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Hibernation & Guilty Pleasures

It may be the shorter days but I feel the need to nest and go into art making hibernation.

This means having an insatiable need to rearrange my home and make another attempt at putting together a livable and workable studio space.

Strangely, it also means making playlists of down-tempo and OTR horror and reading comic books(specifically right now Fables Volume 14 and 15).

I need a constant rotation of Portishead, the Twin Peaks Sound track and so on…Spotify has been useful in finding new music in the same vein. Music has usually been a private thing for me. I was never immersed in it the way my friends were as teenagers. Then I discovered down tempo/trip hop/whatever it’s called. It felt right. It’s more like a sound track rather than individual songs.

On my playlist now…

Willow’s Song – The Wicker Man Soundtrack
Small Town Witch – Sneaker Pimps
Pretty When You Cry – Vast (can’t get into any of their other songs)
Galaxies – Laura Veirs
Flame – Crustation
Down By the Water – PJ Harvey
Overcome – Tricky
Stars – Hum
Capsized – Samiam
Ten Cents a Dance – Ruth Etting
Horse and I – Bat For Lashes
Celestica – Crystal Castles
Half Day Closing – Portishead
Audrey’s Dance – Angelo Badalementi

Then…that Vast video makes me think of a fantastic radio play version of The Company of Wolves by Angela Carter produced by the BBC…which then leads me to another witch themed radio play, The Hairy Hand of Dartmoor produced by the radio horror show Fear on Four. I always thought the girl who played Little Red Riding Hood in the first play sounded like the witch in the second play.

The Hairy Hands is an urban legend out of Dartmoor, England. The story goes that on a stretch of road motorists and bicyclists have had their steering ripped from them by disembodied demonic hairy hands and caused them to have accidents. You can read a bit about it on Wikipedia here.

I’m trying to get my work from this past semester photographed and started on new ones, including a piece for a group show next spring curated by the founder of Creepmachine.com The group show is called Marvelous Humans. You can read about it at the blog the curator created for it. The show will be about ‘human oddities’ of the past and present and how they made the most out of what life dealt them. I’ve chosen Millie La Marr the Mind Reader, a Victorian Era Albino woman that traveled with the circus performing mentalist tricks, pretending to be a psychic. You can see photos of her here.

I wish I could find more out about her as person rather than just a side show oddity. I chose her because of her ‘act’. As any reader here can probably tell from my work I am fascinated by spiritualism and so called psychic phenomena.

I was super stoked to see that the show Jason and I was in, Multiversal Miami, was profiled on Artattacksonline.com here.

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The Pursuit of the Original.

It’s a weird feeling to see that the work you like to produce fits into a movement or oeuvre or genre or whatever. It’s a weird feeling to have to question yourself why that it is.

It’s not that I want to create things that are not a response to the long history of art and human experience but I still wince at the idea that I could be seen as aping other artists or too easily influenced.

In fact I am embarrassed to admit that for a fleeting moment I felt very special and original with my ouija board based paintings. Truly, anytime you feel original it just means you are less informed than you think you are. Not being original though doesn’t mean that you are mimicking someone else, it just means your brain isn’t a magical portal to unmined imagery and ideas. You haven’t thought of the unthinkable.

After reading a post on Wurzeltod by the unfailingly honest Suzanne(and why I cherish her presence on the internets) about a current trend in contemporary art I realized my work could easily fit into the fault she finds in it.

I guess that’s okay but it left me confused. Why is this imagery so popular right now? I have some theories, and the only ones I can come up with are why I’m attracted to them. Perhaps we all got into our parents dusty attic boxes and found their seventies magazines and hippy mystical books balanced with others spreading fear of satanism and the new orders attempts at creating new witchy peons through saturday morning kids programing.

Maybe.

Though my parents never seemed afraid of me being corrupted or led away from a god they had chosen. In fact they raised me with no religion, more out of not having time for the effort than any lack of belief. Our house used to be owned by a Jewish family. There was a hebrew letter built into the backyard stone grill and a jewish good luck symbol screwed into the door frame of the front door. I remember feeling upset when I wasn’t allowed to remove it and take it with me when I moved out.

Outside of my home was a big scary Catholic world. Those were the kids who told me spooky stories about the smurfs and taught me to play bloody mary games in the bathroom. Those were the kids who grew alarmed when I pulled out a ouija board. I adopted their superstitions for play. I found books in my elementary school library about poltergeists. In middle school every girl had a ghost that haunted them. I think some of them believed in it. I didn’t want their faith but I loved their superstitions. Being fun scared made me feel full of adventure. I was truly scared of many real things. It was better to be pretend scared of things I was sure didn’t exist.

My family didn’t really have neo-pagan books in the attic, but they did have Dianetics and guides on how to hypnotize all on a shelf in the basement. My father also collected books about local ghost lore and treasure hunting in abandoned towns. He sat up with me and watched Histories Mysteries narrated by Leonard Nimoy. I snuck back even later and watched Unsolved Mysteries by myself in the dark.

I’m not sure why other artists paint the things they do, but I do know mine are more about my lack of belief in the supernatural and my wish that I could find control and comfort in ritual and superstition.

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The Lilith – past and present

I’m not an art historian. I wish I had the kind of mind that could contain and examine the history of the visual arts, but I do have favorite subjects and enjoy researching them in the hope of adding to the conversation through my own work.

I’m a little late for Halloween, but I’ll be dedicating this post to one of mythologies most hated witchy women, Lilith. Her purpose and definition changes with time and location. She’s a storm demon, a screech owl, a succubus, Adam’s first and rebellious wife, killer of infants, an ancient kidnapped queen, or the tempting serpent in the garden of eden. The feminist in me can’t help but to be fascinated.

Her image over time has gotten combined with other female demons from many different cultures. She’s a femme fatal. A magical, rebellious female character punished for being willful.

My favorite version of her story is that she was Adam’s first wife. Lilith was already on earth(imagine that) and God picked her up and placed her in Eden to be Adam’s mate. She refused to be dominated by Adam and eventually escaped Eden(I guess a sorta first divorce?). She settled by the Red Sea, made out with demons and then was cursed by God after she refused to return to Eden and Adam. She was condemned to spend eternity as a succubus/murderer of infants. Not very fair is it? You can read some other versions of her story at Gnosis.org.

Wikipedia also does a good job summing up the various stories and linking to other sources.

Below are some slivers of older paintings depicting Lilith as the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden of Eden. Admittedly I am not Christian, but I grew up assuming the serpent was supposed to be a personification of Satan yet here are Christian paintings depicting the serpent as a woman. In some ways they remind me of Gorgons/Medusa, depictions of Hygeia or even Cleopatra on her death bed. Women and snakes. Women and snakes. How very chthonic.

From left to right, Bosch’s Paradise and Hell, Michelangelo’s The Original Sin and Expulsion from Paradise detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Hugo Van Der Goes’ The Fall of Adam and Eve Tempted by the Snake, Bosch’s The Fall of Adam and Eve left panel of the Haywain Triptych

More Modern depictions of Lilith shown below are by Chet Zar, Tara Macpherson

Creepmachine did a nice interview with Chet Zar about this Lilith inspired paintings.

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Stressing out over Still Lifes

Here are some thumbnails of the some photos I took trying to put together still lifes for my painting class. I want to do this, but I always fear I’m being too cheesy, when really I should just go for drama and as cheesy as I want.

It’s also not like I can’t creatively edit the scene how I want in my painting. I don’t have to paint every unnecessary detail and I can interpret thing how I see fit.

As you can probably tell, I’m trying to create vanitas-like still lifes but with objects of fortune telling and superstition to match my conceptual portraits. I want to improve my observation skills and removing the portrait from the scene is probably exactly what I need to do to concentrate on objects.