Margorie Cameron: OBITUARY

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Margorie Cameron was a Californian symbolist painter and poet whose life was inter- connected with rocket science and the black arts circle of Aleister Crowley.

Known professionally as Cameron, she helped to develop the field of assemblage art and underground film-making as part of the post-war Los- Angeles-based group that included Wallace Berman and members of the San Miguel d'Allende group, among them David Siquieros and Leonora Carrington.

Born in Iowa, in 1922, Cameron served in the navy in the Second World War before moving to Pasadena. There she met and married Jack Parsons, the controversial rocket scientist who helped found the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena where he developed liquid-fuel rocket engines; he later had a crater named after him on the dark side of the moon.

As head of the California lodge of Aleister Crowley's Ordro Temp Orientis, Parsons introduced Cameron to the group that at the time included L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, and Kenneth Anger, in whose film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome she appeared with her friend Anais Nin.

According to lore Parsons's work on the Philadelphia Project (which later became the Manhattan Project) involved experiments in moving things through space and time at a brief period when the occult, US government defence programmes and the arts came together. The projects were later documented in a book, Babalon Workings.

As an illustrator Cameron invented mythological characters in a style of seemingly abstract strokes that explored ideas of mysticism and magic which she pursued in Mexico with the San Miguel d'Allende group after Parsons's death in a mysterious accident in 1952.

In 1957 Cameron was published in Semina, a magazine founded by the artist Wallace Berman. It contained a visionary drawing (she later said it was composed under the influence of peyote) of a copulating couple. As part of an exhibition at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, the erotic drawing set an artistic and legal precedent when the vice squad closed the show down.

In later years she published a book of her own and Parsons's poetry, Freedom is a Two-Edged Sword, and appeared in the film Night Tide (1961) with Dennis Hopper. At a memorial for Cameron in Los Angeles she was described in her own words thus: "I am a pillar of Fire / My whirling dance of Flame gathers the continent to my flashing feet / Scarves of fire floating spiral above the sleeping world."

With her flame red hair and black nails Cameron was a significant figure in the goddess movement but was also consciously reclusive from the distractions of being a public figure. She was often represented as a witch, well known for her "superwoman" lecture series and was later the subject of Wormwood Star, a film about her life and work.

A retrospective of her work at the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery in 1989 included a series of ghostly drawings, "Pluto Transiting the Twelfth House."

Margorie Cameron, artist: born Belle Plain, Iowa 23 April 1922; married 1946 Jack Parsons (died 1952; one daughter); died Los Angeles 24 July 1995.