Archive of ‘elsewhere’ category

Blogging In The Dark

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Oh, man. Oh, wow. Consider my day made. I write about stuff and things and various people all the time, but this time, someone wrote about *me*! Well, they wrote about my blog. What an utter treat! I am delighted and humbled. Many thanks to Katie over at Wyrd Words & Effigies for including me in your Blogging In The Dark feature.

If Katie and her blog sound familiar to you, well, then you have got a great memory, because I did a little interview with her last year! If you’d like to refresh your memory, or read more about this fascinating writer & blogger & all together lovely person, head on over here for our Q&A!

Katie is also writing at her wonderful new blog/project A Living Witch, which you will definitely want to peek in at, as well.

Elsewhere: Shadows From The Walls Of Death

Wallpaper2At Haute Macabre this week I explore the dangerous allure and poisoned beauty of arsenical wallpapers in Lucinda Hawksley’s Bitten By Witch Fever.

I’d been sitting on writing this since sometime late last year, and I was so annoyed with myself when two very similar articles about the very same thing just posted in the last month or two, on websites which I’m pretty sure are widely read and most people are familiar with.  Sigh. That’s what you get for procrastinating, Sarah.

In any event, if you’re not tired of the subject yet, head on over to Haute Macabre and take a peek at Shadows From The Walls Of Death; Or, That Arsenic You Like Is Going To Come Back In Style.

Carisa Swenson’s Curious Creatures and Aberrant Animals

"Brother’s Keeper” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

“Brother’s Keeper” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

(Originally published on the Coilhouse Magazine blog, May 5, 2011. If Carisa’s name sounds familiar to you ’round these parts, then you have an excellent memory, friend! I have previously written about Carisa and her Wormwood & Rue creations here and here. )

Carisa Swenson of Goblinfruit Studio creates curious critters who seem to have wandered quietly out of a child’s fable of forest creatures, gleaming-eyed and grinning from beneath be-fanged overbites. Yet for all their grimacing, there is no sense of malice, no reason to fear this peculiar lot; look closer and you will find something profoundly endearing, familiar, and gentle about this oddball cast of creatures. Though they are semi-feral fairytale beasties from a dark wood, one gets the feeling from their earnest, even kindly expressions that they, just like anyone, are yearning for a happily ever after.

From the artist’s site:

Carisa Swenson’s passion for creating curious creatures springs from many sources—a love of Greek mythology and Ray Harryhausen’s creations when she was a child, an appreciative eye for Henson Workshop in her teens, to the weird and wonderful films of Jan Svankmajer and The Brothers Quay in her twenties. But when Carisa studied with world-renowned doll artist Wendy Froud, the final die was cast: posable dolls would forever own her soul and trouble her nights, stirring her with a fervor that could only be quelled by stitching and sculpting her dreams into reality.

“Since 2006 Carisa’s work has been featured in several exhibitions and publications, including the Melbourne Fringe Festival, NYU’s acclaimed annual “Small Works Show”, Art Doll Quarterly, and Spectrum 17.

We recently caught up with Carisa for a bit of a Q&A; see below the cut for more concerning the Curious Creatures and Aberrant Animals of Goblinfruit Studio.

“Otto” ©Goblinfruit Studio

“Otto” ©Goblinfruit Studio

In your bio, you mention that you’ve been creating dolls since 2006, after taking a stop motion animation class – had you always been interested in dolls and posable creatures, and this led you to taking that fateful class, or was this a fortunate fluke from which a consuming passion was born? Further, I understand that you’ve studied with artist Wendy Froud, which sounds amazing… can you tell us about that?

My fascination with stop-motion, automatons, and fantastical creatures took root when I first set eyes upon Ray Harryhausen’s work in Clash of the Titans, and even more importantly, the Sinbad series (the statue of Kali awakening and wielding six swords will forever stay with me). Action figures had always been a huge part of my playtime as a child, but I had little interest in dolls (with the exception of a much-loved Holly Hobbie rag doll) and a tendency to gravitate towards stuffed animals. Oddly enough, my desire to learn more about stop-motion ended up sparking a desire to create dolls. Before then, I concentrated on illustrating, mostly for fantasy card games and children’s books, but sculpted tiny creatures on the side as a hobby.

Several years ago, when I finally decided to take a stop-motion class, I had that “aha!” moment while working on a model for class. Sculpting and creating a posable model enchanted me and I found it much more engaging than my past experience with illustration. The idea of being able to hold a piece of art in your hands and essentially breathe life in it through touch and interaction appealed to me. Once of the best reactions I witnessed to one of my dolls was at a gallery show—when a young child and her mother went to leave, the girl insisted on saying goodbye to it.

Studying with Wendy Froud was truly wonderful. One of the movies she worked on, The Dark Crystal, was a substantial influence on my work so I was fortunate enough to not only meet her, but learn from her as well. Passionate about her art, Wendy’s desire to teach others is an inspiration in itself.

“Skinbunny” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

“Skinbunny” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

©Goblinfruit Studio

©Goblinfruit Studio

Your creations not only have an uncanny whimsy to them, a grotesque charm, but when viewing these creations, one gets a sense that they each have a fantastical story, a unique tale to tell. How do you go about imbuing these moppets with such life and character? Is there any particular story about any one of them that you can share?

Like many children, I was fascinated by animals, and spent many hours scribbling out both creatures natural and fantastical. Our four-legged and feathered brethren inspire me in ways sculpting or drawing humans cannot, and allow me to effortlessly imbue my dolls with depth and feelings. My process of sculpting starts with a vague notion of what a doll will look like, or sometimes what their personality will be. However, the dolls often suggest to me what they want to be as I sculpt— often switching gender, species or disposition halfway through their creation. As somewhat of an introvert, my attraction to the trickster mythos seeps into many of my characters.

Generally, my dolls have snippets of a back-story…the rest is up to the viewer. For instance, there’s George…who is somewhat temperamental and destructive, ripping the heads off his playthings; or Edgar, whose peculiar shape was the result of his rabbit mother having a sordid one-night affair with a bonobo. Tara carries around her semi-absorbed twin brother on the back of her head, and Alphonse and Otto Snerk are part of the troupe of pernicious goblins who sought to entrance the sisters of Christina Rossetti’s poem with their tempting goblin fruit.

“Tara & Timmy” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

“Tara & Timmy” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

“Tara & Timmy” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

“Tara & Timmy” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

Much of my inspiration comes directly from nature itself. My fascination with the natural world and its beauty provides a constant source of wonder and solace. Birds and creatures of the forest all work their way into my creations, in addition to the influence of fairytales and classical mythology. Empty, decaying buildings, rooms and houses stir my imagination with their dusty pasts or potential futures.

Beyond the natural world, other influences for my art stem from the likes of independent video games, which, besides the initial desired interactivity, are a rich source of art and music. (Some of my favorites include Machinarium by Amanita Design, The Path by Tale of Tales, and more recently, Superbrothers’ Sword and Sorcery.)

Some other sources that provide continual inspiration for me are horror movies of the sixties and seventies, stop-motion masters The Brothers Quay, Kihachiro Kawamoto and contemporary doll artists such as Virginie Ropars and Anita Collins. Movies like Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, The Cell (Eiko Ishioka’s breathtaking costumes are truly awe-inspiring), Fantastic Planet (which I discovered through The Cell), and Jeunet and Caro’s The City of Lost Children and Delicatessen have also served as artistic inspiration in the past.

Of course, music plays an important role while I’m working in my studio, helping me conjure that space in which to begin creating. Movie and video game soundtracks, ambient and pagan/spook folk albums have been getting quite a bit of airtime as of late, but I have my moments when I need to listen to some Prodigy, Ministry or Metallica.

Swinebalg by Carisa Swenson ©Goblinfruit Studio

Swinebalg by Carisa Swenson ©Goblinfruit Studio

The Plague Doctor by EC Steiner

The Plague Doctor by EC Steiner

Tell us about ARS SOMNIUM, your project with King Unicorn (Eric Steiner). I understand this is a collaboration built upon a concept dredged from the “most fertile playground for artists” – dreams and nightmares. Sharing dreams for artistic translation sounds like an intimate endeavor in which comfort zones are bound to be breached! [Edit: EC Steiner now creates under the moniker Casketglass]

When Eric approached me last year about a possible collaboration, I agreed without hesitation— our style couldn’t be more different, and it would be a compelling experiment to see where this would take our unique artistic vision. Concepts were passed back and forth until we hit upon the idea of sharing descriptions of the numerous denizens that wander, shuffle and glide through our dreamscapes. Once we pass off descriptions, we then actualize each other’s dream inhabitants in our own individual style. Given the subject matter, it could potentially be discomforting…but this has not proven to be the case. Seeing one’s dream (or nightmare) being through another person’s eyes is fascinating and unexpected. The energy within this project is fantastic, and I’m looking forward to working with Eric on more dolls in the near future.

Jester

“Jester” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by Steve Harrison Photography

What future projects are you planning?

Ars Somnium is an ongoing collaboration, so you can expect to see another creation for the project this year, with the next piece straying far from what usually emerges from my studio.

Currently I’m creating several dolls for upcoming gallery shows, but the one self-indulgent project in the works, which I’ve just begun, is a 52-card deck featuring my rabbit dolls. Eighteen new dolls will be created with the suits reflecting the various personalities within my creations. This will most likely take up a good part of my time throughout the rest of 2011 and early 2012.

Find Carisa: Website // Instagram // Facebook // Twitter

“Cornelius” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by by Thomas Gotsch

“Cornelius” ©Goblinfruit Studio / Photo by by Thomas Gotsch

Lupercalia 2017 at Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab + A Giveaway!

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 Today at Haute Macabre I dive into the smutty, salacious glory that is Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s Lupercalia collection. Whether you see these lurid delights as a dare, or as merely as a to-do list, and no matter how singular your tastes may be, there is all manner of delightful debauchery here to appeal to aficionados of arousing, amusing aromatic experiences from the smut peddlers at BPAL

Psssst…there’s an obscenely generous giveaway, as well <3

Elsewhere: Taking Your Pulse (Interview for Storycorps)

Pulse

On Saturday I had the distinct honor to talk with with my good friend Gus for Story Corps about the Pulse tragedy in Orlando last June. We discuss grief, survivor’s guilt, intersectionality and death care, among other things.

Gus writes about it at Death In The Gay Den today, where you will find a link to the entire interview, I hope you’ll take a moment to listen.

I should also note that, although she doesn’t remember telling me this, my sister encouraged me several years ago to “do one thing every day that scares you”. I was freaking out so badly about this that I think it should count as three days worth of anxiety-inducing initiatives!

Elsewhere: An Interview With Pam Grossman

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A Woman With Power: Pam Grossman

It was my supreme pleasure to have caught up with the extraordinary Pam Grossman for our recent interview, which was up at Haute Macabre last week.  We discuss her thoughts on witchcraft and the occult as it relates to art, activism, and anger, and what it means to be a woman with power.

If you haven’t had a chance to take a peek at it yet, I highly suggest you do so now–Pam shares so much of herself and you’ll be certain to come away from it richer in spirit (but perhaps poorer in pocket, because she has *so* many good recommendations as it relates to books, movies, and music!)

Harry Crosby’s Black Sun

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Harry Crosby and unidentified woman, Four Arts Ball, Paris

Yet it was precisely in his character … to invest all his loyalty and energy in magic: at first the approved magic of established religion; later the witchwork of poetry and sun worship; finally the black mass of violence” -Geoffrey Wolf, Author of Black Sun: The Brief Transit and Violent Eclipse of Harry Crosby

Harry Crosby – self indulgent socialite, tortured poet, wealthy mystic …. a playboy who lived his life with reckless abandon – was a man both adored and reviled. He has been described by some as “a representative figure of the so-called Lost Generation”, the bohemian 1920s.

A godson of J.P. Morgan Jr., Harry was a Harvard graduate and a decorated war veteran, who had left school to become an ambulance driver in France with his upper-crust chums during World War I. He ended up with the Croix de Guerre for valor and, after a few frustrating years back in Boston, fled to Paris for the rest of his short life. Married in 1922 to Mary Phelps Jacob, known as “Caresse”, they lived the “ultimate Bohemian lives as poets, artists, and patrons in Paris in the 1920’s. To every adventure their answer was always ‘yes’.” Harry once sent a telegram from Paris to his father, the quintessential sober, patriarch, which read, “Please sell $10,000 worth in stock. We intend to live a mad and extravagant life.”

While living and writing in Paris Harry Crosby founded The Black Sun Press, one of the “finest small presses of the twentieth century”.   In 1924, the Crosbys went public with their first book. The following year, they each published their first collections of verse. Harry commissioned Alastair – a “spectacularly camp” German creator of beautifully decadent and Gothic fantasies – to illustrate his second collection, Red Skeletons.  Soon they were issuing works by other writers, including Poe, James, Wilde, Joyce and D. H. Lawrence.

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Color plate from Red Skeletons, by artist Alastair

On December 10, 1929, Harry was found in bed with a .25 caliber bullet hole in his right temple next to his mistress, the newly married Josephine Bigelow who had a matching hole in her left temple, in an apparent suicide pact. Harry’s toenails were painted red and strange symbols were tattooed between his shoulder blades and on the soles of his feet. A lover of dark mysteries to the last, he left no suicide note. London’s Daily Mirror speculated on psychological motives, while New York’s Daily News blamed poetry and passion: “Death itself had been the motive, others speculated, just as aspiring poet Harry’s life had been his greatest artwork.”

We recently caught up with Erik Rodgers, founder of String and a Can Productions, and director of The Black Sun: The Life and Death of Harry Crosby, who provides his own insight into Harry Crosby’s strange, short life and speaks to what makes the man such a fascinating study.

How did you come to decide Harry Crosby might make good material for a play – what it was about him or his life that inspired you, or what aspect of him you were hoping to shed more light on? How did you come across him to begin with?

Erik Rodgers: I actually came upon Caresse first, while developing a project on Salvador Dalí.  [My business partner] was intrigued by the idea of such an accomplished and independent female from that era, and started researching her life.   Of course as soon as she began reading about Caresse, she discovered Harry as well.  Their story captured her imagination, and she began relating to me some of the details as she read them. We both felt there was something vital and overlooked in their story, something that had been obscured by all the scandal and negative criticism.

Over the next few months, I sat down with Geoffrey Wolff’s incredibly well researched biography, as well as several works on Caresse.  Time and again, I was struck by the incredible amount of negativity, dismissiveness and judgement that surrounded Harry and Caresse.  Even Mr. Wolff felt it necessary to defend and explain away his decision to dignify Harry with the full biographical treatment.   I felt disappointed by the apologia of an afterward he wrote for the nyrb edition.  After all, from our contemporary vantage point, considering the near century of work and popular culture that has followed, Harry hardly seems shocking…

I didn’t immediately resolve to write about Harry, but he stayed in my mind for some time.  Still a bit of an enigma, I felt the vital pulse of his life, his work, but had yet to find a context for it.  It was several months later, when encouraged by Devin and some friends to develop a project for us all to work on, that the idea of the play struck.

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image via String and a Can Productions, artist Egon Scheile

How did you find the process to be for this particular medium, translating Harry’s life/works into material for the stage? Are there any other projects you have in mind for Harry Crosby?

By limiting the play to three characters, Harry, Caresse, and Josephine, and using the stage as more of an abstract space, I set out to let the characters observe, confront and relive specific moments across time and space. It was a way, I felt, to do more than relate their story, or explore Harry’s personal mythos. It was a way to deconstruct, unlock, and hopefully reclaim them back into our collective consciousness.

I began reading Harry’s work in earnest once I resolved to write the play, including his diaries Shadows of the Sun. This era was a specialty of mine back in college (Lawrence, Hemingway, Joyce et al) and I was surprised that I hadn’t really encountered Harry’s work before. I found that the more I read, the more powerful … Harry’s vision became. It is indeed difficult to sum up Harry’s work by sharing a poem or a line here or there. There is a cumulative effect to the work, something remarked upon in Eliot’s essay on Harry. As a result, I used a lot of Harry’s own work as source material, crafting scenes from poems or diary entries. I did this not only to keep true to the story, but also to hopefully let Harry’s vision unfold over the length of the play. It was important to me to let them be taken on their own terms, by their own ambitions and their own vision. In many ways, to me that was what Harry’s life was about.

[…]In writing the play, however, I also wanted to wrestle with the very human aspect of their lives as well– the volatility of Harry, the toll that took on Caresse, the anguish in Josephine that found some answer in Harry’s elaborate mythos. Harry and Caresse’s own depictions of their lives are always a little unsatisfying to our modern sensibilities in that they don’t submit to easy psychological types. Questions linger about who they were, even after you’d heard all the juicy details. How much did the war or Harry’s Dad play into his tumultuous behavior? Were Caresse’s attempts to leave sincere? Was she a bit relieved at his final passing? Who pulled the trigger first, Harry or Josephine? How did that fateful meeting transpire, exactly? These are some of the mysteries that propel the story.

On a personal note, this last October, I had the pleasure of visiting the Athenaeum in Boston and arranging a viewing some of the original Black Sun Books. The experience was striking in two ways in particular. I was struck with the strange power of viewing such rare texts that had been made with such care. From the gold wrapping of Transit of Venus, to the uncut folio pages of Torchbearers, it was as if you were viewing something sacred. In an era of mass printing, it’s hard to imagine the power such handcrafted books can have. The other thing that struck me in viewing the books was a feeling of direct connection with Harry and Caresse, something I had strived for through the research and the writing. This reaffirmed my convictions about them that underlined the play, and reinforced for me the importance of their story.

I have also just completed composing a series of music inspired by Harry’s work and the play. You’ve heard some of the temp tracks on the page for the play, but I’ve now completed the cycle and am looking to make a live recording of it all.

In addition to the original site for the play, there’s also a larger effort underway to commemorate and honor the legacy of Harry and Caresse. Info on the nascent Black Sun Theatre Foundation can be found here.

Harry Crosby’s Black Sun was originally published at Coilhouse on March 16, 2010.

Elsewhere: Stacked & Aural Fixation

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Stacked

 : Over at Haute Macabre you can peek to see what Samantha, Erin, Maika, Sonya and I have been reading over the past 28 days! While I thrilled to every word of one of the books I read, the other piqued my ire frequently. Curious as to my thoughts? Visit Haute Macabre to read more! And be sure to tell me what you’ve been reading, in the comments.
{image: Bill Crisafi for BloodMilk Exquisite Corpse “The Comfort of Dust”.}

AuralFixation

…and also, while we’re at it, Haute Macabre rolled out my favorite new feature this evening, in which we all blather on about the sounds we currently have on heavy rotation:

 Aural Fixation.

{art provided by Becky Munich}

Elsewhere: A Macabre Cookbook Collection

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Grim Gastronomy, Creepy Cuisine: A Macabre Cookbook Collection

At Haute Macabre this week, I talk about some very important things: my cookbook collection. Let no one say that I don’t have my priorities straight!

TL;DR The cookbooks listed in this article are: Feeding Hannibal: A Connoisseur’s CookbookDamn Fine Cherry Pie: And Other Recipes from TV’s Twin PeaksDeath Warmed Over: Funeral Food, Rituals, and Customs from Around the WorldThe Decadent Cookbook: Recipes of Obsession and ExcessDeath & Co. Classic Modern CocktailsChas Addams Half-Baked CookbookThe Dark Shadows CookbookSon of the Martini Cookbook

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