[HOT] : Las Pozas, a surreal life-size garden in Mexico

Extraordinary gardens (1/6). French photographer Tom de Peyret traveled through Las Pozas Park in Mexico, 32 hectares of lush vegetation dotted with natural pools and surreal sculptures, dreamed of by British poet and collector Edward James.

“I will never go back to Mexico. I can’t stand the thought of being in a country more surreal than my paintings. Would the suffocating heat have risen to Salvador Dalí’s head to make him say that? Or did he mean the Aztec and Mayan ruins eaten away by vegetation? Of their terrifying gods, such from a nightmare? Of death celebrated as a joy? Besides, did the painter even go to Mexico? Biographers and experts may search, but they struggle to find the precise details of this trip that would have made him utter these words.

The great manipulator that Dalí was perhaps had invented a journey to better stand out from his surrealist comrades. Because it is a little-known, but capital, part of the history of the artistic movement: its migration to Mexico in the middle of the 20th century. In 1938, André Breton, founder of the movement, his patriarch or his dictator according to the points of view, part some time in Mexico. He visits the couple of painters Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, meets Léon Trotsky in exile.

Later, World War II saw a series of artists find refuge in the country. Some, like the filmmaker Luis Buñuel, stayed there only during the conflict. Others will remain there, such as the painter Leonora Carrington, a wildly romantic character, a time master of the writer Max Ernst, friend of Paul Éluard and Leonor Fini. She died in Mexico City in 2011, at the age of 94.

Altars without idols

The Englishwoman had her habits in Las Pozas, a huge park located in the hills of Xilitla, in north-central Mexico, dotted with natural pools (pozas, in Spanish). There, she found the founder of the place, Edward James (1907-1984). This poet, son of British high society, had been a patron of the Surrealists and had been painted by Magritte – two paintings in which his face does not appear.

A great collector, he was also a traveler and had landed there, in the luxuriant vegetation, to build his Garden of Eden. In the 32 hectares of a former coffee plantation, he had grown tens of thousands of orchids. The frost will kill them all. He will then embark on the construction of stone trees, stairs that lead nowhere, rows of columns, altars without idols. His friends will parade, many of whom will be drawn to the hallucinogenic mushrooms plucked from the foliage.

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