ALLOY is an artist’s book that is inspired by the life of the enigmatic British poet and artist Mina Loy. The text assumes the form of the artist-novel or “Kün-stler(in)roman” and records the artist’s personal struggle to complete her novel as she embarks on a conscious exploration of the pressures that context puts on the typical figure of the artist within that generic tradition.

In the early 20th century, Mina Loy garnered attention for her radical writing style and subject matter which appeared in several small journals and publications. She was recognized for her affiliation with members of the Futurists, Surrealists, and Dada movements and was on the path to achieving great success as a visionary poet and writer, yet she eluded this fate. Loy died in 1966 having published only two books.

In 1991, a graduate student discovered Loy’s lost manuscript Insel buried in the Yale library archives. It was an engrossing portrait based on the the surrealist painter Richard Oelze, whom Mina had befriended in Paris in 1933. Both autobiographical and fictional, grounded in truth yet hallucination, it records a transformation as the narrator’s final victory over Insel coincides with her success as a writer. During her lifetime, Mina sought a publisher and none were willing to accept its unusual constructs and its loquacious hybrid of styles.

There are strong similarities between Loy’s Insel and André Breton’s Nadja, which was published in 1928 and heralded as the masterpiece of the Surrealist’s genre. The main character of both novels is a mercurial muse and exists more in the mind of the spectator rather than in real life. I believe Loy’s book was structured as a parody on Breton’s Victorian styled voyeuristic text. Loy satirized in order to express her indignation at the compromised role that the Surrealists assigned to women.

Based on this premise, I have created a two sided artist’s book which encapsulates a fictional didactic exchange between Mina and André, as they elaborate on the meaning of this contemporary ruse. Structured in a mirror-like format, the book will challenge traditional linear narrative, linking two dynamic figureheads while tweaking history and recontextualizing these voices of the avant-garde.

Mina Loy © 1917 Estate of May Ray

An Excerpt of ALLOY appears in Convolution: Journal for Critical Experiment No. 3, September 2014.