Las Pozas | Sensual Overload
A good friend of mine left Carversville for Pakistan and spent days in shock over the juxtaposition of these two realities. Las Pozas is no Pakistan, but they’re cousins, enjoying a deep sensuality and chaotic, unconscious provocation.
In this respect, Carversville is a Fifties-style woman wielding onsiderable but discreet power. She plays a Barbara Bush supporting role, the caretaker trainer and source of great wisdom, slapping our cheeks before pushing us back into the boxing ring of modern, city life.
In my dreams, I see Las Pozas … a hotbed of symbolism and myth. If Carversville is a conscious mind, then Las Pozas is Carl Jung talking.
For sensualists, the antidote to Carversville, after working a week in Paris, then flying to Shanghai, is a week in Xilitla and the Surreal Gardens of Las Pozas … born when a flurry of blue butterflies captured the inner vision and imagination of the Scottish eccentric Edward James.
Salvation and Nirvana
Arriving in the Sierra Madre Oriental’s lush but mountainous landscape, situated on the grounds of a former coffee plantation, bathed in ramping bougainvillea and banana trees, standing beside a cascading mountain river that drops through nine bathing pools (“Las Pozas”), James conceived the fantastical plan of installing an extraordinary and unique garden of surrealist sculptures, some reaching as high as 30 meters and all inspired by the surrounding tropical vegetation.
Las Pozas is more fantastical than Gaudi’s Barcelona, as if conceived on a pre-sixties, psychedelic acid trip.
Edward James’s Las Pozas is a spectacular tribute to biomorphism, with its sculpture gardens created in the shapes of living organisms. An out of control sensuality pervades the atmosphere; erectile mosaic serpents seduce us away from concrete leaves big enough to walk on. Waterfalls, some 80 feet high, shower us in a dense sensuality.
In reality, this rich biomorphism threatens to consume Las Pozas, as the jungle embraces than strangles the landscape and exotic architecture. The World Monuments Fund has launched an ambitious campaign to preserve Las Pozas, which is technically endangered.
Flowers beckon us to spiraling stairs, fantastical structures like the House with Three Stories that Might Be Five, House with a Roof Like a Whale, and the Temple of the Ducks. James left 30 other ‘follies’ unfinished at Las Pozas.
In 1979, James had electrical lines brought in from Xilitla and lit up the mountainside Walt Disney style. His young friend Kaco remembers the night they were first turned on: “We all came up here, and about ten o’clock they threw the switches — pow! pow! It was fabulous and incredible, but if you looked around in the brush, you could see all these little animals running around, sort of dazzled and disoriented.”
An excellent BBC production Xilitla: The Surreal Gardens of Las Pozas not only gives us a splendid tour of Las Posaz, but raises provocative questions about beauty, order and chaos. Edward James (and many other surrealists) was devoted to probing these artistic connections.
Xilitla: The Surreal Gardens of Las Pozas
A writer for Texas Monthly describes his experience trying to stay on track in this exotic, mindbending jungle habitat of human imagination.
The whole time I was there, I found it exceedingly difficult to stay on track. On the second day, for example, I started out to see the spectacular waterfall above the Captain’s Pool. Along the way, however, I metaphorically but definitely lost my way. Wandering among elephant ears, I made the mistake of pausing to examine the House With a Roof Like a Whale. Intrigued, I walked around it, then ducked through a small door and was surprised to find that the house’s smooth, pleasing exterior harbored a dank, cavelike interior. After that I detoured along a scary elevated walkway to the fat concrete obelisk called the Stegosaurus Column. And so it went, one digression following another for more than two hours. When a village boy and two dogs sent by my friends found me at noon, I had never reached my destination, even though it was only ten minutes away. I had the feeling that somewhere, Edward James was laughing.
James was devoted to orchids and discovered his Garden of Eden searching for wild orchids besides the Tranquilin river.
In 1962 a freak storm dropped the temperature below freezing, and 18,000 flowers perished in a three-day snowfall that the mystified villagers referred to as a rain of “white ashes.”
Says Avery Danziger, a filmmaker who has made a documentary on James’s life: “When it freezes here, it looks like the whole forest has been burned. James was absolutely devastated.”
The eccentric, Howard Hughes-like visionary swore that the next orchids he planted would never die, and so they were made of concrete.
Beauty in Our Minds
Is Las Pozas wildly beautiful? Or, it is the work of an unhinged, irrational mind? Is beauty defined by classical attributes and precise aesthetic measurements, or is beauty defined by each of us individually?
Surely the majority of us can agree that Corpse Flower #1 belongs in Las Pozas. Each of us can appreciate the loveliness of a young woman, lying in silent, corpse-like repose, along the pathways of Las Pozas. James is toying with our minds, and discovering her lying along a vined pathway is part of our adventure.
The sculptural Corpse Flower becomes more challenging, because of its hideous odor. It repels us while attracting us with its magnificent stature. Some of us turn away in distaste, arguing that its beauty is abnormal and bizarre and belongs only in the garden of a mentally deranged eccentric. Others like me, are in awe of this bizarrely sensual, living organism.
This last Corpse Flower photo sends shivers in my spine and perhaps yours as well. I cannot embrace it, and yet I know that it belongs in Las Pozas, that James would welcome its symbolism and beauty.
The ancient cultures of Mexico and South America embrace death as part of living. Yet, I cannot fully appreciate its bizarre beauty or the surreal mind that created this photo. I have no desire to share a cup of coffee with this person.
Safe and Secure
It’s a beautiful, sunny morning here in Carversville. The land is bursting with life, inviting me to take a leisurely walk this afternoon. My dear friend knows that my psyche is off kilter, topsy turvey from my recent excursion to Las Pozas. What I need today is a quiet, soothing, predictable encounter with nature.
Madame Carversville quiets my fears, assuring me that there are no Corpse Flowers along Stovers Mill Road. Meanwhile, the spirit also stand guard at Las Pozas. Anne