By LAURIE M. FISHER
A dragon-swan-elephant, a configuration of "Carmen" castanets and an off-balance winged Triton represent common themes of the work of Salvador Dali. The surrealist created art about a world beyond this one, explained Lou Zona, executive director of the Butler Institute of American Art.
Some 25 of Dali's table-size small bronze sculptures, several "touch pieces" for visually impaired and 20 photographs are exhibited at the Trumbull and Youngstown museum locations through Nov. 25.
The Trumbull branch will exhibit five sculptures, recent Butler acquisitions, and the majority of the work will be at the Youngstown museum, Zona said. Joseph Czestochowski, curator, organized the exhibition and donated the five sculptures to the museum.
Dali created the small sculptures later in his life, but they carry similar themes to the artist's earlier works. Images are drawn from fantasy, the spiritual world, Dali's personal dreams and takeoffs on mythology, Zona said.
"The wide ranging work suspends reality. For example, he created a beautifully formed woman with her entire midsection gone. You just never know his mind."
History: Salvador Felipe Jacinto Dali was born in 1904 in Figueres, Spain, to parents Felipa Domenech, a devout Roman Catholic, and Salvador Dali Cusi, an avowed atheist and Catalan nationalist.
From early childhood, Dali was determined to be an artist. He worked with oils by the time he was 10 and painted impressionist works by age 15. He attended San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid and was attracted to the avant-garde crowd. One of his earliest shows in 1928 in Pittsburgh featured three of his paintings and earned him international recognition.
In 1929, he met his wife, Gala, and joined the surrealist movement.
The two escaped the Spanish Civil War by fleeing to France. The couple lived in the United States during World War II. Quickly, he became part of the American celebrity scene and worked with Alfred Hitchcock, Walt Disney, Harpo Marx and Alice Cooper.
During his stay in the United States, his art moved away from surrealist style to what he called a more classic era, which integrated his interest in math, atomic theory, art history, Catalan identity and newfound faith in Roman Catholicism.
Ohio collectors: In 1942, a traveling retrospective of his works was exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Reynolds and Eleanor Morse began to buy Dali's works. Until 1971, they displayed their collection in their Cleveland home. Later they built a museum in Beechwood near their business, Molders Supply Co. The collection was moved to St. Petersburg, Fla., and opened to the public in 1982.
Dali returned to Spain in 1948 but visited the United States often, Zona said. He and his wife stayed at the Pierre Hotel in New York. He was the "personification of the eccentric artist," known for walking down the streets of Manhattan in his black cape and curled handlebar mustache, Zona added.
In 1982, his wife died. Dali spent his last six years in seclusion and died in 1989 in Spain.
His gift: "Even though we don't understand him, like we don't understand dreams, he plays on weirdness, the unimaginable, the unexplainable," Zona said. "And, despite the strangeness of imagery, he was enormously skilled, having pure talent in his ability to paint, draw and sculpt. Even if you don't like the subject manner, you loved the way he worked."
"He was making a comment about our reality, trying to stir us and give us more uneasiness. These are aesthetic statements that deal with fantasy in the world of possibilities," Zona said.
Zona compared his creative process to a childexploring possibilities. "What would happen if I morphed an elephant with a swan and dragon," he asked.
XZona will conduct a gallery tour at 2 p.m. Wednesday, at the Butler Youngstown branch. A documentary that presents Dali's works -- painting, sculpture, writing, fashion and film -- will be shown at the Butler's Beecher Center Zona Auditorium after the tour.