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Robert Kalivac Carroll, IDSVAFollow





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This study investigates the roles of wonder and a sensibility to “the numinous” in the work of Spanish-Mexican painter Remedios Varo and Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges, each of whom created fabulist narratives, visual and literary respectively. An investigation of wonder as a distinctly “disruptive” universal phenomenon and its accompanying “not-knowing” and “self-forgetting” qualities serve as an entryway for engaging, contemplating and depicting the infinitely shifting terrain that marks the invisibility of the numinous. Eastern approaches to understanding the variations and fluctuations of aesthetic consciousness might describe this theme as a “gateless gate.” Thus European and Asian thought are combined to support the argument that Varo and Borges’s irrealistic narratives challenge any immutable account of truth and reality in art. The proposal herein is that truth and reality are ultimately indefinable aspects of art. Grounding this study in a philosophico-phenomenological orientation by combining a methodology rooted in Edmund Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology with aesthetically oriented philosophical commentary by other thinkers allows the seemingly amorphous and paradoxical roles of subjectivity and spiritual consciousness in modern art and aesthetics to be more directly examined and understood. That the dynamic of the artist-philosopher fuels an impulse to make visible through art the invisibility of what Rudolf Otto called “the numinous” reflects how, as Remedios Varo asserted, art is made “as a way of communicating the incommunicable,” thus bringing meaning to what Borges describes as “the overwhelming disorder of the real world.” The seminal roles of subjectivity—the decentering of the subject, Husserlian transcendental subjectivity and intersubjectivity, and intertexual philosophical assessments of subjectivity— are all used to explore Borges’s literary and Varo’s visual storytelling and their respective searches for truth and reality.

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Art and Design | Latin American Languages and Societies | Philosophy


Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts


Portland, Maine

The Numinous Gate: A Philosophico-Phenomenological Study of Wonder and Image Consciousness in the Fabulist Art of Varo and Borges



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