Leonora Carrington infused her works with unfamiliar symbols and otherworldly figures that helped create unnerving and fantastical narratives. Just like fellow women surrealist artists Remedios Varo, Leonor Fini, and Dorothea Tanning, Carrington capitalized upon key interests such as “magic and the occult” to help shape a pictorial vocabulary that was distinctly her own.  Animal avatars, magicians and morphed, human-animal creatures are found in tenuous backdrops of gardens, forests and strange architectural settings. For Carrington specifically, her fascination with the magical practices of the ancient Celtic and Meso-American cultures has a reoccurring role throughout her body of work. Upon her arrival in Mexico in the early 1940s, the country’s vibrant landscape and mixed cultures offered her a luscious source of inspiration. Her work vastly matured here and by the 1960s her output had become progressively complex and cryptic.
Executed in 1966, Santuario
transports us to an unidentifiable setting where a strange and unfamiliar ritual unfolds before us. True to Carrington’s skillful technical abilities based on building fine layers of paint, she creates the sensation of a faint mist that veils the scene, separating us from the mysterious ceremony. A cast of animals and strange, shaman-esque figures reveal themselves, albeit cautiously, in a moment of passage from the supernatural realm to the human. We find a black swan and a white bird—often appearing as paired animals throughout Carrington’s oeuvre—floating across the scene in opposite directions while a golden glowing deer steps forward, all perhaps acting as messengers from the spiritual world. With no obvious architecture or natural landscape, Carrington intentionally disorients us and has us questioning where exactly we are witnessing this ceremonial rite. But with her typical humorous wit, Carrington has already left us with a clue in the title: Santuario
, the ritual shrine.
 Whitney Chadwick, “The Hermetic Tradition”, Women Artists and the Surrealist Movement, 1985, New York, p. 186
 Ibid, p. 198