Cherchez la muse

Dedicated to Marialis Esquivel and Mathieu Bitton

I have a friend who is obsessed with muses. She keeps saying, jokingly, “what did she have that I don´t?” referring to women like the Russian-born Gala, who inspired Paul Éluard, Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí alike.

Being a woman artist, I guess it is men who have usually been my “muses.” However, recently I have observed an amusing phenomenon; something that made my friend exclaim, “but, you are becoming a muse!” Well, maybe not exactly.

The thing is that I know a lot of musicians. Moreover, with the exception of my once Italian boyfriend (who had once been some kind of a writer, though), all the boys I have so much as gone on one date over the last four or five years were musicians, whether professional or semi-professional, but they all played music and wrote their own songs.

The curious phenomenon starts maybe with an Argentinean boy I met in Buenos Aires, who emailed me shortly after, saying he had written a song about me. This happened about 7 years ago, but we would meet again and date for a couple of years later. I never really heard the song, though, but I did get a sample of the lyrics, which were about how the river separated us, etc. The funny thing is that the boy told me that, after becoming in contact with me, he had been inspired and gone through a fruitful creative period as a musician.This was more significant since he had made only a mild impression on me at the time.

The muses on Parnassus. Astronomers had their muse too! (Painting by Andrea Mantegna)


I have often wondered about this attraction for musicians, and about how, even if I don´t meet someone in a music ambience, he turns out to be a musician anyways. Some time ago, I came to the conclusion that I am not drawn to musicians because I understand musicians; I am drawn to musicians because they understand me, or so I feel.


Perhaps  this is part of the mystery of the muse.  It is not that she loves artists, but she has an artist´s soul that people who are not artists simply cannot grasp. A jazz bassist from San Francisco once told me “you are a musician without an instrument.” Perhaps, then, Gala was a painter without a brush. In the sense of professing the same passion for and understanding of the art as the artist, but not being able to put that into actual art.

Lately, there is always a certain point in my connections with any musician I meet when they will say “give me an email address, I wanna send you a song I´m working on.” This has happened countless times over the last couple of years. In the case of one musician in particular, I had a feeling that he saw the way I worshiped certain musicians, and he craved having someone express that towards his music, not the despair of fans, but the quiet understanding of a kindred spirit who shared his same religion, namely, MUSIC.

Gala as seen by Dalí

I have been wondering that I have maybe become a muse for some of these people, when they will send me a song they´re working on, or ask me what I think of a new song, and even, in some cases, changing their style of singing because of something I said.

I am not an expert, I can hardly distinguish between chords beyond telling which one of the simplest handful of them is a minor or a major, and that on a good day. So, what are these artists after?

I think they want to be seen, perceived in a certain way, and some of us seem to offer that for them. My friend is still looking for her muse-maker. In fact, we have a project that involves putting up online ads saying “muse looking for artist” and recording all those interviews with the aspiring artists, see what comes of it.

Maybe neither she nor myself will ever be TRUE muses. The muse is like a canvas, she is ethereal, if there is too much on the page, there is no room for the artist to scribble. Maybe we are too much of ourselves to become a muse.

My favorite painter Max Ernst was in an alleged menage a trois with Gala and Éluard for several years. Maybe they wanted to “partager la muse”? There are some iconic photographs of Ernst with some of his women that in my mind represent true an boundless love. But Ernst was not afraid of a woman with an artistic world of her own: he had very passionate relationships with painters like Leonora Carrington and Dorothea Tanning. Le mystère de la muse…

Max with second wife Marie-Berthe, Lee Miller and Man Ray

Years ago, this friend I´m talking about had a birthday, and I made a collage for her. It featured part of a beautiful painting by Ernst (one of his fan-headed women) and a portrait of Max and one of his wives, I forget which one. Along the sides of the fan, I had scribbled ” C´est la muse qui fait l´artiste” ( It´s the muse who makes the artist). Right now, that sounds about right.



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