Archive of ‘art’ category

Bill Crisafi: artist, dreamer, feral mystic

Crisafi

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Bill Crisafi;in addition being a marvelous, magical artist, he is one of the nicest humans I have ever had the opportunity to chat with. Thanks so much, Bill! This interview was originally published at Dirge Magazine.

An artist’s ability to not only move with ease between mediums, but to transcend them, is a rare talent. Illustrator, photographer, and sculptor Bill Crisafi is adept in this regard. In summoning his uncanny inner narrative and powerful visions, Crisafi draws inspiration from nature, feminine strength and energies, and the, “remaining echoes of the Victorian era that haunt the landscape” of his native New England.

He shares this otherworldly imagery with the viewer through a variety of lenses, both literal and figurative. Feral witches and their familiars frolic, mystical woodland rituals are illumined, and the deeply dreaming, fog-shrouded forest holds sway over all in his starkly surreal, whimsical illustrations and eerie woodland photography. These themes can also be found in the earthy mysticism of the jewelry he creates for Burial Ground, with long-time friend and collaborator Jamie Mooers.

I recently caught up with Crisafi and chatted about his melancholic art and dark obsessions, the eternal autumn otherworld he inhabits, and his deep love for the magical New England landscape.

Bill Crisafi Atop The Brocken

 As an illustrator, photographer, sculptor, and jeweler – and soon to be a tattoo artist – you’re very much a visual storyteller. Where do you conjure the dark tales that you share with the world from – can you talk about your influences and inspirations in this vein?

Yes! I am apprenticing with my good friends who own The Black Veil Studio, that’s opening very soon. I am beyond lucky to be learning the trade from these guys.

I think I am most directly influenced by, but not limited to, film & folklore. When I was in college at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, I substituted all of my art history courses for film history. Among those courses, I was able to study the work of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, as well as take a course on German film & the Grimm Brothers, where we compared films to the tales. These courses fueled my obsessions with darker themes. I loved learning about the uncanny and German Expressionism and it has stuck with me.

It’s hard to say where my true heart is. I love all mediums for different reasons.

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I’ve read that you attended the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY for a time but the call of the wild brought you back to the woods of your native New England. Can you talk about how this woodland yearning shaped your path as an artist? Do you feel any influences from your time in the city and with FIT creeping into your work – how do you reconcile those two somewhat opposing influences?

A lot of my work at FIT was directly influenced by the New England landscapes I left behind. I have one clothing collection in particular that I illustrated which was heavily influenced by my walks through Maudslay State Park in Newbury, MA. Among my ‘fabric swatch page’ was an assortment of specimens from the park: milkweed, twigs, dead flowers, etc.

I think the aching I had to be home, in the woodland environment, made me obsessively keep it alive and breathing through my work when I had to be in the city. This theme lives on today in Burial Ground. All of the twigs & natural elements used are found in places that are sacred to Jamie and me.

I was never keen on illustrating as I was instructed to at FIT. I’ll never forget a project where we had to draw a collection for J. Crew and it resulted in big headed models with frizzy orange hair that had deer antlers jutting out of their heads.

Bill Crisafi The Coven

Crisafi Bat
Your illustrative work focuses quite a bit on witches, ritual, and all manner of creatures/familiars/shapeshifters haunting both land and air – ­spiders, bats, wolves, etc. It’s all imbued with this sense of feral mysticism. Can you talk about these obsessions ?

There is a drawing at my parents house I did in 2nd grade that is a book of “What I liked doing the most during the year” and one page says, “I liked it when we worked on the witches,” and my drawing to accompany that is a naked hag with white hair, standing over a bubbling cauldron

I remember as a child rolling around the forest in the fallen leaves by myself wearing a cloak, mixing potions at the kitchen sink, and making frequent trips to Laurie Cabot’s store in Salem to beg my parents to buy me a book, a wand, or something that I could use to conjure magic. Those are some of the best memories I have and feel like there is a dialogue between myself and nature that magic helps me communicate.

I also see a connection with these ideas and my mother. She is honestly the hardest working and strongest person I know. I see the presence of female strength, sacrifice, and wisdom in witchcraft and it is really comforting to me.

It wasn’t until I was 19 or 20 that I did really start to address it in my work and use it as a tool for communicating my beliefs.

Studio
What can you share with us regarding your work space where you create and cultivate these mythic, melancholic narratives? What sorts of objects do you surround yourself with? What’s the most vital, invaluable item in your studio?

I was spending my days in the upstairs corner of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem drawing on a couch that had a window overlooking the grand ballroom. I love it there and will probably still utilize that space from time to time to get work done. I finally purchased a desk so now I can draw right in my bedroom.

My space is very important to me and directly determines my drive to make work. I hope to turn my room into a mixture of a Sabbath scene from the film Haxan and a Victorian treehouse, then I’ll never have to leave! I will forever be obsessed with Victorian objects, particularly mourning ones. The most invaluable item would probably be the human skull Jamie’s grandmother gifted me on my birthday some years ago. She is also an artist and used to use it as a reference when drawing. I do think it may be a close second when I pick up the taxidermy still-born goat I have been making payments on.
As you can tell, my priorities are in order.

Crisafi-Burial-GroundIn 2014 you and longtime friend and collaborator, Jamie Mooers, re­launched Burial Ground with “The Way of The Mystic” collection, which, as you state, “reflects our shared path and the symbols that captivate us.” Brimming with earthy mysticism, these pieces wonderfully echo the motifs seen and felt in your other works. As your paths forge forward, what can we expect to see in future collections from Burial Ground?

We have a small collection of jewelry set to debut in just a few weeks. Our first collection focuses on familiar symbols with concrete meanings that are easy to resonate with.

As we move forward from that, we are still working with casting twigs from areas that are sacred to us, but trying to create a dialogue between the wooded sculptures and the stones we set in them. Some pieces transform from twig into limb, referencing our connection to nature. We are also branching out­ – we will be offering photographic prints, illustrations, patches, and even some really exciting housewares.
There are also some collaborations in the works that we have been dying to get started as well.

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Bill Crisafi and Kris Hatch. Photographer: Courtney Brooke

Speaking of collaborations and collections, you work with some really fantastic artists who are relatively well-­known in their own right. Courtney Brooke of Lightwitch, for example, is the first who comes to mind. She shot the look book for The Way of the Mystic and quite frequently shows up in some of your own photography. Can you tell us about your relationships in this community and the almost collective vision that you seem to share?

I feel like I am a chip off of the same block as Courtney. She is one of the most inspiring and true humans I have the pleasure of knowing. There are some people that you meet who don’t even really need to be given an explanation of what you’re going for creatively and they already get it. Courtney is that person.

The Way of the Mystic lookbook is a prime example of a dream collaboration day. It was our first time working with the makeup talent, Steffanie Strazzere (@sstrazzere), and the combined skillset she has with our art direction, Courtney’s vision, and Kris Hatch’s modeling was the most magical thing I’ve ever seen.

I think there is an understanding for artists from New England that are into similar things as us. It goes back to the rich and haunting history of Massachusetts, and although it resonates differently in each of us, I think there is a bond from that we share. I wouldn’t trade New England or its people for anything.

Find Bill Crisafi: website // Instagram // Facebook

Bill Crisafi Lantern Dreams Bill Crisafi Witch Hill Crisafi Queens of the Moon

This, that, and the other thing (xvii)

Restoring a Lost Psychedelic Anime Classic: An Interview with the Team Reintroducing Belladonna of Sadness, by Katie Skelly (& speaking of Katie Skelly – have you read My Pretty Vampire yet?  So good!)

This was not the world The Hunger promised me.  HA.  This is kind of hilarious. (& speaking of Peter Murphy -sort of- did you see that he is going to star in “an erotic, violent fever dream” of a film?)

Are you reading Tenebrous Kate’s Great Moments in Historical Sluttery over at Slutist? Well, you should be. In this column, Kate gives us a fascinating glimpse into the lives of brilliant, shameless feminist icons and visionaries; the last installment, Rose Kelly, Scarlet Woman, Wife of the Beast, and Oracle of Thelema, is too good to miss!

 

New music from Tasseomancy!

 


I love this review for Windhand’s new album at tinymixtapes. It’s kind of dopey and weird but I love it. These are the kind of reviews I like to read. I don’t want to hear about how technically great something sounds, I want to hear how about whatever it conjures up in your mind -whether it’s a memory or a dream or an experience or a sensation, maybe about that time you got beat up at someone’s funeral or your aunt’s pierogi recipe or your mother’s dying words. At the end of the review I actually don’t care if you’ve told me a single thing about the thing you’re reviewing if you told me a good story.

I missed it earlier in the year, but Bibian Blue’s Spring/Summer 2015 SKIN collection is fantastic! Perfect to wear for the opening night of Attack on Titan, heh! (ok, I stole that from Becky.)

Every time I look at this image of three startled kittens riding a catfish, I can’t help but to smile. (Artist: Ayako Ishiguro)

Mondo Heather writes the most marvelous reviews for music and movies that I’ve never even heard of.

Two Monks Invent Religious Iconography.  The Toast consistently kills me.

The 20 Best Horror Films Based On Folk Tales Around The World

The History of Creepy Dolls

This Unicorn Tears Gin Liqueur is really … something

Smell a Little Evil with these Five Horror-Inspired Perfumes

Drama Queen & Cultist of Personal Beauty: Countess Virginia Oldoini, La Castiglione

 

Elsewhere: La Castiglione on Haute Macabre

My guest post on La Castiglione is up over at Haute Macabre today!

DRAMA QUEEN & CULTIST OF PERSONAL BEAUTY:
VIRGINIA OLDOINI, COUNTESS OF CASTIGLIONE

And because I am nutty and can’t write about someone without wanting to dress them up myself (or even play dress up AS them) here are two interpretations of some modern day Countess of Castiglione ensembles!

Queen of Hearts


Beauty Cultist

 

Currently {September 2015}

Reading:

 

Watching:

  • Sense8; actually this is just about the only thing I am watching right now.  A slow surreal sci-fi dip into “dreamy conspiracies and chimerical fellowship”, and is apparently lauded by critics as both a masterpiece and a disaster. All I can tell you is that this show makes me feel all of the feels. Which is pretty uncomfortable for me, I don’t mind telling you. And I love it.

 

Listening:

  • Ghost, Meliora. I have been listening to this non-stop for the past month. And I will be seeing them again live next month!  I didn’t know if I was on board with this new album, but it’s pretty amazing…super catchy in a kind of syrupy, tricksy way, and this Dirge review really sums up my thoughts quite well.
  • Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon. Shut up. Whatever you are going to say, I don’t want to hear it. This album is sad and fucked up in an epic way. It is Lana gone full-Lana.

 

Smelling:

Knitting:

  • The Bitterroot Shawl, from knitty 2007 or something like that.  This is the third time I have knit this pattern, and I still love it.  I actually even added the beads on it this time, and despite that, and the fiddliness of the stupid yarn (warning: do not use knitpick’s Diadem for lace projects), I started and finished this in nine days. It will soon be off to its new home!
  • Next up: hats and scarves and wristwarmers – I’m actually getting started early on the holiday gifts this year!

Other than the above, (and the full time job which I never talk about because who wants to hear about that? Ugh) I have been busy with grandmother duty, a bit of writing and the odd guest blog here and there, the struggle with wellness and mental health, and getting ready for our trip to Portland next week. After that, there are lots of exciting things coming up in the next few months- the Ghost show, the Necromancy Art show at Gods & Monsters, Bat Boy the Musical, and Death Cafe Orlando! Though now that I see it typed out like that…it all looks rather exhausting.  And stressful.  Hm.

How is your fall shaping up? What have you been into lately and what looms on the horizon for you?  I want to hear all about it!

 

The Lost World Of Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

A few weekends ago, while visiting my sister and brother in law, I stumbled across an image on a friend’s instagram account, for which she commented that she was unsure as to who the photographer was, or what the photo was all about.  While doing some hunting and pecking around on my brother in law’s computer, he peeked over my shoulder and remarked that the image resembled something by Prokudin-Gorskii.  (It wasn’t; some helpful hints from other friends and some further searching revealed it is a video still from an upcoming video from the psych-folk band LUST).

“Prokudin-Gorskii?” I queried. And down the rabbit hole we went!

(The following infos have been cobbled together from wikipedia and the Library of Congress)

Sergey Mikhaylovich Prokudin-Gorsky, a Russian chemist and photographer best known for his pioneering work in color photography of early 20th-century Russia, devoted his career to the advancement of photography.

He studied with renowned scientists in St. Petersburg, Berlin, and Paris and his own original research yielded patents for producing color film slides and for projecting color motion pictures. Using emerging technological advances in color photography, he made numerous photographic trips to systematically document the Russian Empire. He conducted most of his visual surveys between 1909 and 1915, although some of his work dates as early as 1905. The Empire at this time stretched 7,000 miles from west to east and 3,000 miles from north to south and comprised one-sixth of the earth’s land mass. It was the largest empire in history and spanned what today are eleven different times zones.

Tsar Nicholas II supported this ambitious project by providing passes and transportation: by rail, boat and automobile. Each journey made by Prokudin-Gorskii is represented by a photographic album and corresponding negatives.

Around 1907, Prokudin-Gorskii envisioned and formulated a plan to use the emerging technological advancements that had been made in color photography to systematically document the Russian Empire. Through such an ambitious project he intended to educate the school children of Russia with his “optical color projections” of the vast and diverse history, culture, and modernization of the Empire. Outfitted with a specially equipped railroad car-darkroom provided by Tsar Nicholas II, and in possession of two permits that granted him cooperation from the Empire’s bureaucracy and access to restricted areas, Prokudin-Gorskii documented the Russian Empire from 1909 through 1915. He conducted many illustrated lectures of his work. His assistants are sometimes credited on prints seen in other collections.

His photographs offer a vivid portrait of a lost world—the Russian Empire on the eve of World War I and the coming Russian Revolution. His subjects ranged from the medieval churches and monasteries of old Russia, to the railroads and factories of an emerging industrial power, to the daily life and work of Russia’s diverse population.

It has been estimated from Prokudin-Gorsky’s personal inventory that before leaving Russia, he had about 3500 negatives.  Upon leaving the country and exporting all his photographic material, about half of the photos were confiscated by Russian authorities for containing material that seemed to be strategically sensitive for war-time Russia. According to Prokudin-Gorsky’s notes, the photos left behind were not of interest to the general public. Some of Prokudin-Gorsky’s negatives were given away and some he hid on his departure. Outside the Library of Congress collection, none has yet been found.

 

This, that, and the other thing (xvi)

A hodge-podge of stuff and things, gathered willy-nilly for your perusal…

Mary vd Reyden creates the most wonderful embroidered animals and insects

 

I love instagram user mitsunavinilos’ languid ladies.  And those eyelashes!

 

DirgeMag’s best picks for satanic cat shirts.  Required covengang attire.

 

Pollyanne Hornbeck’s Haunted Dollhouse

 

Yes! My dream of dark drone yoga is finally happening!

 

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past day or so, you have surely seen this wonderfully creepy trailer. Very much looking forward to The Witch.

Great moments in historical sluttery, courtesy the inimitable Tenebrous Kate.

Totally correct Frankenstein quotes.

How to tell if you are in an Edward Gorey Book

How To tea party like a Victorian

5 of the creepiest monsters in fantasy

Obscure and outrageous VHS cover art

Live Nude Ghouls (my new favorite webcomic) )**NSFW**

Stream Ghost’s new album, Meliora

this, that, things & for your ears

Cannibalism and Other Nightmarish Things: Sleeping Beauty

 


The Apocalypse that Shrunk South London (h/t Ian)

 

STOYA + ANA X COMTE at creem mag

 

Gorgeous editorial in May 2015 Vogue Italia by Ellen Von Unwerth, ostensibly inspired by ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’.

 

Thresher, a short film directed by Mike Diva (for fans of Clive Barker and H.P. Lovecraft!)

Weird Horror Master Thomas Ligotti’s Review of the Hotdog Pizza from Pizza Hut (a must read for fans of weird fiction!)

 Io9’s list of the year’s best short-form speculative literature (so far).

Black Women Vampires in Film over at the Graveyardshift Sisters

What’s Your Look? at rookiemag.  Adorable! “Björk’s sad assistant” and “rabbit-filled sack.”

Super creepy horror game hidden in the darkest corners of the internet

AND…for your ears…!

 

 

Pleasing things

Sei Shonagon, woodcut by Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)

A list of pleasing things.

Not unlike those penned by Sei Shōnagon, a lady-in-waiting to the Empress of Japan during the Heian period, whose swoon-worth pillow book of lists and stories and observations is a thing of rare beauty and a fascinating glimpse into another human being’s life.

“Elegant Things” by Sei Shōnagon
A white coat worn over a violet waistcoat.
Duck eggs.
Shaved ice with liana syrup and put in a new silver bowl.
A rosary of rock crystal.
Snow on wisteria or plum blossoms.
A pretty child eating strawberries.

Though I suppose mine, below, is not quite exactly like hers, either.
To be honest, I guess it’s really just a list.

 

Though Errantry by Elizabeth Hand has been sitting on my bookshelf for over a year now, I am regrettably just now getting around to reading it. The stories are, as noted on the cover, strange. Full of quiet wonders.  Some are the stuff of nightmares, the sort that,  upon waking and closer examination, one can’t figure out what was quite so terrifying.  Just…. a tone of dread that never really touches on anything immediately familiar as frightening.  Characters finding themselves in unsettling circumstances which are written so naturally that they don’t seem shocking, just subtle and strange and special in some way. I think the review at TOR sums it up quite nicely:  “These are stories of the overwhelmingly mystical breaking into our world in small, almost unnoticeable ways, seen from the point of view of the few people who get to witness those minor intrusions and who then have to try and process their meanings.”  Two standout tales for me, and -not surprisingly – award winners are “The Maiden Flight of McCauley’s Bellerophon” and “Near Zennor”.

 

jewels

Treasures from supernatural surrealist and dream-haunter JL Schnabel of Bloodmilk. Pictured here are the Endless Night stacking rings I & II and The Wounding necklace, an item I for which I have longed for quite some time now; a talisman for piercing the darkness.

 

cocktails

The simplest of summer cocktails for still, sweltering evenings.  Vodka + a generous squirt of lime + elderflower rose lemonade.  Lots of ice.  Repeat as needed.

 

legos

Both my paramour and I are big kids at heart, and after seeing this LEGO bird set built over on tested.com, I thought it would make for a fun birthday present for him and a nice afternoon together. And it was!  And at the end of our play, we had something really cool to put on the shelf!

 

bag

A new handbag for all my stuff!  What, you don’t carry around candlesticks and tiki mugs on a daily basis? Well, to each his own, I guess.  This is the “big slouchy messenger bag” from Baba Studio and it is practically perfect.  I loved my old Betsey Johnson number with the fancy skulls, but it was getting pretty grungy.

 

steiner

yves

New art! The strange and terrible beauty pictured at the top is a gift by and from dark artist and sculptor EC Steiner, and lovely Bat-Fleurs at the bottom is a gift to myself, from artist Colette St Yves

Poor Sei Shōnagon is probably rolling over in her grave at this point.  She had some fairly bitter and scathing things to say about silly or unfashionable people and I doubt she’d spare me! Or, who knows -maybe she would recognize a kindred spirit in me, she’d pour me a cup of tea and we’d while away the time gossiping about people and talking about all the cool stuff we have.

this, that, and the other thing (xiv)

A small list of amusements and delights and wonders from around the internet over the past few weeks.

How To Grow A Black Garden over at The Live Box Magazine.

 


Future travels include transporting myself into every one of Didier Massard’s photographs.

 

Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place is now on Hulu!  I heard about this weirdness a few months back and never bothered to look into it, but now it’s just too easy.

 

Ukraine-based designer Anna Mo creates super chunky cozy knit blankets, hats, scarves and other accessories that you can find in her Etsy shop called Ohhio. Each piece is handmade using 100% Australian merino wool. Beautiful!

An interview with one of my favorite artists and talented friend, Carisa Swenson over at Rooms Magazine, about her work and process.

 

Dream-land (ca. 1883), an etching by S.J. Ferris after a painting by C.D. Weldon

The Art of Dreams, via The Public Domain Review

 

tee

I’m a little bit addicted to this tee shirt app http://yoshirt.com/

Here’s to giving up, by Alice Lee “Here’s to celebrating the work that was done instead of constantly worrying about what is to come. I am really bad at that and I would like to get better, if only because thinking the things you spend your life working on lose value ten minutes after they are released is also no way to live.” <—Amen to that!

In Praise of Darkness: Henry Beston on How the Beauty of Night Nourishes the Human Spirit, over at Brain Pickings.

How To Be A Lady In The Streets And A Haunted Clock Tower In The Sheets
“Your bed is nothing if it’s not buzzing with high-pitched screeches that seem to be coming from NOWHERE … yet also from EVERYWHERE. Bonus points if you can open up a mysterious time portal and get some screams from the past in there, too! SpOoOoOoky!” (h/t to Jack, Jennifer, my beardo and everyone else to shared this with me!)

My favorite thing right now is Nihilist Arbys on twitter

Purify Your System With The Seven Day Chili Dog Cleanse over at McSweeney’s

 

 

 

this, that and the other thing (xiii)


US Map of Horror Movies: Around 250 horror movies (and horror themed thrillers) for 50 States plus Washington D.C

 

Do you know your tikbalangs from your duwendes? Says Mikey Bustos ““We Filipinos have some really crazy mythical beings. Imagine they were all rap stars!” I have seriously watched this video, like 20 times in the past 12 hours.  It’s fantastic.
(h/t Madeleine Spencer)

 

From Chanel to Valentino, a First Look at the Dresses in the Met’s “China: Through the Looking Glass”

 

Though I stumbled across Evi Vine only today, I am fairly certain just from this stunning teaser-trailer alone, that debut album, Give Your Heart To The Hawks, is going to quickly become a favorite.

 

This Sunday, April 26 2015, be certain to head out to Brooklyn Zine Fest from 11am to 6pm at the Brooklyn Historical Society and visit the Heretical Sexts booth, manned by brilliant mastermind, Tenebrous Kate. Copies of all HS zines plus buttons, stickers, and exclusive mini zines will be available! Also -debuting at the fest is the Witch Women zine, in which I am honored to have been a contributor.  (Images via Kate’s instagram)

How to be polite. An extremely worthwhile read. This piece really resonated with me, on so many levels. I have felt this way since always. (h/t Amit)

The soundtrack that made Twin Peaks. I was just trying to explain to someone yesterday that while I love the music for this show, the main theme in the opening credits literally, *literally* made me want to puke.  It was such a visceral reaction.  I love the rest of the music in the show, and I appreciate the different character’s themes, but there’s just something about the track for the opening credits that plucks uneasily at my guts. I can’t even describe it without sounding like a dummy, but it hits me right in the dummy feels, I think. Not something I can articulate on a higher-brain level. It’s like…bland, benign…yet blighted (?) hold music. And you’re on hold forever. It speaks to some fear I have of waiting forever for the other shoe to drop. The big, doom-filled shoe in the sky that you can’t even see but somehow you know it’s there and it’s a cloudless, sunny day…and you are just waiting…waiting…waiting…to be stomped into oblivion. (h/t Drax)

A role playing game about ghosts, in just 150 words.  You and your friends play spirits of the dead, each with something holding you back from crossing over. With a brief, structured question and answer set and a single die, you discover and resolve your unfinished business. That’s it. (h/t John H.)

Helpful Spring Cleaning Advice From Gothic Novelist Shirley Jackson
“You may not know why you do it, but it must be done for it has always been done and so it will always be done. Never question the cleaning, just give in to the gentle sweep of the brush and the delicate glug of the bleach slipping down your throat.”
(h/t Sarah )

Trash Twins Podcast: Italians Do It Better, part 2. Sarah Horrocks and Katy Skelly talk Milo Manara and Guido Crepax.

20 THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT WHEN YOU’RE TOTALLY STUCK. There’s actually some decent ideas here, or at least some good jumping-off points.

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