cm.
From Polyxeni Potter’s article in the journal Emerging Infectious Disease:
The Call, on this month’s cover of Emerging Infectious Diseases, is inhabited by apparitions and has the eerie stillness and depthless unreality of a dream. A flaming female figure charged by a celestial body emanates energy and lights up the scene; around her neck, a single ornament, a chemist’s mortar; in her hand, a laboratory flask, a retort. The lurid presence casts a glow on the dim walls of a hallway. From these walls, like a hallucinogenic distortion, a mournful array of human forms bulge forward, feet anchored to the floor, eyes downcast, bodies lost in outlandish folds: female phantoms, pillars and structural support, trapped in a paralyzing nightmare.
Mysterious and provocative, the architectural stage is cluttered with conflicting clues. The walls are tall; the windows small and out of reach; the sky inflamed; the morbid folds props of oppression. Yet, the floor is elaborately tiled, the doorways arched, the steps well-tended. The stage is firmly cast, oppression is institutionalized.
Varo’s enigmatic Call, part dream part symbolic reality, seems at once a calling and a call to action. The flaming figure wears the signs and halo of science. Bathed in the light of knowledge, she steps forward boldly to dispel the darkness. In the painter’s surreal universe as well as ours, the female phantoms on the wall stand for poverty, confinement, disease. Overlooked by societies, biomedical research, and healthcare systems; battered by AIDS, malaria, and other infections; victimized by globalization; and stigmatized by the very diseases that confine and kill them (5), women slumber in the shadows. The flaming figure’s flask contains the science. Her call is a wake-up call.1
Polyxeni Potter, “Scientific Discovery and Women’s Health" (accessed 2014 July 03) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3329062 ↩
The Secret Double by René Magritte, 1927. Oil on canvas, 44 ⅞ × 63 ¾ inches. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL.
Lesley Peterson writes:
Called grelots, the bells appear as mysterious spheres in many of Magritte’s works, their slits hinting at something hidden within, a symbol of Magritte’s obsession with concealment.