Man Ray & Lee Miller: “Partners in Surrealism”
At the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts through December 4, 2011, “Partners in Surrealism”, explores the individual and combined efforts of a pillar of the Surrealist movement, Man Ray, and his student, lover, muse and finally friend, Lee Miller. Surrealists created “provocative combinations of ordinary things” and in Paris, between 1929 and 1932, Ray and Miller utilized these techniques and one another to great effect. Man Ray’s portraits of Miller featured unusual angles, patterns of light on her body, abstraction of her nude form and, after she jilted him, the famous transplantation of her eye or lips into his other works. Lee Miller’s work occurred more frequently outside of the studio and, reflecting her avante guard sensibilities, featured portraits that were frontal and empowered compared to Ray’s often romantic and seductive compositions.
It was Miller who accidentally discovered the method of “solarization” in the darkroom one day when she momentarily flicked on the lights. Thereafter, Ray and Miller both used the technique to give their work an other-worldliness that exemplified the surrealist movement. The most emblematic work from this period is Man Ray’s “Solarized Portrait of Lee Miller” (1930), which shows a close-up profile of Miller in her unaffected style, with a halo of solarization that transforms her image into a different realm, in Man Ray’s style. This beautiful and iconic portrait embodies their combined spirits and is perhaps the best example of their collaborative work.