Witches: September Gallery

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September Gallery via their Facebook page

Sometimes living in hipsterville has its benefits: September Gallery is definitely one of them. They only opened last year but they’ve already won a fan in me with this show. Witches brings together a variety of powerful works by women. Marjorie Cameron‘s name drew me in, but there were other pleasures to enjoy. It was wonderful to see her drawings up close and marvel at her fine lines and free compositions. Stunning and powerful.

Her work was surrounded by contemporary artists animated by the same questing spirit. Laurel Sparks describes her work a kind of sigil magic, overlaying a dizzying array of colours, textures and materials in her Magic Square series. They sparked some ideas in me. Rosy Keyser’s work likewise mixes materials and colour but in a more abstract way. I loved her Terrestial Mime which hangs materials on a wooden grid with wild layers of paint. It feels like the work behind a painting made visible, a sort of swirl of anarchic energy summoned.

Marianne Vitale’s Very Fine Gander has a whimsical charm, like toys made giant — but charred, too. So there’s also a feeling of something horrible gone wrong. There’s a great description of it in the exhibit essay by Susan Aberth (who wrote that fabulous book on Leonora Carrington — but argh! ‘The Burning Times’ and the Middle Ages are not synonymous. The height of the witch hunts was the 16th-17th centuries: the Early MODERN era).

I was absolutely bowled over by Anna Betbeze’s untitled sculpture of burnt objects on a rug. It felt like an artefact from the past, like a fire that consumed the witch who summoned it or what was left of the village after a curse. Like her piece Howl the literalisation of burning anger feels great.

“Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. But anger is like fire. It burns it all clean.” ― Maya Angelou 

Best of all, the show culminated in a performance night last Saturday. I arrived to find the place in darkness as it had already begun (so much for being fashionably late). Melinda Kiefer led the audience in an opening ritual “to create [a] sacred yet wacky” atmosphere. Then the fabulous Pam Grossman (who probably alerted me to this show via her blog Phantasmaphile) gave a short version of her talk on the image of the witch in art. She was the organising genius behind the Occult Humanities Conference and exhibit last year that’s still resonating loudly in my head. I was glad we had a chance to chat afterward.

Shanekia McIntosh gave a wonderful performance with amazing code switching in a story about her family and the power of premonitions. There was an interesting Sonic Sigil piece, an invocation and prayer to Hecate by Sarah Falkner, Rebecca Wolff and Jonathan Osofsky (I liked the use of flags). The band Dust Bowl Faeries performed and wow! I was sharing pictures from their show with the Folk Horror Revival group because I knew people would dig it:

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They’re playing Helsinki Hudson on the 7th of May. Be there!

Laurel Sparks wrapped up the evening with a performance that had us back in the dark while she paced a circle around us, reading from huge slabs and then painting herself in dayglo colours with a kind of ritual precision that managed to be both humorous and compelling without ever giving in to the over-seriousness that performance pieces can fall prey to. All in all a fantastic evening.

Frances Walker @ the McManus

Always a delight to visit the McManus Galleries in Dundee. I visit my favourites like Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream and usually the Sidhe Riders though that seems to be wandering again. I’m always interested, too, in seeing what’s new. There’s a terrific drawing exhibit on with a wide variety of images and styles called Draw the Line: Old Masters to the Beano. There’s also a showcase of new acquisitions which included someone who just bowled me over completely: Frances Walker.

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This is just a glimpse and probably cannot convey how utterly stunning these landscapes of Antarctica are or how agog the prints she made as cards will render you but trust me. If you are in the area, you need to see these. Absolutely breathtaking! I swear they made the room colder by putting you into the glacial waters. Her diary in the case made me want to break the glass and flip through it to see everything through her eyes. The exhibit catalogue (which I guess is actually from the original showing in Aberdeen) also has her paintings of the islands in the west, especially Skye but also Orkney so I must have it — and was heartbroken they didn’t have it in the shop (though apparently they’re trying to get it).

Absolutely amazing that she gave the paintings to the McManus:

Frances Walker is acknowledged as one of Scotland’s finest artists. Inspired by wild and remote places, she captures the edges of civilisation – scenes of rugged coastlines and craggy beaches. She had long wanted to visit the Antarctic and realised her ambition after being presented with the James McBey Travel Award in 2007. The result is a series of paintings in which she evokes the dramatic icescapes of Antarctica. It is the most significant gift by an artist to Dundee’s nationally significant fine art collection for over 25 years.

Here are a couple videos. I cannot tell you how much I love her work. I need more!

 

What Does ‘Home’ Sound Like?

Although I spent most of my ‘spring break’ catching up on work, I did do a couple of fun things. You already know about the fab trip to the city with Stephanie, but I also attended a field recording workshop sponsored by local community radio WGXC and run by Max Goldfarb. Check out his projects: he’s done some cool stuff. And if you haven’t visited the Wave Farm yet — especially Zach Poff’s Pond Station, do!

And I am so glad I did! It really kicked up my interests from idle meandering thoughts to something concrete — well, virtual but done. At least one take is done (tinkering can go on forever).

How to describe this? You know the Odorifics scene from Harold & Maude? Scents that put you in a place and time. I wanted to do that aurally to give a sound experience of what it’s like here at the Hudson house so I made this soundscape to give anyone that experience. If you’ve sat on the porch here, it may seem familiar. Put on your headphones, close your eyes and let it surround you.

Of course I’ll make one for Dundee as well. Screaming gulls and blackbirds mostly. That way you can put yourself there, too. And maybe a third one on the road because that’s where I spend a lot of my time, too.

Oh, and Happy St Urho’s Day — another fabulous SL Johnson image. Buy her art on all the things.

St Urho Hopper

Occult Art & the Language of Birds

Yes, I am going to write up the Occult Humanities conference when I get a moment, but apparently today is not that day. So here are some of the paintings in the Language of Birds exhibit at NYU’s 80WSE gallery that really knocked me out. There was so much more!

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Leonora Carrington’s El Nigromante [The Necromancer]

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Leonor Fini’s Le Carrefour d’hecate

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Alison Blickle’s New Keys

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Juanita Guccione’s Three Women and Three Owls

See a bunch of the artworks here.

Daniella Dooling at Esther Massry Gallery

DANIELLA DOOLING

BLOODY DICK ROAD IN THE BIG HOLE VALLEY: FILES FROM THE GIRL IN ROOM 10

Esther Massry Gallery – October 10 – December 7

Daniella Dooling’s mixed media installation is a transgression of borders: sculpture/archive/ adolescence/adulthood/sobriety/hallucinogenic drugs/gender/sexuality. Societal inscriptions of normalcy are reconstructed and reclaimed through a process of sifting through memorabilia, family history, natural phenomena, and cultural artifacts. The artist serves on the faculty at Bard College and lives in the Hudson Valley. Visit: http://www.danielladooling.com.

The provocative title turns out to have a funny source: according to the tales Dooling’s grandfather would tell a remittance man lived on the road where the Diamond Bar Inn was built in Jackson, Montana. His name was Dick and he swore at everything “bloody” this, “bloody” that, so of course the nickname. One spring he didn’t come down from the mountain. Eventually a bunch of ranchers went up to see what had become of him. A bear had feasted upon him. So they buried him and lacking any knowledge of his name, Bloody Dick he was interred.

The pieces in this collection vary greatly, but most of them operate as amber catching moments of the past. I was fortunate to hear the artist talk where she explained a number of things from her background — why David Bowie (though I’m not sure that needed any explanation), the history of the ranch and her family’s moves from Montana to California to D.C. with side trips to South America and some excerpts of her at times harrowing experiences including her institutionalization for anorexia and acid flashbacks.

Her treatment also included a stay at her grandparent’s natural health center. Her grandmother was D. M. Dooling, the co-founder of Parabola Magazine. Family played a large role in her life (no surprise) and Dooling reveals a great deal of very frank and troubled times in her life — a survivor much against the odds in many ways.

It may sound very personal and singular, but as Dooling remarked in her talk, the effect is opening up the commonality of those traumas. The students she’d spent the week with all wanted to share their own lives and experiences. I had a vision of all my old diaries similarly captured in a vitrine: what pages would I choose to open up to public scrutiny? How do you choose? Take a wander around this fascinating collection and see what it sparks in you.

And come away with an appreciation of Abe and the Genie lift.

Fun with the British Library

The widespread practice of bird hazing gets too little attention.

The widespread practice of bird hazing gets too little attention.

The British Library has released an enormous cache of copyright-free images from their collection. First thought of course was how cool is that?! Naturally, my second thought was how can I turn this into something silly?

A few were already silly, but I have idled away some time amending others to amuse myself. I finally realised my word brain needed a rest so this proved ideal. Some examples thereof:

sexiest man vestigial twin flying fish

intense loner

Lars Halversson, 36, SWM, walrus blubber sifter by trade.

Egypt Snow

You may have seen all the photos of the pyramids under snow this week; over a hundred years since it has snowed in Egypt.

It was a pity, because Hermione had done so well in dentistry school and earned the praise of all her instructors.

It was a pity, because Hermione had done so well in dentistry school and earned the praise of all her instructors.

defrosting Wall Elephants

Oh, and I’m featured over at the Fox Spirit website today 🙂 in all my guises.

Noir Carnival: Cover Artist, SL Johnson

noir-carnival-web-finalHow I Created This Book Cover, or Adventures Inside an Artist’s Mind

SL Johnson

I was delighted to be asked to create another book cover for Fox Spirit books – not only is Adele a doll to work with (she gives me freedom!) but my ace pal Kate is editing it and some very fabulous authors are part of the anthology.

It is generally known that I don’t like to talk about my “creative process.” To me, the “process” part is the boring technical stuff, of not much interest to anyone. Do you really want to know how much time I spend going through fonts? No. [Ed: Yes!]  The “creative” part is the magick – that is the ‘back of the head’ creative well that gives me the flashes of inspiration I need to start a project and also is hard to explain.

When I first read the words “Noir Carnival”, instantly an image for some creepy dead clown head thing popped into my mind, as it would for anyone. At first I rejected it, as it was similar to the “Weird Noir” cover I had just finished, but then I do like to create variations on a theme – it stretches the mind a bit more. Plus, the opportunity to create something ghastly and disturbing but with my own weird humor snuck in is irresistible, so I pursued the idea.

I had another idea that was far more complicated, not as striking, and more difficult to see as a thumbnail online.  Oh, see, here’s where “process” creeps in….the image ought to to be eye-catching, speak to the work, hopefully make everyone happy (including me!) and look super cool as a thumbnail or printed on a cover. Or on a wine mug. [Ed: It looks awesome on all kinds of products!]

So, as I was drawing the skull, the image shifted a bit in my head- it was originally going to be more circus-y, perhaps something that looked really benign until you got a second look. Nope, not a great idea. Blood spatter as clown hair? Oh, yeah. Bullet hole in head? Keeping it! Garish clown make-up? Well, let me tell you, THAT was freaky enough to give me the creeps. Off the red mouth makeup went. Off went the black band around the eyes. Off went the cheek paint. Keep the top hat and bow tie? Oh, indeed. And let’s take out some of the teeth, shall we?

By this point, I had four decent-looking possibilities, but after asking some folks, artists and non-artists, to look at it, I narrowed it down to two, then let it sit for a couple of days and made my final decision. Sent it off and was rewarded with the comments that the publisher was finding the image to be really freaky. Success!

I’m so sorry – you look sleepy – can I get you some coffee….?

Fin.

[Ed: Despite the artist’s self-deprecations, I find this fascinating and do check out the faboo images you can get on all manner of merch — I’m especially fond of my book covers, but also the PUNK ROCK JUKEBOX!]

Weird Noir