Archive of ‘art’ category

The Art Of The Occult And The Elusive Rosaleen Norton

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There’s a lot of different moving pieces that go into an image-heavy book like this that I never even thought about before I began work on The Art of the Occult. Obviously you must obtain permission from the artists whose work you wish to include… but it turns out that is not at all a straightforward process.

Between tracking down contact information for the artist (if they are still traversing this mortal plane, that is–otherwise, you might be dealing with galleries, estates, etc.) and actually finding them and receiving those permissions, you then have the concern of whether or not the artist can provide a high-enough resolution of the work, whether it fits with the layout of the book, and to backtrack a bit–whether or not the publisher even agrees that the images you’ve suggested will be appropriate for the overall project.

"Black Magic." Rosaleen Norton

“Black Magic.” Rosaleen Norton

In the course of this process of research and reaching out, which was never tedious, believe it or not–I live to track down elusive art and artists!– I got a lot of email bounce backs, and oftentimes even if the email appeared to go through, there were a handful of artists I never heard back from. Sometimes I did get a response and received a “no” right off the bat. Sometimes, too, this occurred after some back and forth between myself and the artist, and we arrived at the determination that maybe my book wasn’t a good fit for their artistic vision. And that’s OK! It really is. It’s not all going to work out, and you can’t always get everything you want, and after getting over a bit of initial disappointment, I frequently came to the conclusion that it was probably for the best.

With regard to those artists who are no longer with us, sometimes I couldn’t track down an estate contact, and when I did I never heard back from them.  If it was the publisher reaching out, sometimes they either couldn’t come to an agreement or they were perhaps unable to acquire a high enough resolution image that would work for this particular print medium.

"Lucifer," Rosaleen Norton

“Lucifer,” Rosaleen Norton

Sadly, such was the case with Rosaleen Norton, a fascinating artist and human I’ve long been enchanted with, and who was one of the very first individuals I had on my list for The Art Of The Occult.

Norton, an Australian artist who became widely known in the 1950’s as The Witch Of King’s Cross, was a natural trance artist who experimented with self-hypnosis and whose visionary explorations resulted in supernatural beings cavorting across the canvas; “pagan” art, which earned her continuous criticism and controversy. Occult writer Neville Drury wrote a detailed and thoroughly compelling account of the artist’s life in his book Pan’s Daughter: The Magical World Of Rosaleen Norton; I read it a great many years ago and was heartbroken when I lost it in hurricane-related flooding. I repurchased a copy early last year to pore through again when I began initial image research for this book, and even though in the end I’m unable to include any of Norton’s wildly evocative work, I am glad that I’ve got a copy of this book in my possession again. It’s quite a treasure.

"Lilith," Rosaleen Norton

“Lilith,” Rosaleen Norton

It’s quite frustrating to imagine (and I’ve got a good, catastrophizing imagination) that once the book is released there are going to be readers or critics who say “oh, I can’t believe she didn’t include X/Y/Z artist!” Well, the thing is, nine times out of ten, I probably tried to! And when you’re that reader, I get that you might be frustrated or disappointed to see a lack of representation when it comes to your favorite art and artists– so I just wanted to share a glimpse into why that might not always be possible.

At any rate, I like to think that there are a great many fabulous, fantastical artists who are illuminated betwixt and between the shadowy nooks and crannies of this forthcoming tome…and if you are one of those lovely and brilliant artists whom I directly interacted with, you have my sincere and profound thanks. In future posts I hope to give some sneak peeks into the art that will actually be in the book, as I realize it’s pretty unfair to show the stuff that didn’t make it!

I am told that despite the unstable, unsettling state of the world right now, we are still on target for a September 2020 publishing date and that is such a thrilling thing to look forward to right now. Thanks for coming along with me on this weird, wild ride.

Preorder links for The Art Of The Occult can be found here!

Beauty In The Mysterious And Pleasure In The Passage Of Time: The Photography Of Helena Aguilar Mayans

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For what feels like forever now, I have been in swoons and raptures over the misty, half-lit elegance of analog photographer Helena Aguilar Mayans’ stunning storybook landscapes and transportive, time-traveling portraits. I am very happy that, like in some wondrous, enchanting tale from a bygone era, the stars mystically aligned for us and I can finally share our interview–at least two years in the making!– with you today.

See below for our Q&A wherein Helena shares her passions and inspirations, her reverence for mystery and the passage of time, and of course, a gallery of her incredible works. Helena–thank you for your patience and perseverance, your kindness and candor, and for working with me on this and long as we have!

Find Helena Aguilar Mayans: Website // Instagram

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“Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty.” is the quote used in your instagram bio. Can you talk about that philosophy as it relates to your art?

This is a quote by Junichiro Tanizaki, from his book “In Praise for Shadows”. It’s a very beautiful and poetic book and I always found it very inspiring. I had the chance to visit Japan lately and I could relate to everything he points on the book. It’s a book written in 1933 but I think it’s still very contemporary.

The book explores some concepts and ideas that usually in the occidental world have been understood in a very different way or not really appreciated.

I feel that in traditional Japanese culture time is understood differently and beauty is seen in many things, even in the most ordinary. The space they have for contemplation, ritual, and beauty is something that I love and I feel is not well valued in other cultures.

We are used to having everything immediately and I always felt against that, I think we should understand time in a very different way. I’ve been learning Urushi (Japanese traditional lacquer) and Kintsugi (ceramic repair with Urushi and metal dust) for 3 years now and it’s all about time and patience! It’s not only about the technique itself, but you also learn about other things. It really helps me to balance and to focus on my new photographic projects! I have a photoshoot in mind inspired by a passage of “In Praise of Shadows” and I cannot wait for it!

I also love the Japanese concept of “mono no aware” (sympathy for things) and the idea of patina, showing the time passing by, the texture, it’s somehow what I find in old and abandoned buildings and also in old garments. I love to see the time passing by all over these spaces and objects, for me it has a very special charm.

Tanizaki also speaks about the strange calm, darkness or shadows, can bring and the mystery they hold. I think a must for me is trying to get some mystery in my pictures, sometimes more subtle and sometimes more direct, but I think mystery needs to be there. Related to this I also love this quote by Einstein:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”

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HAM insta 8 HAM insta7 I always feel an overwhelming sense of solitude when gazing upon the lone models in the shadowy environs in your photos. But not in a terribly melancholic way–I get the feeling that these characters are content to be lost in their own worlds, and there is no place they’d rather be. Can you speak to that?

I always pictured women being alone, either between wild landscapes or in abandoned environments, it has been something very inner, it happens very naturally it has been the way I have always seen my pictures. But I wouldn’t say these women are feeling lonely, I think they are just lost in their worlds, daydreaming or looking for a shelter, away from the modern world. It’s also how I feel about the world many times. It’s probably a bit about being an outsider. The idea of trying to live in a different way, out of what’s it’s considered standard.

These women are where they are because they want, they want to be out or explore. I always included the lone female character in my pictures and when I discovered the novels of the Brontës I could feel so related to it. The Brontës had been a very important influence for that. I’ve been very very inspired by the works and lives of them during the last years and something that I really like from them is the idea that they made some revolutionary heroines just by the fact that they went out walking.

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I’m stealing a quote from an interview you did with one of my favorite writers and appreciators of art, Jantine Zantbergen; you said that you view photography as “…a medium one can use in order to make fantasies more real.” Can you tell about the sort of fantasies you try to bring to life?

I always had a deep fascination for bygone eras and past artistic movements. Usually those the “fantasies” I try to recreate, I imagine characters from the Brontë novels or paintings by the symbolists, the decadents, the pre-raphaelites and I try to make these visions live through photography.

Trying to recreate all this through photography it’s a kind of way of making everything more real. It’s also the best way I know to evade myself and connect with these bygone eras and art movements that I am so fond of. The moment just before pressing the shooter, when I am in front of the scene and everything looks like I imagined I really feel transported, it feels like time works in a very different way.

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I also sense complex stories in your photography; each frame could be a chapter in a beautiful fairy tale. Can you talk about art as story-telling, the particular stories you are trying to tell, and where you draw your inspirations from?

Yes, I think photography it’s a strong medium for story telling, usually I go with an idea about what could be the story of the character I’m imagining and then during the photoshoot it just seems to appear in my head. I like the idea that with photography you hold the mystery and leave the story more open to the viewer rather than cinema. I like this, that with just a shot or a short series you are opening the door to a world, a period, an atmosphere, you give some details, some tricks, but the rest has to be imagined. I can take inspiration from many things, but usually, it comes from painting, literature, cinema or music.

Some constant inspirations are the decadents, the symbolists, the Pre-Raphaelites. and the aesthetic movement. I am currently being very very inspired by all the 1900s art and the “Fin de Siècle” concept. Powerful women and decadentism are my current vibes, along with Catalan “Modernistes” (Art Nouveau) painters too.

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The landscape in your photography is always so stunning, whether you have shot your models against the backdrop of a foggy half-lit meadow or the ominous face of a rocky cliff. Are all of these locations local to you? Can you tell us about the role that nature and these natural spaces play in your art?

I had the chance to grew up and live in Olot, a village that’s inside a Natural Park; it’s a volcanic area that makes the landscape surrounding me very unique. This is something that has always been related to my work. I wouldn’t do the pictures I do if I were living in Barcelona, for example.

The landscape here, it’s singular but also quite varied, from basalt cliffs to English countryside-looking meadows to faerie tale forests.

So most of the places that I picture on my work are nearby locations, sometimes there are also places I visited while traveling. Searching for the place it’s always an important step before a shoot takes place.

If I work on abandoned places I then usually travel around Europe for the locations. It can take months to locate the places but it’s always worth it. I love to explore such places and being able to use them as scenarios before they are gone forever. They really transport me and I can feel the past and history of them, it’s a very special feeling.

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You’ve been involved in some gorgeous collaborations with various designers and musicians! Can you tell us a little bit about some of them (Under The Pyramids–I adore Mathilde!–Hvnter Gvtherer, King Dude, etc.), and how they came to be?

I will be always grateful for all these collaborations!

Working with Mathyld its always a dream, she puts all her heart in all her creations and you can sense that. She’s the sweetest and it’s always wonderful to work with her. We are hoping to do something together again soon! :)

I also cherish the collab I did for Hvnter Gvtherer, I think Laura’s work it’s very genuine and I did have a great time doing a photoshoot for her!

I think it’s a very nice way to support independent artists this way.

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HAM insta12I’m also very nosy when it comes to what is currently inspiring my favorite artists! Is there anything you’ve listened to, read, watched, or become aware of recently that’s sparking your creative flow?

A lot of art from the Fin de Siècle!! Now I am especially fond of Orazi and Georges de Feure. Fernand Khnopff’s art and also currently art nouveau Catalan artists like Ramon Casas or Santiago Rusiñol. The somewhat unknown and underrated Alexandre de Riquer has always been an inspiration too.

As for music, Alcest’s latest album, Nhor, and Sylvaine music are what I have been frequently listening to lately.

The poetry of Emily Brontë is always a huge inspiration and the illustrations of Selp @darkselp are always a beautiful inspiration too!

Eyeball Fodder And Where To Find It

Jana Heidersdorf

Jana Heidersdorf

In 2017 I wrote a blog post titled “We have art in order not to die of the truth” where I shared how my love of art had a buoying effect on my heart during trying times. I always meant to go back and begin a regular series of sharing the recent pieces of artistry and creative marvels that I was ogling at the time, but somehow that never quite happened here at Unquiet Things.

At Haute Macabre, however…! Late last summer I began my Weekly Eyeball fodder column, and ok, maybe it’s not quite “weekly” — but “sometimes,” or “when I feel like it.” just doesn’t have the same ring, does it? So then, once every week or so I gather up those eyeball-thrilling arts that I’ve been digitally collecting and I share this special gallery of creations for the thrill of your eyeballs.

Of course, I am sure to always include the artist’s name and the title of the piece if they’ve noted it, as well as a link to their Instagram account, or their website, or where ever they may house their portfolio. I have been sharing these works sans commentary or additional info from me, as I don’t want to color anyone’s impressions of it, or overload one’s senses with too much data, or ruin the fun if you find an artist you love and want to do a little research and find out more about them on your own. Which I hope that folks will do!

At any rate, if you follow my various endeavors, you may already be aware of all this. But if not…now you know! Here’s a bit of a preview, below, of the various sorts of imagery you can expect to see in my Weekly Eyeball collections, and separate links to the past fourteen weeks of them over at Haute Macabre.

Have you discovered any new and wonderful artists lately? Please let me know in the comments!

Jakub Rozalski

Jakub Rozalski

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week One

 

Julia Malkova

Julia Malkova

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Two

 

Syd Bee

Syd Bee

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Three

 

Helena Aguilar Mayans

Helena Aguilar Mayans

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Four

 

Naisa Gomez

Naisa Gomez

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Five

 

blindthesun

blindthesun

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Six

 

week 7 @jodiemuirart Jodie Muir

Jodie Muir

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Seven

 

Féebrile

Féebrile

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Eight

 

Amy Haslehurst

Amy Haslehurst

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Nine

 

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Katie Eleanor

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Ten

 

Martin Wittfooth

Martin Wittfooth

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Eleven

 

Jason Mowry

Jason Mowry

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Twelve

 

Maryann Held

Maryann Held

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Thirteen

 

Nona Limmen

Nona Limmen

Weekly Eyeball Fodder: Week Fourteen

10 Things I’ve learned from Owning an Art Gallery by Laurel Barickman

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I “met” Laurel as I “meet” many of my dear, good friends–online, geeking out over the stuff we are intensely passionate about. In our case, we wandered into each other’s orbits, over at the now-defunct sonic cosmos of 8tracks, constellations winking and shimmering excitedly in our shared tastes in music and art. This was in 2010 and I still recall the very mix that began our friendship–I went under a different internet handle at that time, and I was just on the cusp of becoming the ghoul next door that I am today– and in that initial encounter, Laurel introduced me to a strange and wonderful new-to-me artist (which I later wrote about!) and who remains a favorite today. Music and art. Two of the things that we continue to geek out over, nearly a decade later!

It was not a huge surprise to me then, that a few years later, Laurel opened her own art gallery! I was thrilled, amazed, and proud–but not a bit surprised. Laurel, an artist and designer herself, is a shrewd businessperson with a deep love of community and fostering connections, and believes in the vital importance of art and artists creating it.

And so, I am a heady combination of  pleased, excited, and thoroughly honored that Laurel has shared her thoughts at Unquiet Things today, in our monthly installment of Ten Things:
10 Things I’ve learned from Owning an Art Gallery

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Laurel Barickman is the Creative Director of the Austin, Texas based design agency Recspec, and for three years she’s also been the owner, operator, and curator of Recspec Gallery. She has put together over 20 shows for the gallery, working with local, national, and international artists across every type of medium, with a focus on uplifting new and unestablished artists – especially women artists, queer artists, and artists of color.

When I decided to start an art gallery a few years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I was looking for a space to have an office and also meet with my clients for my design agency, and when I found the right space, it had – prior to me moving in – been a gallery. I had always had an interest in curation, and had been in shows myself, and there was definitely a far-away dream in the back of my mind to one day own a gallery, but I definitely didn’t think it was the time or that I was ready yet! But I decided to take the leap based on the community around me and the amazing artists that I know. It hasn’t been easy, and a year or so ago, we lost our location – and it took almost a full year for me to find a new one, a task at one point I thought was impossible because of the rising rents in Austin. But the biggest thing I noticed during that time that we were closed was how much I missed it, and how much I wanted to do it again.

So here are a few things I’ve learned in the process. I hope that it might help any budding gallerists out there!

rf alvarez - NudeinRed

“Nude in Red” by RF Alvarez

You will buy a lot of art.

As I’ve told my husband any time I announce that I’m buying ANOTHER piece of artwork, in order to sell art, you have to drink the kool-aid and buy art yourself. A gallerist who doesn’t buy art (which I doubt exists) doesn’t really understand the consumer-art relationship, which is so essential to be able to sell art in the first place. Understanding the other side of that relationship is important – what people are looking for, what price-points work for them, why they connect with certain pieces over others, what mediums are most popular, etc. If we don’t believe in the value of art, supporting artists, and buying art, how can we expect anyone else to?

christa blackwood - charis

“Charis” by Christa Blackwood

Supporting your artists is the most important thing.

My main job as a gallery owner is to make sure that my artists are taken care of, supported, and have everything they need to fulfill their vision of their show at my gallery. Galleries take a split of every sale, and it is important to earn that split through our actions that support the artist. I handle all of the marketing for the show, getting the gallery space ready for their work, installing, lighting, I assist with pricing if they need it, photographing all of the works and getting them online for non-local sales, getting sponsorships and setting up our opening and closing events, and more. It’s a huge amount of work to put on a show, and it’s important to me that the artist only has to worry about creating the work. We take care of the rest, which is how it should be. I also encourage collaborations, and if an artist has a vision for creating something special for the show, I do what I can to make it happen.

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Community is essential.

Without the attendees to our shows and visitors to our gallery, we would not exist. Building the community that we have took time, but without knowing that I had a dedicated audience who would show up for our openings and be supportive of what we do, I would not have felt confident opening a new location. I’m so appreciative of this community, and try to foster and continue to build it through talking to everyone who comes through the door, asking how they heard about us, thanking them for their interest, and building a connection. I am not the type of gallerist who barely acknowledges a visitor, I am right there to answer any questions or give any information they may need. As a natural introvert, it can be difficult to put myself out there in this way and spend hours talking to so many people, but I feel like it’s been a huge contributor to building the community we now have.

eva claycomb - ten o clock

“Ten o’clock” by Eva Claycomb

It doesn’t always have to make sense.

When we had our first ever show, I came up with a name for it – loosely based on a film quote, maybe? Just a saying I liked? It was The Eyes Have It — and I remember telling a few people about it and them telling me it didn’t really make any sense. I went with my gut and it was an amazing first show, that I left to my artists as an ambiguous theme that really paid off in the end. Art is weird. It often doesn’t make sense. Trust your ideas, your taste, and your artists. Magic will blossom from the strange ideas you may have.

Joanne-Leah---Sugar-Smell

“Sugar Smell” by Joanne Leah

Selling art is hard.

This is something that anyone who wants to start an art gallery won’t want to hear, but it’s true. Art – while it feels vital to many of us – at the end of the day, is a non-essential, and a luxury. Convincing someone that they should spend X 100’s of dollars on a piece of art for their walls is a challenge, and requires the right circumstances. There has to be a connection for the buyer, there has to be money involved, and you have to make it as easy and no pressure as possible. Sometimes I haven’t sold a single piece from a show that took months to prepare. Sometimes I’ve sold X 1000 plus dollar pieces. It’s a complete unknown, and very hard to predict. For that reason, I try to make sure I have a lot of different price points represented in the gallery and our shop at all times so that everyone can afford something, even if it is just a small enamel pin. Buying art is a privilege, and some people just aren’t able to. Making it as accessible to as wide of a range of folks as possible is important to me, and helps with sales in the end.

Lee Noble

Lee Noble

Grants help.

While I didn’t start my journey owning an art gallery with getting grants — I’ve realized that if there are some available to you, through your city, state, or country — its important to try to take advantage of those resources. It is a huge amount of work to do grant-writing, but as I said above, it’s hard to sell art. Money is needed to own and operate a gallery, so finding some help, even if it’s not a huge amount, can help immensely.

kevin munoz and graham franciose - unlikelygrowth

“Unlikely Growth” by Kevin Munoz and Graham Franciose 

Develop relationships with buyers.

Remember the people who bought pieces, and remember what they bought. Maybe you’ll have another show and you’ll think “Oh, I bet so-and-so would love this.” Reach out to them personally, say hi, invite them by. They might not buy another piece, but they might.

Tell Me When It Rains - Annalise Gratovich

“Tell Me When It Rains” by Annalise Gratovich

Support other galleries.

Much like buying art, if you don’t go to other gallery’s shows, how can you expect them to come to yours? It all ties back into the community, and it’s important to show up and foster that network with other galleries. I’ve never felt in competition with the other galleries in my city because we all do different things. I try to remember what their openings are so I can tell people about them and create those conduits between us. And often I know that they, in turn, do the same for me.

mike combs - flowerskull

“Flowerskull” by Mike Combs

It doesn’t hurt to ask.

I’ve been so lucky to show some incredible artists in my gallery — from Australia, to New York, to California — some with such big followings that it seemed silly to even ask. But I did, and they said yes. All you can do is ask, be confident, and make it easy. They’ll either ignore you or say no if they aren’t interested (which has definitely happened to me), or they will say yes and you’ll get to show your community an artist they probably never expected to see.

Twin Insight - Lesley Nowlin Blessing

“Twin Insight” by Lesley Nowlin Blessing

Art is important. And so are the curators.

It may seem obvious, but my biggest take away from starting a gallery, is that art IS important, collecting it in a space that is accessible to all kinds of people is important, and even if someone cannot buy a piece, just being able to show them that work, connect them with an artist, foster those connections, and hopefully help financially support artists in the process is important. It’s a ton of work. It’s hard to make money. But it is worth it.

Thank you for reading, and for any budding gallerists out there, if you have any questions feel free to reach out. gallery@recspec.com.
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Some Imagery That Made Me Laugh This Year

Gennady Spirin, from The White Cat.

Gennady Spirin, from The White Cat.

“Take my coat, boys. I see something I’d like to puke on.”

 

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Reverend George Liddell Johnston – The Alphabet Illustrated, 1875

When you’re an infernal demon eternally stoking the fires of the pit, but you also like pretty dresses.

 

Jules Joseph Lefebvre, "Judith” (1892)

Jules Joseph Lefebvre, “Judith” (1892)

“GOD I CAN’T EVEN LOOK AT YOU RIGHT NOW.”

 

Cat Workshop AB Frost

AB Frost

Girl scout working toward cat badge.

 

Papal Ass of Rome; originally a woodcut, probably by Lucas Cranach the Elder

Papal Ass of Rome; originally a woodcut, probably by Lucas Cranach the Elder

When you got dressed in the dark and left the house in a hurry and later realize you’ve got a hoof on one foot and claws on the other. You’ve also got a dude’s face tucked into your butt.

 

The Queen was in the Parlour, Eating Bread and Honey by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

The Queen was in the Parlour, Eating Bread and Honey by Valentine Cameron Prinsep

Me, a Taurus, donning my swishiest velvet robes to steal into my own pantry and eat bread at 3a.m.

 

Friedrich Schroeder-Sonnenstern (German, 1892-1982)

Friedrich Schroeder-Sonnenstern (German, 1892-1982) The Mower, 1953

Some days you’re a swan-footed, phallus-eared screamer running straight for the kaleidoscopic, chomping maw of death and some days you’re the deranged skellington with a propeller sticking out of one of your butts and viewmaster reels for feet, chasing that other guy.

 

Anna Bakhareva

Anna Bakhareva

Cauliflowers but make it fashion.

 

image from The Book of Nature Myths by Florence Holbrook, 1902.

image from The Book of Nature Myths by Florence Holbrook, 1902.

“Florida Things.”

 

Robert Maguire

Robert Maguire

Witnesses would all agree the chair was a no-good piece of shit and had it coming.

 

rudolf sieber lonati

rudolf sieber lonati

tfw you meet up a with a friend you haven’t seen in awhile and life’s not been good to them and they’re looking pretty rough, so you dim the harsh fluorescent lamps and conjure some warm candlelight because you’re a good friend and hoo boy they’re hard to look at

A Tradition Borne Of Annoyance

Anton Babushkin

Photo by Anton Babushkin

Two photos I am going to make a tradition of sharing and re-sharing and sharing again, every year. Because every year, around this time, without fail, they make the rounds everydamnwhere. And no one ever includes the photographers. And you know that makes me angry! See also: traditions borne of extreme annoyance.

Photo no. 1 is from “the dark series” by Anton Babushkin

Photo no. 2 is “Forever Autumn,” a collaboration between photographer Stephen Maycock and model Jen Brook.

Stephen Maycock and Jen Brook

Photo by Stephen Maycock

Ghosts I Have Been (Again?)

81mEFcNf0fLThis “discovery” feels a bit like one of those pieces of information I’d already researched and mentally filed away, and then, at some point in time, scrubbed all memory of the occurrence. Today when I unearthed the artist responsible for one of my favorite childhood book covers, I thrilled to the revelation for maybe three seconds before thinking…but… wait…don’t I already know this? After some thought, I’m pretty sure I had already found this once before and then promptly forgot it. Old news, I guess. But still pretty neat!

For posterity’s sake then, I am noting that the cover art for Richard Peck’s Ghost I Have Been was created by sci-fi and fantasy artist Rowena Morrill. You know, for when I inevitably forget this all over again.

Here’s a fantastic facebook gallery of her works, which no doubt contains a cover or two that you will recognize: there’s cover art for magazines such as Weird Tales, Creepy, And Heavy Metal, along with accompanying cover illustrations for books by beloved genre favorites such as Anne McCaffrey, Ursula K.Le Guin, Madeline L’Engle, Robert McCammon, Piers Anthony, and even a few H.P. Lovecraft collections! And then there’s this one with a cape-wearing baby-faced leather daddy Hitler riding a motorbike. Yikes. They can’t all be winners.

Rowena_Morrill_Ghosts_I_Have_Been

The Meaning Of Meaning: A Sort Of Interview With Digital Collage Artist Robin Isely

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I initially grew to love digital collage artist Robin Isely’s work in 2017 and in my ensuing obsession, I reached out to them for an interview. Unfortunately, In the time that passed, their Tumblr-hosted site was heavily censored, their URL was hacked, and now the entirety of it has vanished. With their permission, I am publishing the piece anyway at Haute Macabre today, so that I may share a bit more about the enigmatic artist and their works. Somewhere along the way, I decided to ditch the traditional Q&A format in lieu of the artist’s thoughts and comments themselves, so that they might be unfiltered through the veil of my own perceptions.

Also upon reflection, my questions might have been a little over-the-top.

Rebecca Reeves’ Fragile, Intricate Art Of Grief And Loss

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Mixed media artist Rebecca Reeves’ work is intricate and enthralling, delicately wrought with thin black thread and fraught with powerful, piercing themes of family and loss. Some pieces work to contain and preserve their contents–poignant heirlooms or other meaningful objects– while others encapsulate their interior in a suffocating struggle of sorrow and grief.

More recently, these pieces instead of items obsessively enveloped, incorporates the idea of mirrors and portals, a connection with another world, and–unlike her cocooned works of familial preservation and protection–embraces the notion that we must not allow the spirits of the deceased to become trapped within.

I own one of Rebecca Reeves works, it sits on a shelf in my office and quietly watches me work every day. A sweet, eerie-eyed porcelain doll head atop an antique milk glass jar, to resemble a flower festooned with softly glimmering petals and leaves, each one painstakingly hand-beaded. It is a rare treasure.

And what treasure, too, the opportunity to delve deeper into these works of grace and grief and better get to know the sensitive soul who created them! See below for an interview with artist Rebecca Reeves.

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Unquiet Things: In repeated viewings of your work I am struck how you have taken a thing as vast and fathomless and amorphous as grief and fashioned it into a tiny, tangible keepsake to treasure. You have bound it snugly in thread, embellished it with glass beads, pinned it in place like a rare specimen and protected it under glass. Here, you seem to say. This is the enormity of your staggering grief made small, manageable, secure. It is fragile and delicate. Your grief is not only a thing you can face, but it is a thing to be cherished and preserved.

Now…this is just what I see when I gaze upon your work, of course; I am bringing the weight of my own grief and experiences with loss to the table. But you didn’t make your work for me. Your pieces are intensely personal works inspired by overwhelming emotions experienced when you attempt to live around your grief. And to an extent, we all grieve alone, and our experiences reflect that. What did I get right, in my initial assessment (if anything)? Where do I lose the thread? How are your personal experiences with grief manifested in your creations?

Rebecca Reeves: Thank you for interpreting my work perfectly and for connecting with it on a personal level. When my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer, we were also caring for my grandmother who had vascular dementia and my grandfather’s debilitating, nerve damage from shingles. We all had our roles and worked as a team. As my dad’s cancer metastasized to his brain, tough decisions had to be made for the safety and care of everyone. Within one year and four months, we lost three of our dearest loved ones. There wasn’t a moment to grieve, as one died, another person needed our full attention. After nearly three years, those life-ending decisions both haunt me and bring comfort. It’s a never-ending personal battle of emotional highs and lows, reassurance and self-doubt. Grief surrounds my every day life. I’m now finding that I struggle to live in the moment and see the bright side of things. My art is my outlet.

Working small is the ultimate way to gain control over something that is uncontrollable. Incorporating fiber-related materials into my work reminds me of my family and all of the good memories. Ever since the beginning of my college education, I have channeled loss and grief into my art. My loved ones are my entire world. They gave everything to me and in return, I give everything to them. So it was only a natural progression to create work about the love I have for them. My work comes straight from my heart and more times than not, my emotions get the best of me while working on pieces.

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Your art incorporates “fiber-related processes” and your “obsessive qualities”; can you expand upon those ideas and how they are embodied in your work? And perhaps how they may have evolved over time, as your grief may ebb or flow, as your different inspirations shift or unfold?

For as long as I can remember, I have been an obsessive person. When I was little, I found comfort in pouring my wooden puzzles together and completing them all at once. I had a Tupperware container with compartments that I would organize and reorganize beads according to size, color, or favorites. When I was 8 or 9 years old, I hung shelves up in my closet in order to organize my toys/games. They didn’t last long since I had no knowledge about drywall anchors. But, it was when I was 10 years old that my life forever changed. My paternal grandfather passed away. It was a life-changing experience because I wished him away. My fascination with death and the need to control the uncontrollable has altered my life and given me comfort.

My grandfather was one of many painters in my family and I once considered this as my medium, but it was the women in my life that influenced my fiber-related processes. From crocheting, knitting, darning, beadwork, and sewing – it was inevitable that fiber took its hold on me.

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One of my favorite pieces is Gathering My Ghosts, which was, I believe, created with the idea of connecting to your ancestors on the other side–” mini portals for time traveling.” Can you share how this idea came about and how it all came together?

I can’t remember exactly when the piece began and how far along cancer had its grips on my dad. When I was creating the piece, loss was already setting in and I was thinking about how I could communicate with my ancestors – the ones I love and the ones I’ve never met. I was thinking about the occult during this time. Not practicing, but mulling over the idea of the black mirror; thinking about how my family would cover the mirrors in black cloth during funerary visitations as a superstition. The use of black-colored threads in my obsessive wrapping process is directly attributed to those darkened mirrors.

I do remember finishing the piece and gathering up the details for a large show that I was curating titled, “More Beyond”. My dad was on steroids and looking great on the outside. My parents attended the show and we had the best time. They were so proud. The piece stood in a glorious spot as you walked through the gallery entrance. The piece was also exhibited in a chance-of-a-lifetime show alongside 150 Victorian hairwork pieces at the Kemerer Museum a few months later. “Gathering My Ghosts” now resides in a loving home with a dear friend who also suffered the loss of a parent.

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In a previous interview, about both you and your husband’s interest in collection Post Mortem photography, you stated, “We respect the artistic expression of death”; I am curious as to what other mediums or forms of artistic expression extends with regard to your collection (or perhaps things you might be interested in collecting.)

Over the 30 years together, we have the typical collections: Victorian mourning jewelry and hairworks, religious items, funerary pieces, post mortem photography, and human bones. Within my personal collection, I have antique silver and beaded purses, porcelain doll legs and fire king ware. We have always been avid antique collectors, doing the circuit of shops and markets. I’ve learned all I know about antiques from generations of my family. Our home is filled with our loved ones’ items. I refer to it as a living museum of my family’s heirlooms. There’s something about touching an object that was once loved by a family member. I like to believe there’s an energy that continues on within.

I’ve inherited an extensive collection of antique glass bottles, tins, books dating back to my great-grandparents, vintage postcards and honeycomb Valentine’s Day cards as well as my great-grandfather’s Independent Order of Odd Fellows memorabilia, just to name a few. We’ve come to the point in our collecting where something really has to strike hard for us to buy more. We question, “How will this piece inspire our art and music?” rather than just expanding a collection.

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In 2018, your Garden of Grief collection was exhibited and sold through the Creeping Museum (whom I love dearly, I think they do such good work!) How was your experience with that? Can you share anything about that particular collection and how that collaboration was born?

The moment I met Alyssa, she found a special place in my heart. When I was introduced to her tiny museum, I knew right then that I had to be a part of what she created. The night of the opening was so memorable and she made me feel special. The series came from a memory of my great-grandmother’s art. When I was little, I remember a beaded bouquet of flowers that she made on her kitchen windowsill. She was an incredibly talented potter, painter, bead artisan and everything in between. From this memory, I began researching and creating beaded flowers with a lot of trial and error. The title to the series came naturally from my heart. As difficult as it was to part with them, I wanted to incorporate some of my dad’s milk glass collection into the series. They then became the foundation for the sculptures.

To give your poor hands a break from all the obsessive stitching, intricate beading and tiny wire wrapping that you do for your art, what sort of things do you get up to in your spare time when you are not creating?

Well, you would think I would try and relax my hands and elbows, but no. There just isn’t enough time to get it all done. My brain never stops and our house to-do list posted on the refrigerator just gets longer and longer. I have the most patient husband and he goes with the flow on all of my crazy ideas. He has banned me, though, from renting any more heavy equipment due to my obsession with moving boulders.

One of my favorite things equivalent to creating art is home design/décor and organizing. I love to rearrange the furniture placement and I specifically designed our home with limited interior walls just for this reason. I adore structure magazines and thank my grandmother for this appreciation. She and I shared subscriptions for decades, earmarking our favorite pages and then discussing how we would incorporate them into our homes. My heart grows heavy when I look at them today without her. My family is everything and taking care of them is first priority. Enjoying a night out to dinner with my love at our favorite haunt or just sitting next to each other in our chairs, watching comedies over and over brings me joy. Spending time with my mom, either working on going through our loved ones’ possessions, having lunch at our favorite teahouse or just simply talking about the daily happenings. Time spent together no matter what we do is precious.

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Are there any gallery shows or exhibits where we may see your work right now, or perhaps further into 2019?

Currently, I am working on a few new pieces that will be exhibiting in two different shows at Gristle Gallery in Brooklyn this year. At the same time, I’m in the beginning stages of a new piece for an upcoming show at Arch Enemy Arts Gallery in August. I’m thrilled to announce that “Slipping Below,” the two-woman exhibition with Danielle Schlunegger-Warner, is now traveling to the West Coast to Ghost Gallery in September. Also, I’ll be vending at a few different venues this year including the upcoming Oddities Market in Chicago, where I received my graduate degree. I’m excited to see the city again.

Can you share any projects that are percolating, or ideas that are coalescing for the upcoming year?

I’m working on the gathering stages for a ghosted sea captain series. It is a continuation of the work that is dedicated to my dad and his service in the Navy. There isn’t a planned venue as of yet, but I have been mind-sketching this series since the close of the “Slipping Below” exhibition at the end of last year. New wearable pieces and tiny originals, incorporating beaded flowers and porcelain hands are brewing for a couple of the upcoming markets this year. When grief and anxieties get the best of me, I find that my greatest distraction is collecting materials and working out ideas in my mind. It helps me justify that I’m still being productive during emotionally hard times.

Find Rebecca Reeves: website // instagram // shop

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