This story is part of Image Issue 12, “Commitment (The Woo Woo Issue)”, where we explore why Los Angeles is the land of the true believers. Read the full case here.)
For everything that has been documented about the French American writer Anas Nin, it is strange that she is so misunderstood. Her legacy is reduced to her sensuous and blatantly candid writing, her biography flattened for her famous lovers (Henry Miller) and bigamy, as she married one husband to New York (filmmaker Hugh Parker Guiller) and the other. was kept in Los Angeles (Forest Ranger Rupert). Pole). Many know about her time in L.A. through the Silver Lake house designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, the grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright—where she lived part-time during the last 20-some years.
But it also obscures other chapters that take into account his existence entirely. Nin’s life reflected her convergent identities: immigrant, mystic, author deeply invested in the female psyche. And another L.A. home was, of course, the one located at the foot of the Sierra Madre Canyon before Silver Lake in the 1950s. This residence is where her spirit lives, as found out to Brazilian artist Amanda Maciel Antunes. Over the past decade, Maciel Antunes has been conversing with Nin – the “invisible woman.”
Maisel Antunes traces this cosmic connection when she first immigrated to the United States from Brazil at the age of 20. Speaking little English, she sought out inexpensive, used books to learn the language. The first book he chose was Nin’s “Diary Vol. IV.” While Maisel Antunes was working at an antiques shop in Boston, a patron donated his entire collection of Nin’s books. In Los Angeles, the first gallery to offer Maisel Antunes a solo show was named Luna Anas, partly after the author. But on New Year’s Day 2019, Maisel Antunes’s relationship with Nin deepened when she went to the Sierra Madre Canyon to look for a new home with her husband. He saw a sign for rent with a handwritten number; The landlord picked up and showed them a small apartment. Noticing Maisel Antunes’ interest in the cluster of cottages on the property, the homeowner offered to show off his space as he was moving out.
“I fell in love with the house immediately,” Maisel Antunes wrote in her diary after the fact. “I remember quietly thinking ‘this is perfect’ as we walked through several doors inside the circular house.”
Soon, they moved in. Curious about the origins of the house, he googled the address and saw an article about Nin. “I froze and I was feeling sick,” wrote Maisel Antunes. The exact address of Nin in the Sierra Madre, “was also my brand new address.” Her meeting with Nin was no longer a mere coincidence. Change from “‘I’m a fan” to “I’m in communication with this woman.” Nin became “an important patron”.
Today, Maisel Antunes speaks with Nin through various means: through his art, through letters. Sometimes, when reading Nin, it seems that the words of the author are responding to the thoughts of Maciel Antunes, almost reading his mind. Sometimes, she would light a candle in the house and share her troubles with Nin.
What follows is a conversation between the two women, consisting of stories shared by Maisel Antunes and excerpts outlined by Nin. “It’s about looking into other areas,” she says, “beyond the reality I can see.”
This conversation has been edited for clarity.
Amanda Maciel Antunes: Moving to a new country, being a woman trying to make a living as an artist – I didn’t know all these things were possible for me until I read you. It was like you knew you were putting it down for someone else to find you in the future.
Anas Nin: You have not yet realized that you have much to give, and the more you give, the more wealth you will find in yourself.
It is also true that creation comes from an overflow, so you have to learn to assimilate, assimilate, nurture yourself and not be afraid of perfection. … allow yourself to flow and overflow, the rise in temperature, allow all the expansion and intensity.
AMA: your diary hit me like a bullet. It gave me the courage to live in a foreign country while I tried to find my identity outside my family and cultural background.
One: Diaries served many purposes. That’s why When you are rooted like this, you begin to realize that the only place where you can take root permanently is in yourself.
AMA: I continue to receive your work through cordial relations. I guess I thought it was my job to keep reading to you. You saved my life on many occasions.
One: There’s always the feeling of being a single person and being unique – I found that my diary was not mine, it was other women’s diaries as well.
AMA: When I moved to the Sierra Madre, I brought supplies to paint the interior of the cottage, as a commitment to the space. Because maybe if I painted it myself, it would have meant that I had marked the area and separated that space from all the other houses where I never felt at home.
One: I failed to lighten the dark gray walls of the house.
It was a Forest Service house and Rupert was a ranger. In the summer he fought fires, he patrolled in a green car, he saved people lost in the valley. In winter he worked on flood control and on Sundays he patrolled. He gave a fire permit. He gave lectures on conservation. They investigated fire hazards.
We headed to the mountains and left the Santa Anita racetrack. We headed towards very old sycamore trees and a dark blue sign that read “Sierra Madre.” The Sierra Madre was a gorgeous mountain behind our house. We got into the car.
AMA: In 2020, there was a huge fire towards the Sierra Madre. I knew you too had lived in a house fire. And I wondered what fire it was. Because at the time I was following a formula – I was open to the mystery of it. The 2020 Bobcat fire was on the east side of the San Gabriel Mountains behind our house. The path was exactly as you described 50 years ago coming from that side of the mountain to the house.
As you wrote, fire is a kind of cosmic object. This is a symbolic thing. Knowing this helped me get through this; I felt like everything would be fine. I was very calm.
One: The fire was like a ring around the Sierra Madre; Every mountain that was burning the fire grew very much, became angry, and was running so fast that I could not believe it. The dragon tongue of devouring flames, leaping flames, the roar of destruction and cataclysm, the eyes of beasts in terror, between fire and humans, between the two forms of death.
What did I want to save? I only thought about the diary.
It is easy to love nature in its moments of peace and consolation, but it must also be loved in its anger, its disappointments and wildness, especially when the damage is done by us.
AMA: It cannot be just a coincidence that I am following this track. Why not be open to the fact that your soulmate is in the house? Sometimes I’m talking in the bathtub and I imagine you sitting next to me listening. Sometimes I imagine that you are looking at my baby when I go to the bathroom.
Several months ago, I sent you a letter and put it in the mailbox. I asked you, “What is blasphemy?” I was getting US citizenship. I was becoming a citizen when Trump was in charge. I thought I was being blasphemous. I was really divided.
One: As I kept accusing America, I wanted to see what I hated. … the paradox was that which was really to blame My father was there for me to come to America. instead of getting angry HimI got angry at America. I identified the real cause of all my troubles.
Rebellion was an important part of my personality. I was angry. no matter what America was, even if it was All I said, there was still no reason to hate it.
AMA: A few days after you sent the letter, a bird’s nest appeared in the mailbox. I remembered you had this picture of you wearing a bird cage.
One: I was once invited to a masquerade party in which we had to dress up as our “madness”. I wore skin-colored mesh stockings to my waist—leopard-fur earrings at the tip of my naked breasts—a leopard belt at my waist, and my head inside a bird cage.
AMA: The bird cage was a symbol of your madness. You were living in the Sierra Madre at that time.
One: The truth is that I hated the Sierra Madre, the people, their lives. I hated the life we were leading. It was mediocre and dirty and dull.
I thought: How can I reach the life I love with Rupert, and be free of errands, no longer a servant?
It was the same pattern in the Sierra Madre, the same design and the same neurosis.
AMA: In the midst of the pandemic, I felt like I was literally going crazy at home. I was taking a long walk in the valley everyday and saw things on the side of the road. Those were very specific items that I was thinking about, reading about, in this regard with you. One day, I found a bird cage.
I accepted items from you as a gift. There was a bull with one horn. A horn, to me, symbolizes the divided half – like a trapeze, perhaps one side weighs more than the other. You said a lot about trapeze life, divide, split self.
One: I could rejoice with Rupert in that fantasy and sensual fusion into which we entered the night, but I knew that only one life would eventually destroy me. I had to make a decision that I survived after years of lies and games, after living on a trap, for fear of falling in the middle, or for hurting a loved one; I was disabled. I went for help when divided life got crazy. I wanted peace, a choice, a simplification. Which one? Everything I chose seemed to demand a sacrifice I could not make.
AMA: That’s how my trajectory felt as an immigrant. I was always looking for a place that I could call home. Because it was never a geographic location. It’s not about being in Brazil or being in the United States. It’s more about what happens in the house – the friendship, the landscape or maybe a tree. This house had all the elements that made me feel like home. I saw and felt
One: no one belongs Here more Than You.
AMA: Exploring this place was like discovering myself as a ghost. Am I writing about you, for you, about you? Or about me, for me, for me?
One: Did I try to say indirectly to my art: It’s me?
AMA: You are my spiritual guide. You kept me company when I needed it the most. In conversation with you, I answer some of my own questions.
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