28 Jun
2022

Les Lunatiques from Lvnea is a cupped palm of night air: softly flickering mothwings at midnight, a dewy mist of cloud floating across the moon, shadow-draped blooms furled in upon themselves and dreaming, the holy gleaming poetry of cosmic light reaching us from stars long dead, and the sweet murmuring exhalations of a slumbering grove of saplings.

So, 4160 Tuesday’s The Sexiest Scent On The Planet. Ever. (IMHO). I can’t say that I don’t like it, because I really do. Is it sexy? I don’t know. I don’t really like to think about scents like that, for some reason it really grosses me out. Maybe my filthy youth–and man do I have some stories–flipped some sort of switch in my brain where now I basically want whatever the opposite of sexy is. I am not saying sexy is a young person’s game, I guess I am saying I just don’t care about sexy anymore. There’s more to life. Anyway. So this scent is fairly simple, what I might call floral vanilla and dark woods. It’s lovely, but not overly complex. It’s perfectly fine and I would almost want a full bottle to keep around for days when I don’t know what I want to wear, only that I want to smell nice. The problem is, it smells EXACTLY like the sandalwood vanilla wallflower home scent plug ins that Bath and Body Works used to sell. And there’s no inherent problem with that scent, either, it’s actually very pretty, but my sister has one–sometimes two–plugged into every room in her house and before long what was once pretty is now intensely oppressive and suffocating, and now I can’t smell this particular version of vanilla and woods without feeling like I am choking on a candle. I get how this is a me-problem, not an actually product-problem, or perfumer-problem. but sometimes that’s the way it goes.

Accident a la Vanille Almond Cake is so awful that it inspired me to write a haiku:
a robitussin,
and play-dough, and almond milk
frathouse haze: DRINK, DRINK!

Etat Libre d’Orange You Or Someone Like You is the screechy confrontational performance art of a person having a freaky public meltdown, a full out adult tantrum, taking place midafternoon in a popular coffee chain or a ubiquitous lingerie store in the mall, and which is probably being recorded by spectators for millions of future views on YouTube even as the melodrama is unfolding. It’s the synthetic aroma of an indoor public space filled with too many people breathing at once and poorly circulated air, the awkward musk of distressed and embarrassed onlookers, the cool mineralic concrete of silent complicity, the acrid, antiseptic arrogance of entitlement, and the tang of weaponized tears and performative victimhood of someone who felt personally attacked by Victoria’s Secret’s return policy regarding thong panties or the fact that Starbucks was out of oat milk for their ridiculous latte order. You or Someone like you is the fragrance of someone making a massively upsetting stink in front of a crowd and feeling absolutely no shame or remorse because they have a right to everything, they deserve everything, merely because they exist.

Blocki’s In Every Season is the gorgeous zing and fizz of pink grapefruit, balanced with the elegance and gravitas of precisely cut green stems, jasmine and tuberose’s floral summer opulence, tempered by the shadows of early spring violets peeping through the melting snow, and wound round with gauzy musk that smells like starlight on your skin. This is probably the most lovely and perfect white floral composition I have ever smelled, despite the next association I am going to throw out there. It conjures a stepmother in a VC Andrews novel, a strikingly handsome, chilly blonde from old money with impeccable taste, and unimpeachable manners. She lives in a big, fancy house, there’s this whole big screwed up family, this generational saga of dysfunction and trauma and next thing you know her husband shows up with a teenage girl from a previous marriage about which he has just decided to confess. So now here’s this surprise daughter, a young woman from a desperate situation, who dreams of better life and works, struggles, and schemes to achieve these dreams. And then when she finds herself under the cruel, calculating, controlling gaze of her beautiful blonde stepmother, she comes to realize that her dreams come true are actually worse than the life she just escaped. So…what am I saying? I don’t know. A good perfume can make you smell nice, but a great one can cover up a multitude of sins? I don’t think that’s how it works, but In Every Season should be the great one we reach for to try it this theory out.

Ineke’s Hot House Flower is a gardenia soliflore that smells like a cybernetic tropical bloom, green foliage that has become self-aware, and the simulation of lushness accompanied by cool circuitry. Like if Skynet’s neural networks got hooked on plant haul videos on YouTube and went into botany instead of killer robots.

Poesie Madar is milky, custardy pudding delicately spiced with cardamom’s weirdness and melancholic orange blossom water and kooky sugared pistachios, and damn if this isn’t a low-key melodramatic goth rice pudding on its way to a Cure concert.

Laboratorio Ollfattivo’s Need_U is a slight, subtle scent of bitter citrus peel and aromatic zest accompanied by mildly piney juniper berries and the nostril-singing sting of effervescence. I am not sure what they need here, is it a Campari and soda? I mean, I can certainly relate to that. But I don’t know that I need a whole perfume about it.

Givenchy L’Interdit is…oof. It makes my hips ache and my knees creak. It makes me feel like a fucking fossil. This is a candied fruity floral, like shards of every flavor Jolly Rancher forming the vague shape of a flower but I think anyone who smells it will agree it is no flower found in nature. Do you know who smelled it and loved it, and thought it was “bomb” and “fire” and “literally everything,” though? A quartet of college girls who robbed a fast-food restaurant and stole a car to fund their spring break plans and who then got bailed out of jail by a skeezy clown of drug dealer/rapper/arms dealer named Alien who looks just like James Franco. I’m pretty sure they are all about this bikini bacchanalia neon candy Harmony Korine girls gone wild hedonist hell of a scent and man, they can have it. I’m too old for this shit.

Two Hexennacht scents: Velvet Coccoon has notes of labdanum, benzoin, frankincense, burnt caramel, guaiac wood and I’m not sure I have ever experienced a fragrance whose name was more befitting. This does give the impression of being enveloped in a midnight chrysalis of soft shadow snuggies, a fuzzy, cozy void, and cuddling up to the abyss and when you finally emerge you are the most goth moth. Sanctum, if possible, is even more incredible. With notes of offertory resins, deep golden amber, soft incense-smoke finish this conjures a sacred sweetness, a sort of sanctified gourmand like a choir of seraphim baking cupcakes or a falling asleep during mass and dreaming of Saint Honore. But it’s got the loveliest airiness, too; it’s not at all a heavy scent. It’s an angel food cake with actual the actual wings of a divine messenger, or maybe the devotional incense you burn to summon such a being.  

Nyphaea from Tanaïs Jasmine is not listed in this composition’s notes, but imagine if you took jasmine aside and said, look you’re really extra, I mean you’re A LOT. Can you dial it back a bit? This is jasmine being the least version of itself. And I know it sounds like I just told someone to basically not be themselves and that’s a really crappy way to treat someone, an actual human someone, but let’s not look into it too much. Because if we do, then I sound like a real asshole. So instead, and because I really like this scent, I am going to think of it as an intimate, secret jasmine. It’s not making itself small and quiet to make me feel comfortable. It’s just not a talker. It’s not looking for participation points. It’s an introvert, sort of like me…and maybe that’s why we get along so well.

Inspired by the Huysmans novel, and meant to transport the wearer to “Saint Sulpice church in Paris’s 6th Arrondissement uprooted and transported to NYC’s upper east side, ” I think I can…eventually… smell all of these inspirations in Là-Bas from Régime des Fleurs. However, this scent opens on a bit of an iffy note for me and it’s initially not what I expected: it’s a fruity rose that thinks pretty highly of itself and makes me think of Rita Skeeter’s platinum curls, bejeweled spectacles, and crimson nails. I don’t love it at this stage. But in the blink of an eye, it becomes this profane, unholy fog of oakmoss, birch tar, musky leather, and smoky vanilla black mass of a thing, and it truly does conjure visions of disillusioned writers, gothic horror, and mystical murders. Imagine if Rita Skeeter unzipped her human suit and out stepped a glamorous, chain-smoking demon tabloid reporter who writes decadent, scandalous musings about all the astrologists, alchemists, fortune-tellers, mediums, faith healers, exorcisers, necromancers, wizards, and satanists of the time. Gossip is the devil’s telephone and all that, and if this fiendish, fascinating fragrance is ringing, I am gonna take that call every time.

I first tried Anne Pliska ages ago and it didn’t really speak to me then, but also I think that maybe I wasn’t ready to listen. Now I am all ears. Or nostrils, I guess. This is an amber-vanilla fragrance that has a very low-key time-traveling vintage vibe, it’s almost a cross between Obsession and Shalimar, but it’s not as muscle-bound aggressive an amber as the former and it’s not the prim, fussy powderiness of the latter. The notes of orange and bergamot eventually appear for me, in the form of a creamy citrus –not a juicy slice of fruit, but rather a soft, subtle molecular gastronomy desert-type thing, piped in filigrees and dusted with bitter chocolate flakes and vanilla salt. Oddly enough, before that, I get the weirdest hint of plums and pencils and an odd combination of purple stone fruit and cedar shavings that are briefly beautiful and then completely disappear as if they had never been there at all. For all the incoherent amalgamation of things I have described, this is a wonderfully easy-to-wear fragrance that is perfectly lovely. Not exactly cozy, it’s a mite too peculiar for that, but for all its eccentricities it’s somehow incredibly comfortable for me to wear? I guess when finally listened to what Anne Pliska had to say, it turns out we speak the exact same quirky language.

 

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I don’t think I can emphasize enough how thrilling it was, how absolutely ecstatic I am, to have been able to include the works of some of my favorite contemporary artists in The Art of Darkness. Creators whose visions speak to the shadowy, unfathomed corners of my heart, to my weird, wild wiggly brain noodles, to the strange mystery of my soul.

Here is another favorite spread in the book, featuring Rachael Bridge whose electric-technicolor and sunless somber palettes and portraits make me gasp in awe (HOW does she do that??) and Jana Brike’s dreamy works of vulnerable transformation and poetic exploration.

Twilight, Rachael Bridge, 2020, oil on panel.

 

The Void/Flowers of Life, Jana Brike, 2016, oil on canvas.

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Foxes stalking the darkness, padding through a thicket of thorns. Shadowy snakes snarled in somnolent repose. A skull cupped tenderly, a candle’s flame snuffed. Rendered in ash, chalk-lead, and ink on black cotton rag, the funereal monochrome visions of artist and printmaker Dylan Garrett Smith reflect the artist’s views regarding our relationships with the natural world. Combining ecological and occult concepts with existential fears and anarchism, Smith stresses the importance of the cycle of birth, bloom, and decay and the ultimate triumph of nature in the end–whatever that ‘end’ might be.

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A restful and relaxing and fragrant summer solstice to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere! I’m honoring the day by wearing all of my orange blossom scents at once.

Pictured above, L-R: Jo Malone Orange Blossom // BPAL Bergamot, Orange Blossom, Vetiver // Buly Fleur d’Oranger

HOW TO WEAR THE SUMMER SOLSTICE:

R13 Floral Long Dress // Charo Ruiz Ibiza cut out-detail coat // Miu Miu Crystal-Embellished Gabardine Platform Sandals // Clyde – Black Caro Hat with Neck Shade // Hopeless lingerie strappy bra and briefs //
Stolen Girlfriends Club Hiss Satchel // Rodebjer Sylvia Sunnies // Sacred poppy necklace, Belladonna bell necklace, Achlys ring, and Hecate ring from bloodmilk jewels // Lvnea La Serpentine // ColourPop Hallucinogenius Jelly Much Shadow // Fat and The Moon Organic Eye Coal

photo image: S. Elizabeth, The Day Will Come That You Say You Dreamed It

 

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More peeks and pages from The forthcoming The Art of Darkness (September 6th is coming quickly, preorder now!)

This is a piece titled Vögguvísa by Becky Munich, a long-time like-minded weirdo, kindred spirit, and occasional partner-in-crime. You may recall that Becky and I worked together on the beloved fan-favorite Occult Activity Books, volumes one and two!

“… On the surface these sinister, ethereal wraiths and monstrous femme fatales simultaneously menace and beguile, but in a strange and playful twist, there’s sly and creepy clever mischief to be found in the details, and it’s clear to see that this artist takes her spooky business quite seriously while winking at us playfully at the same time.”

I’ve been OBSESSED with Becky’s works ever since I first laid eyes on them and I am so pleased to have been able to include her work in The Art of Darkness. And as you can see in the second photo, the original Vögguvísa hangs on my wall, cautioning me every day to shush my pie-hole. Or choose my words wisely. Who knows! She is a very mysterious lady, after all.

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I have long been familiar with the haunting romanticism of Deborah Turbeville’s fashion photography, and have often lost myself in their eerie atmospheres and spectral moods– elegant ghost stories, and hazy hallucinations of antique decadence, beloved and perfect, all.

I had never seen until tonight, though, her 1981 series Unseen Versailles:

“In the late 1970s, Turbeville was living in Paris. She discovered the Château de Versailles, but was refused access for a fashion shoot. Fortunately, thanks to Jackie Kennedy Onassis – an admirer and a friend! – she was finally granted permission to photograph the estate during its renovation. She spent a whole winter there and presented her work in a book, Unseen Versailles, in 1981.” (via)

The photographer went in search of unused, unaltered rooms, scattering their floors with autumn leaves to emphasize the chambers’ abandonment and neglect. The result–a haunting vision of this excessive place, a ghostly evocation of memory and melancholic magics in those long-waiting derelict, dust-shrouded and twilight chambers.

 

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Ok, well let me clarify: at this moment in time, in the space of this very second, the above page, with artworks by Charley Harper and Ruth Marten is my favorite page in The Art of Darkness.

It’s true, while I live to revel in the velvet shadows of a moonlit midnight and seek spirits in every lonely, crumbling corner, it’s not like I’m a gloomy Gus about it. If you can’t laugh at what lies waiting in the hungry maw of darkness, if you can’t giggle with the ghosts, or cackle into the nothing of the abyss–well, that’s hardly living, you know? If I have somehow fooled you into thinking I’m all about mystery and melancholy, monsters and morbidity, okay, well, that’s all true, I am. But it’s more than balanced with a significant sense of silliness, an appreciation of the absurd, and an adoration of ridiculousness. My favorite emotion to express is “demented glee”! I mean, I’m really just a goofy fucker, is what I am trying to say here.

So it would stand to reason that I have massive admiration for artists who can combine these sensibilities in their practice, and these works of the kooky and the macabre, often filled with sly, weird humor are some of my favorite canvases to gaze upon. Enter Ruth Marten and Charley Harper.

…and for more thoughts, I will direct you to preorder the book!

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Histories of She, Darla Teagarden

 

As an author whose forthcoming book will ooze through the darkness of the void to triumphantly appear on our corporeal plane in less than 3 months, I am told by my publisher that I need to be hyping it at least every two weeks. Fair enough. But I struggle to do that in a way that feels in line and in keeping with the spirit of the sorts of things that I already share on social media. While I do like to ramble on about my interests and passions, this is different because there are numbers and rankings and money attached to it, which sounds crass to say, but we can’t ignore it.

So in the interest of getting you all to preorder The Art of Darkness or at the very least, share it with friends and peers who may have an interest, ask your local bookshop to carry a few copies, request it from your library, etc., I am going to share it the same way I share 90% of the things here, which is to say: HERE’S SOME ART THAT I AM EXCITED ABOUT AND I THINK YOU SHOULD BE EXCITED ABOUT IT TOO!

In terms of excitement, one of the *most exciting* things about The Art of Darkness was having the opportunity to include the works of so many contemporary artists whose works I have been crowing about and collecting for myself over the years. These are artists I have shared on my Tumblr (yes, I am still over there!) I have interviewed for my own blog or the various other outlets I have been writing for since 2010, and some of whose works are hanging behind me on the wall even as I type this out! Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing these works of shadowy brilliance on my social media accounts; I am greatly indebted to each and every one of these creators and I have no doubt you are going to see some of your favorites amongst them, too.

So…let’s kick things off with Darla Teagarden! Profoundly resonant for those among us who view the world through a splinter of enchantment, Darla Teagarden’s surreal photographic narratives walk a tremulous line between fable and reality. These feverish visions are deeply imbued with fragile secrets, intense emotion, and an eerie sense of urgency – an otherworldly plucking at the senses. Teagarden builds these vividly expressive vignettes from wood, paper, and plaster for images that also include handpicked vintage props, clothing and hand-drawn backgrounds. It is this tender, liminal space, rebuilt and reimagined many times over, in which most of her darkly cinematic images are created.

Curious to read more about this artist? See my 2016 interview with Darla Teagarden here.

 

Pre-order your copy of The Art of Darkness by August 31 from any retailer and be one of the first 100 readers to receive some bonus goodies! Details here.

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Butterfly in the heather

So today I learned that there is actually a difference between artists Albert Durer Lucas (1828 – 1918) who painted mostly detailed studies of foliage and flowers, and German Renaissance painter and printmaker, Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528). Somehow, even though I know who Dürer is, whenever I had seen the other guy’s name, I combined them into the same artist.

Albrecht Dürer did paint flowers, but they’ve got this feeling of grim, gloomy gravitas, and they’re nothing I would want to gather into a bouquet. They look like they might slap your hand and scold you! Albert Durer Lucas’ flora, however, looks like it’s housing a Richard Scarry menagerie of busy people and busy towns and seems much more inviting.

Anyway…the more you know!

Rhamphotheca

 

Blue butterflies and wildflowers

 

Cultivated Flowers

 

Dragonfly and heather on a mossy bank

 

Hedge sparrow’s nest in a crab apple tree

 

Primroses

 

Still life with flowers, eggs and a glass on a stone ledge

 

Bluebells and snowdrops

 

Vase of Flowers

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