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The Artist as Predator

Tribly, artist figure model

If I was good at writing I’d spend a lot of space here talking about how movies and drama have treated the artist as a madman(rather than woman) similarly to the mad scientist of many a horror film and book. The below examples don’t necessarily match that concept, but they are creepy stories featuring artists and art.

Trilby, pictured above and played by Marian Marsh, is a story by George Du Maurier and published in the early 20th century. Trilby, the protagonist, is a young English girl living in Paris and earning a living as a figure model. She is hypnotized by the evil Svengali, a brilliant but villainess musician…

I believe you can watch the movie version of Trilby on Netflix under the title Svengali. Better yet, read it for free through Google books. You can download a pdf of it. I’m honestly only halfway through it and have been reading it on my nook.
Trilby by George Du Maurier

Bluebeard, a story about a man who … ya know, kills his wives, was made into a movie. The villain’s role was changed into that of an artist. He paints portraits of women then murders them. Freaky puppets are also involved. Watch the 1944 version of Bluebeard on Hulu.

I also collect radio horror plays. The two linked below are on topic! The First is a story about two French art students who roam the countryside in search of inspiration. The second play is about a ceramicist searching for a perfect ingredient in order to achieve an unusual glaze to his work. You can download the plays or listen to them online.

Fear on Four’s By the River Fountainebleau

Nightfall’s Glaze of Perfect Beauty

There are many other examples of creepy stories where either the art or artist is menacing, like Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray or just about any movie that involves ventriloquists and dummies.

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The Symbolist Sphinx

The Symbolist Sphinx

1. Fernand_Khnopff – The Caress, 2. Sphinx , 3. bernard1, 4. the sphinx by Von Stuck

Not much to say, just pretty things to see.

I really wish I knew more about the lower left image. Supposedly it’s a black and white image of a painting by William Sargeant Kendall, and is called The Sphinx. This is kinda believable and kinda not. If you look at other black and white images of his work, you can see some similarities, but this work was supposedly done at a time when photography was new and also when similar images were taken of actress Theda Bara, as Suzanne of Wurzeltod points out to me here. Perhaps Kendall had seen those images and was also inspired by other symbolist sphinx works by Knopf, Von Stuck and other artists.

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ouija ouija ouija


Who knew Norman Rockwell illustrated a couple playing with a Ouija board? I love this. I hope I can find a print of it someday. Once upon a time I wanted to arrange a talking board show where artists designed their own versions. Someone else beat me to it. Copronason put on a rad show dealing with that exact subject. Maybe I could arrange another one in the future. There are also some great sites out there that catalog all the different versions of spirit boards and their history. If interested you should check out the Museum of Talking Boards or WilliamFuld.com. I also recently purchased a hand carved planchette on Etsy.com from Lejans Wood Creations and am eager to get it.

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Inspiration & Shared Influences

I have been salivating over these silver planchette rings on etsy for ages now, and was thrilled to realize that the artist behind them also had a piece in the Speaking in Tongues show in Philly! I contacted her and showed her my work and we’ve both been amused at sharing so many of the same influences. Her name is JL Shnabel and she is a painter, jewelry maker and writer based in Philadelphia PA.
blood milk ouija

Check out her art blog and etsy shop for more spiritualist and magic inspired jewelry.

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Slumber Party Sibyls

sibyl1sibyl2

Above are two new paintings for an upcoming show in Norfolk VA at the Lorrie Saunders Art Gallery.

I remember pulling out my Ouija Board as a kid and trying to contact ghosts, get dating advice and freak out my friends who had parents that had taught them that it was a tool of Satan. Early on my father taught me about the ideomotor effect but that didn’t ruin the game for me. For some reason my friends and I focused on summoning demon clowns, but then Stephen King’s IT did come on daytime television regularly.

On the way back from Philly, Jason and I stopped at a psychic and had my palm read. I didn’t have my wedding ring on. The psychic told me that I’d make a great doctor(I freak at the sight of blood) and I shouldn’t marry the first person who asks me(oops, too late!)