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THE FIRST BIOGRAPHY OF THE LIFE OF BRIDGET BATE TICHENOR

TX, PA, PAU COPYRIGHTS 2006 & 2009, Writers Guild Registration TX 1382590 2008

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Derived from “Bridget Bate Tichenor – The Mexican Magic Realist Painter”
TX, PA, PAU COPYRIGHTS 1990, 2000, 2006, & 2009 TXU 1 321 112 11/6/06 By Zachary Selig
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www.zacharyselig.com

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zachary_Selig

Bridget Bate Tichenor – Copyright Estate of George Platt Lynnes 1945

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INTRODUCTION The mesmerizing story of the Magical Realist painter Bridget Bate Tichenor has not been told. It is not just a story. It is an extraordinary and riveting story of a remarkable female artist who impacted the 20th Century world of fashion, art, and society with enormous contributions. Revealed are the intimacies and secrets of an outwardly beautiful, exotic, bold, and courageous, yet painfully shy and reclusive woman who lived in extraordinary times, hither to the unknown world or her peers and colleagues. Bridget’s life was led in an astonishing way in many contrasting countries and in many revolutionary platforms on a level of excellence that has not been recognized or acknowledged outside small eccentric art circles. Bridget adhered to rarefied and noble standards of human pride, integrity, respect, discipline, and compassion. These humane traits she honored above all else in life. Bridget’s impeccable personal values in tandem with her determination and prioritization to execute her artistic vision are the essence of her story, which creates historical value as her world message. Bridget inherited a peripatetic world from her self-absorbed, famous, and creatively gifted parents that fueled deep insecurities fed by fears of abandonment. Subsequently, she reinvented herself by necessity and by choice to mold herself into the world that she needed to fit into at any given time in order to survive.

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Bridget's mother, Vera Bate Lombardi (Sarah Gertrude Baring Arkwright Fitzgeorge Bate Lombardi) was an indomitable combination of beauty and bravado with the highest connections. From 1925-1939, Vera became CoCo Chanel's muse and social advisor and liaison to several European Royal Families. Her demeanor and style influenced the 'English Look’, the very foundation for the House of Chanel. The beautiful, noble, artistic, and rich are different and misunderstood or condemned, yet granted societal privileges few receive. These very qualities that embodied her unique style influenced and were copied by some of the greatest names of the 20th century, who were capable of creating a mass appeal through their vision that she ignited. She was loved and envied, but most of all she was awe-inspiring. Bridget had an amazing and tragic multidimensional life that was filled with an arranged marriage, fantasies, true loves, romantic and professional rivalries, artistic achievements, mysticism, perfectionism, and shattered dreams. All of which was portrayed in the most glamorous world settings with famous personalities and eccentric nobility that she orchestrated into a dramatic metaphysical theater of magical relationships. Her controversial royal illegitimate background overshadowed her profound artistry and her sense of self worth. In her era and society, it was important to be of royal lineage. Her achievement in the art world was diminished by who she was as an illegitimate royal family member, her ravishing beauty, her refined intelligence, and her commanding personality. Her controversial background was more important and interesting to her friends, which graciously made her celebrated and received on one hand, yet made her hide how great an artist she was on the other and never acknowledged. This is why she was so shy about showing
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who she was as a superlative painter. She compartmentalized her life. She was deathly afraid to remove her complex multiple masks and reveal not only her precious art, but also her deepest intimate feelings to others. She was validated only by those relationships that had a higher profile than she, so that she could retreat behind her provocatively mysterious and seductive persona to hide her acute vulnerability. She was difficult to get to know, guarded, and very secretive. She revealed certain things to socially survive, while withholding her poetically rich emotional and spiritual communications to focus through her dedicated relationship with her sacred and sovereign art. She had a genius gift of observation and execution in cryptic detail, both in her character and painting. Bridget painted for herself, and not for commercial gain or notoriety. Bridget Bate Tichenor’s life and art lifted Mexican art up to new high point. She was a European royal that was a part of an international society, who rejected her privileged upbringing and background for self-realization and expression as a female artist in rural Michoacan. Bridget reflected the inherent value of Mexico as a mystical ancient cultural magnet filled with authentic artistic and spiritual mosaics of chiascurro passions. Bridget spiritually adopted me and I became her protégé in 1971. Among her many gifts, she benevolently trained me in drawing and painting, introducing me to ancient occult religions, which included many lost esoteric sciences of Egyptian, Tantrika, and Mesoamerican Magic and Alchemy. She fed my hunger to learn, and I became her consummate student in a world that had received a death rattle to classically trained artists. The trajectory in this biography is about the journey of metamorphous we shared together as friends, what Bridget
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considered important and unimportant, how we impacted each other’s lives, and what each of us gained from our rapport. Bridget’s character is discovered through my eyes and what she taught me, because I had to be taught. The story follows the changing arcs in our characters through the alchemy of our bond. It is a beautiful recovery love story between two people who were destined to have a sacred relationship. Bridget’s life stories were one of her great legacies that she imparted to me during the 19 years of our relationship. Over 20 years ago, I began to research and document a small portion of these elaborate, and many times confusing, historical events and their interplay. In most cases, she would use a particular aspect of her life, a family member, friend, or someone she admired in story telling as an example to teach me something she felt I needed to learn. Bridget’s long and entertaining monologues focused on definitive standards and values she felt imperative I absorb. There was a ‘lesson to be learned’ in every story, which was one of her intimate ways of expressing her love to me. The trajectory in this biography is about the journey we shared together as friends, what Bridget considered important and unimportant, how we impacted each other’s lives, and what each of us gained from it. To some that knew her superficially or were envious, she appeared to exaggerate or embellish only to discover that what she said was true, to others that were awe-stricken by her and did not know the obscure details of her secreted life, she was labeled an ‘aristocratic artist’, and to those few that knew her well, she was a loyal friend, wise teacher, and genius painter. Just before her death, I promised Bridget that she would be known to the world. -Zachary Selig
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Chapter V Contembo Technique – An Artist’s Destiny in Mexico Mesoamerican cultures, spiritism, shamanism, metaphysics, science fiction, ancient mystery schools, and her international background of world cultures and religions would influence the style and themes of Tichenor’s work as a Magic Realist painter in Mexico. Bridget’s thematic focus was painting supernatural enchantments in a 16th century Venetian genre that referenced ancient cultures with mythical creatures. Tichenor’s painting technique was based upon 16th century Italian Tempera formulas that her friend Paul Cadmus taught her in New York. She would prepare a well-sanded and eggshell-finished gesso ground of 20 coats or more on Masonite board and apply, instead of tempera, multiple jewel-like and transparent oil glazes created with pigment, mineral spirits, and linseed medium. Bridget painted in an Italian Renaissance style, depicting characters in her spiritually channeled allegories that referenced Mesoamerican mythology and occult religions. Her biggest technical concern was that her delicately thin painting would crack or peel, so she allowed each layer of paint to sufficiently dry before another application was made. The drying time between successive coats of translucent paint took time, so a painting could take months to a year or more to finish. The brushes she used were sable #000, and sometimes a onehair brush was used for detail. Tichenor was among a group of Surrealist and Magic Realist female artists who came to live in Mexico in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

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They were drawn to the American Modern Art movement that was seeded in Mexico’s fertile cultural and political ground by Diego Rivera. After the Mexican Revolution, a new generation of Mexican artists led a vibrant national movement that incorporated political, historic, religious, folk-indigenous, and Pre-Columbian themes. The painters Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros became world famous for their grand murals, often displaying clear social messages. Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kahlo, Remedios Varo, Leonora Carrington, and Pedro Friedeberg produced more personal, abstract, symbolic, and spiritual works. Bridget’s introduction to Mexico occurred after she lived in Beverly Hills, California during the War years of the early 1940’s through her cousin Edward James, who was living between Los Angeles and Mexico. Bridget had guided Edward James when they both lived in Los Angeles around 1942 to seek out a permanent home in Mexico, which he found via a friend in Cuernavaca. Edward James had nervous breakdowns in Los Angeles and Bridget helped him at the time to recuperate. After having her only child in an arranged marriage that resulted in disillusionment and acute depression, she looked deeper for her life’s meaning and purpose that was to be found later through her art. Edward James insisted she come visit him in Mexico. Edward James, the British Surrealist art collector and sponsor of the magazine Minotaure that was published in Paris, invited Tichenor to Mexico several times in the late 1940’s when she was at Vogue until her move in 1953. Bridget’s life-changing epiphany occurred during an ancestral Aztec spiritual ceremony with James at his home. The ceremony involved the Nahua goddess Coatlicue - Tonanzin or Tonantzin - Guadalupe for souls that were ‘ahuicpu’, those that prevented attending to their
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destines. Tonantzin is the goddess of the earth and of the dead, known as “La de Falda Serpientes”. James had urged Bridget for many years to undergo the same secret ceremony that had helped him find his life purpose through his ancestral spirit guides. He organized the ceremony for her with a secret Aztec Tonantzin sect of priests, where her life solidified afterwards in a miraculous devotion to her art and spirit guides. James had lived in Las Pozas, San Luis Potosi, Mexico since the 1940’s, and his home had an enormous Surrealist sculpture garden with natural waterfalls, pools and Surrealist sculptures in concrete. Tichenor had first met him in Paris in the 1930s. Carrington painted a mural at Las Pozas as a gift to James. Bridget discussed her early trips to James’s home and also traveling to Mexico for photographic shoots for Vogue, prior to her moving there in 1953. After visiting Mexico again through invitations of her Mexican friends artist Diego Rivera, architect Luis Barragan, and Mathias Goeritz in the early 1950’s, she obtained a divorce from her second husband Jonathan Tichenor in New York in 1952, and moved to Mexico in 1953, where she made her permanent home and lived for the rest of her life. She left her marriage and job as a professional Fashion and Accessories Editor for Vogue behind and was now alongside expatriate painters such as Carrington, Remedios Varo, Alice Rahon, and photographer Kati Horna living in the magic of Mexico. The French Philosopher Andre Breton, who was instrumental in Carrington’s career said, “Mexico is a surreal place where the people live surreally.” In 1958, she participated in the First Salon of Women’s Art at the Galerías Excelsior of Mexico, together with Carrington, Rahon,
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Varo, and other contemporary women painters of her era. In 19591960, she bought the ‘Contembo’ ranch near the remote preColumbian village of Ario de Rosales, Michoacán where she painted reclusively with her extensive menagerie of pets and numerous servants until 1978. Tichenor and her Purepecha lover Roberto built the house together. They maintained a relationship for 13 years. Bridget said, “Roberto, the ‘wicked Indian’ left the ranch one day on the bus from Patzcuaro to get supplies in Morelia, and never returned.” Contembo was positioned in exact alignment with the four cardinal directions like a compass. On the ground floor, there was a wide center hall, flanked by a living room and kitchen on one side, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms. Bridget’s bedroom had a dressing room full of couturier clothing in rags, Verdura and Kenneth Jay Lane paste jewelry. There was a winding staircase from the center hall that went up to the center of her studio. A ten-foot high-stonewalled courtyard that was gated in the center of each four directions surrounded the house. The interior ten-foot high walls were painted titanium white and the floors were made of dark ochre hewn stone that was taken from her land. There were a number of outbuildings on the grounds that served for carpentry, tool sheds, slaughtering of animals, animal pens, storage, and servants’ quarters. The second story consisted of a large studio with six massive windows, two on each 3 walls, a center stairwell, and storage closet that was composed of shelves on bricks covered in plastic for painting supplies. The approach to the mountaintop where the house was built upon had a rough winding dirt road that would wash out during the torrential rainy season. There was no electricity, but there was a sometimes-inefficient
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generator that would be turned on once a day for 10 minutes only for a dribble of hot water. The house was lit by dozens of kerosene lamps at dusk that made everything from bedding to flatware reek of petroleum. Bridget had sixteen indoor dogs and eighteen outdoor dogs, all with their own basket beds. Each knew their place and once in their beds did not move without her command. The indoor dogs slept in a line of baskets around the perimeter of her bedroom watching her every move. There were twenty-two parrots and assorted birds that were trained to sleep in shoeboxes at night stacked in her dressing room. At dawn a crippled Indian servant with one eye and one leg on a crutch would arrive to begin the task of taking each bird out of its box and placing it on an outdoor perch to be fed. The process took the man the entire day and by dusk all of the birds were returned to their labeled boxes and stacked in a prescribed order in a closet. Her staff of sixteen servants were physically and mentally handicapped outcasts of the village that she adopted and cared for, who loyally followed her detailed orders to perfection. The ranch was self-contained with Jersey cows for milk, cream, butter, cheese, and yogurt. There were chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, guinea hens, and quails for meat and eggs. There were extensive vegetable and herb gardens with assorted fruit trees. There was an outdoor conservatory building for bulbs, orchids, bromeliads, and young plantings. The compound was filled with handicapped servants and loud, screeching, or barking animals, like an array of characters from the 1896 H.G science fiction novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau” in a Bruegel painting setting.

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Every few months supplies would be picked up by a servant in Morelia such as clear Sauza Tequila, Salem or Carmencita cigarettes, the Mexican chocolate Abuelita, and art supplies that would be shipped to her from New York. Contembo was a six-hour drive from Mexico City, forty minutes from Patzcuaro, two hours from Morelia, and a few minutes from the village of Ario de Rosales. Bridget painted in her studio from dawn to dusk, with a 1-hour break for lunch, on a simple tripod wooded easel that was portable. Breakfast consisted of strong black coffee, and lunch was served at 3 PM that consisted of an overcooked small piece of stringy meat or dry chicken, cardboard beans, overcooked rice, with a wilted Serrano chili that was washed down with several shots of inexpensive clear Sauza Tequila, chased with the condiment Magi. Her guests were starving from lack of food. So, bedtime was a treat to all those that visited her. Bridget routinely had two huge hot cocos served in bed at 9 PM by one of her servants. The hot cocoa was prepared in an English manner as the recipe was a heavy hot Jersey Cream from her cow with fresh strong Mexican Abuelita chocolate. Ario de Rosales was named “Place where something was sent to be said” in the Purepecha language. Tichenor in essence was an artistic channel for the powerful spiritual vortex that she chose to call her home. She produced paintings that embraced and reflected a divinely supernatural world that was beyond the emotional or mental content of the Surrealist’s of her day. She did not like being called a Surrealist as she said her work was of a spiritual nature and contained the alchemy of ‘magic’, reflecting the supernatural. Nor did she ever describe or bring definition to her art. She said, “True art was to be seen and felt, not intellectualized or conversed about as those wretched art dealers or academicians do
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when money becomes involved. What ground do they have to be called art authorities, when they haven’t a clue of being an artist themselves?” Clearly, she did not like most art dealers or many of those that made a living as art authorities, whom she said knew nothing about art. She did not like her work to be judged or analyzed by someone that was not an artist himself or herself. Many times she retreated and refused great opportunities when she heard the word ‘art dealer’ or ‘art academician’. Yet, she was extremely close with Mexican art dealer Antonio Sousa and the Argentinean Pecanin sisters that were gallery owners in Mexico City, who she trusted completely. Bridget purposely positioned her paintings reversely against a wall, so no one could see them. If she liked someone, she would sometimes turn only one around. Rarely, did she expose every painting she had available, unless they were intimate friends. She adored Remedios Varo, and Carrington followed in her preference for artists that she was close to. Varo was more spiritual to Tichenor than Carrington, yet Carrington and she shared many technical commonalities that are evident in their painterly works of art. Tichenor shared interests with Varo and Carrington in literary works of Gurdieff and Ouspensky. Bridget discussed with me the writings of the 13th century German Neo-Platonist mystic Meister Eckhart, Carl Jung, and 19th century Theosophists such as Madame Helene Blavatsky, Charles Leadbeater, and Sir John Woodroffe. She gave me some of her mother’s Theosophist books, and encouraged me to read the 19th century English translations from Sanskrit regarding Kundalini and the Chakra systems. Bridget Tichenor taught me the principles of focusing my mind in Raja Yoga study. She also trained my mind-to-hand coordination by
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giving me Tantric painting exercises in which I was directed to paint squares, crescent moons, triangles, circles, hexagons, pentagons, double crosses, stars, swastikas, lotuses, and dots (the geometric and symbolic foundations of both Mandala and Yantra cosmograms) with three sable haired brushes with India Ink in one continuous stroke. She explained that these magical diagrams were universal, and not limited to Hindu origin, but came from Ancient Mystery Schools of Solar Kundalini throughout the world. Bridget quoted Jung, “The cardinal lesson as presented by Chinese texts and Meister Eckhart, was that of allowing psychic events to happen on their own accord - letting things happen, the action through non-action, and the letting go of oneself. One must let things happen.” She referred to Jung in his criticizing the Western tendency to turn everything into methods and intentions, while teaching me principles of mandala configurations from his book Mandala Symbolism. Bridget had a deep understanding of the cosmos and origins of mankind, as she was born a mystical adept that lived and communicated from the astral plane. She once said, “This ‘sense of being extraterrestrial’ I have is something I inherited from my mother.” It was very hard for Bridget to ground and integrate herself in the material or third dimension, as she was fulfilled in indescribable ways from the spiritual realms that she painted. She was in certain aspect conflicted and in denial of her own psychological pain, but not in anyway regarding her spiritual identity and purpose. It was only through painting that she felt deeply connected to her source, in bliss, and complete. Many of the faces and bodies of Tichenor’s magical creatures in her
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paintings were based upon her assorted pet Terriers, Chihuahuas, Italian Mastiffs, sheep, goats, monkeys, parrots, iguanas, snakes, horses, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, pigeons, quail, and local Purepecha Indian servants and friends. The masks that she painted were symbolic of the many mysterious facets of her extraordinarily diverse spiritual perceptions that she would hide both her acute emotional vulnerability and the awesome power of her soul behind, which she chose to express only in her sacred art. She was guided to paint timeless supernatural visions that were painted in a Magic Realism style. The landscapes of Tichenor’s paintings were inspired by the topography of the volcanic land that surrounded her mountaintop home Contembo. There was a curvature of the earth with many plateaus and deep canyons that could be seen from her second-story studio, where the pine tree covered Venetian Red Mountains cascaded towards the Pacific Ocean. The unusual land formations were otherworldly and isolated in a pre-historic time, like geographic scenes of lost worlds from a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel. And, at the same time the region evoked a futuristic post-civilization atmosphere. Bridget captured the essence of her beloved environment at Contembo in her paintings. The days would build with sun blazed brilliant colour in a luminous heat from the contrasting dark grey-green cold nights. There also was a magnificent waterfall with turquoise pools of water that traversed her red earth property in a stream of liquid light that appeared to come directly from heaven.

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