Dorothea Tanning (1910-2012) was an American artist and writer, chiefly known for diminutive surrealist paintings and a clutch of soft sculptures. However, the reach of this centenarian was far more expansive than many viewers and readers may be aware for she also worked on one novella, Abyss or Chasm, for her entire career, as well as poetry and printmaking. Tanning’s prophetic visual and literary imagery, such as the recurrent child-woman, Destina, were often drawn from her childhood reading lists, pre-empting and reflecting surrealism’s literary heritage.


Dr Catriona McAra is Assistant Director, Heritage Collections and Curation at the University of St Andrews. She is a specialist in modern and contemporary art history with particular interests in feminist-surrealist legacies. She is the author of A Surrealist Stratigraphy of Dorothea Tanning’s Chasm (Routledge 2017), and her forthcoming books include Ilana Halperin: Felt Events (MIT and Strange Attractor, 2022) and The Medium of Leonora Carrington (Manchester University Press, 2022).