ISSS Travel Fundraiser

Rikki Ducornet has generously donated this edition of 50 signed, giclée prints of her work Mandragore Magique to the ISSS in support of the Association’s travel fund. This fund will enable us to carry out our vision—and mission—of fostering the exchange of ideas between and among practicing artists and writers and the scholarly community for whom surrealism (past and present) is a field of ongoing inquiry. The ISSS is committed to maintaining an intellectual environment characterized by respect and a commitment to social justice that is inclusive of linguistic and methodological differences, committed to welcoming younger scholars and students, attentive to differences in institutional resources, and mindful of the racial, ethnic, sexual, gender, cultural, class, and geographical background of our membership. Your support makes it possible for us to act on these values by offsetting the travel costs involved in participating in an international organization.

Rikki Ducornet, ‘Mandragore Magique’ (1975). 2020 limited edition giclée reproduction of original lithograph, printed exclusively for ISSS. Printed on 100% rag paper, signed and numbered by the artist.

17″ x 22″ on 18″ x 24″ paper. Price includes $35 s/h, with $250 in proceeds directly supporting the ISSS Travel Fund. Shipping costs to some countries may vary. Please allow 4-6 week for delivery.


Rikki Ducornet, by Kristoffer Noheden

Rikki Ducornet (b. 1943) is well known for her books translated into many languages, including the novels The Fountains of Neptune (1989) and The Jade Cabinet (1993), and the essay collection The Deep Zoo (2015), but she is also a prolific surrealist artist. Ducornet has participated in the activities of the international surrealist movement ever since the early 1960s, as a sometime member of the Surrealist Group of Chicago, Ellebore, and Phases, as well as a contributor to Fantasmagie and, more recently, Peculiar Mormyrid. She has exhibited widely, including surrealist group shows such as El umbral secreto at the Salvador Allende Museum in Santiago, Chile, in 2009, Surrealism in 2012 in Reading, PA, and The Hunt for the Object of Desire in Quebec in 2014.

In Ducornet’s studio in Port Townsend, WA, the shelves are overflowing with books. When I visited her in February 2018, I marveled at a volume by French alchemist Eugène Canseliet, while Ducornet showed me a great tome with natural history illustrations from the Renaissance; interspersed with such evocations of the logic of the Wunderkammer, however, were also writings on the latest developments in evolutionary biology. Ducornet describes herself as “a frustrated natural historian,” with a lifelong interest in the natural sciences. Her art, then, is equally informed by eroticism and nature, biology and alchemy. Her view of knowledge and creativity is rooted in a conviction of the necessity to examine the world with integral means: “The human imagination poses searching riddles, and the moment it does, poetry and science, philosophy and cosmology are born.” (The Deep Zoo, 65)

Throughout the years, Ducornet has worked with ink and pencil, watercolor and oil, collage and ceramics. In her early drawings, female bodies emerge from rocky landscapes, clusters of breasts protruding from phallic shapes sprouting from the barren-looking ground. In the 1970s, Ducornet created a series of natural history lithographs, in which the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms intermingle with human bodies. Her illustrations for a 1983 edition of Jorge Luis Borges’s Tlön Uqbar, Orbis Tertius evince an encyclopedic ambition to map the world according to the dual dictates of observation and imagination. Starting in the late 2000s, Ducornet transformed her natural history-themed work, as she started painting with watercolor on rag paper. In this ongoing series of works, she draws on and explodes the conventions of natural history illustrations further, as the paintings traverse the borders between botany and zoology. A recent Intergalactic Atlas of the Clitoris maps the morphology of cosmic pleasure.

Mandragore Magique is a new run of one of the exquisite natural history prints Ducornet created in the mid-1970s, when she worked with a printer who would drive from Burgundy to the Loire valley with stones on which she worked directly. Evincing her entwined interests in natural history, alchemy, and folklore, Mandragore Magique draws on legends about the anthropomorphic mandrake root believed to possess magical powers. There are echoes in the imagery of Max Ernst’s Natural History frottages and of Hans Bellmer’s corporeal fantasies, both early influences on Ducornet, but her alchemical poetics of germination and explosive eroticism is all her own.