That this work concerns food is no coincidence; Carrington likewise considered cooking an act of alchemical transformation. She devoted hours of her time to preparing complex and completely inedible recipes, such as hare stuffed with oysters or omelettes filled with human hair. She often served such dishes at elaborate dinner parties, to the simultaneous delight and disgust of her friends.
Carrington’s rituals of transformation prefigure much of how we talk about the body today. We are beginning to understand that our bodies are leaky, blurry things bound up with the world around us. The bacteria that make up our gut microbiome, for instance, show that there truly is a bestiary within us all. There are processes that bind us together, even if we don’t see them. Carrington was a seer, able to perceive those connections that lie beyond ordinary perception. In her paintings, bodies are unstable, moving between genders, species, life, and death, yet—as some have been saying for years, but many of us are only now beginning to understand—this is not fantastical at all.
Carrington died in Mexico in 2011, one of the last remaining Surrealists. Throughout her life, she refused to explain her work—logic, after all, was an impediment to seeing—and she disliked any attempt to impose the order of language onto her visuals (which would, presumably, also include this essay). In seeing beyond the visible world, beyond the rational or comprehensible, Carrington leaves us only with abstract terms like “magic.” But perhaps magic is what happens when, as she put it shortly before her death, art “comes from somewhere else.”