Life sets you traps. It’s your job to escape them, if only by means of the imagination
– Renate Druks
In classic gadabout form, Renate Druks is remembered as an ephemeral creature. Like Wallace Berman, she attracted a circle of remarkable people and forged connections between them. On her own, she was a painter, but even more acted as muse for so many others’ work.
The capsule biographies always start, “studied painting in Vienna,” and skip to, “lived in Malibu” with little in between. She was born in Vienna on January 2, 1921 (if you are interested in her horoscope). We know nothing of her mother. Her father was a doctor, perhaps a psychiatrist. Her past is murky, like a smeared charcoal drawing, erased on purpose.
In Portrait she writes:
“Renate’s father treated her like a confidante, a friend. . . He discussed her mother with her as if Renate was a woman, and explained that it was her mother’s constant depression which drove him away from home.”
Nin also writes that Renate’s father told her, “No man will love you as much as I do.” Handicapping her psyche for life.
It’s possible to dig up a few more facts. In 1938 she he married Harry P. Loomer, a psychiatrist 12 years her senior who had studied in Vienna (with Daddy?). The couple was forced out of Europe by the War, census records show that she lived in Brooklyn with Loomer and his parents in 1940.
There are some facts about Harry P. Loomer: he pioneered the use of psychotropic drugs for depression, he has an obituary in the New York Times that does not mention his first wife Renate. They had one son together named Peter in 1943.
Los Angeles County voter registration list Loomer and Mrs. Renee D. living in Compton in 1948. In 1952 he is living at same address alone.
It’s not a stretch to imagine her chaffing in middle-class life, growing up and out of the marriage. Whatever brought about her move to Malibu, she becomes a kind of off-kilter butterfly, alighting in the only-in-LA concentric circles of art and the occult.
Sometime in the late ‘40s or early ‘50s she lived in the Mexico art colony San Miguel de Allende. It is purported that Leonora Carrington, Marjorie Cameron, and Renate were all at there at the same time, painting haunted women and their animal familiars, mostly cats.
There is no doubt that this is where she befriended Marjorie Cameron. And they were friends, despite reports that they were rivals. In the book The Occult Explosion (Nat Freedland, 1972), Renate is quoted, “Cameron stayed with me at my Malibu beach house for six months, pulling herself together after Jack [Parsons] died.” That is, the Jack Parsons of Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who blew himself or was blown up by evil spirits, or the government, or anti-Zionists. Take your pick.