Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Kym Hepworth, angel

excerpt from the short story Another Halloween by Alison Lurie (1926-):

"Anyhow, it got to be another Halloween . . . It was an unpleasant night: cold and wet, with rain leaking down through the bare trees, and drifts of greenish-grey fog rising from the pavement . . .

When we were halfway around the block and on our way home I happened to look down the street and saw a bunch of kids crossing the road, maybe thirty feet away. The smallest one, trailing behind the rest, was wearing a bunny sleeper.

That was when I made my first bad mistake. I said to Marguerite, "Hey, look, there's a kid in a rabbit costume, like the one you saw last year."

She went all white and funny. "Where?" she squeaked, and stared round like someone who hears an explosion and doesn't know what direction it came from.

I pointed down the street. The little kid had stopped at the far corner and was looking back at us. She gave a kind of wave, or maybe she was just trying to get a better grip on the pillowcase she was dragging, and then she went on, running to catch up to the others.

"I've got to see -- Would you mind? I'll be right back," Marguerite said.

"Sure, that's okay," I agreed. I figured Marguerite would find out who the kid was, and get over being knocked sideways every time she saw a rabbit.''

Marguerite didn't even say thanks. She was already hurrying down the wet sidewalk: running a few steps in the high heels she always wore, then walking a few, then running again.

"Wait for me!" she called. But the rabbit was only a white blob now down at the end of the next block, and it didn't stop; maybe it hadn't even heard.

For a moment I just stood there, even though Joel and Jamie were already pulling at me, wanting to go on to the next house. I could see Marguerite's pale raincoat and paler hair shine and dim as she moved through the cones of misty brightness under the street lamps, getting smaller and farther away. Unloading your job on me again, was what I thought. Then she turned a corner, and that was the last I saw of her.

We finished the block, and Marguerite still wasn't back. I took Jamie home and told Glen his wife had gone to speak to some child she thought she knew, and he said, "Oh, okay."

But later at our house, when Joel was dumping his candy onto the kitchen table, I had the idea that maybe I should go out again and look for Marguerite. I even started to put on my raincoat.

If it had been one of my real friends I would've gone without thinking. But instead I paused and said to myself, What's the point? Whether or not she's caught up with the kid in the bunny costume, she has to be back soon. And if you do find her she'll give you that polite look that is her specialty. What are you doing here, why are you sticking your nose into my business? that look will say, the way it so often has.

I don't think that way anymore. Now I believe women have to take responsibility for other women, even ones they don't much like. And I think that if I'd gone after Marguerite maybe I would have been in time. . . ."

(source for quote: Mistresses of the Dark: 25 Macabre Tales by Master Storytellers selected by Stefan Dziemianowicz, Denise Little, and Robert Weinberg, published by Barnes & Noble Books, New York © 1998)

The Dream Syndicate - Halloween

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

countdown to Halloween: Fernand Khnopff

"The element of perversity in Khnopff's work is very marked - and has one strange characteristic of its own, in that the feminine types he used in his compositions all seem to be based upon his sister, whose beauty obsessed him. Dumont-Wilden gives an eloquent description of the kind of emotion Khnopff tries to convey, speaking of 'these feminine physiognomies, at the same time energetic and languid, where the desire for what is impossible and the anguished thirst of unslakeable passions assert themselves; singular and heroic souls, whose chosen heroine must always be Elizabeth of Austria."

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), I Lock the Door upon Myself, 1891, Oil on canvas, 72 x 140 cm. Bavarian Museum, Munich.

Who Shall Deliver Me?

God strengthen me to bear myself,
That heaviest weight of all to bear,
Inalienable weight of care.

All others are outside myself;
I lock my door and bar them out,
The turmoil, tedium, gad-about.

I lock my door upon myself,
And bar them out; but who shall wall
Self from myself, most loathed of all?

If I could once lay down myself,
And start self-purged upon the race
That all must run! Death runs apace.

If I could set aside myself,
And start with lightened heart upon
The road by all men overgone!

God harden me against myself,
This coward with pathetic voice
Who craves for ease, and rest, and joys:

Myself, arch-traitor to myself;
My hollowest friend, my deadliest foe,
My clog whatever road I go.

Yet One there is can curb myself,
Can roll the strangling load from me,
Break off the yoke and set me free.
- Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

(Source for Khnopff quote: Symbolist Art by Edward Lucie-Smith, published by Thames and Hudson, Inc., New York, NY © 1985; Source for poem: The Works of Christina Rossetti, with an Introduction by Martin Corner and Bibliography, published by Wordsworth Editions Ltd., Hertfordshire, England © 1995)

Pete Townshend - Let My Love Open The Door

Thursday, October 21, 2010

countdown to Halloween: shadows

Christian Boltanski (b. 1944), Ombres (Shadows), 1984, Installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, Nagoya, Japan, 1990.

"Boltanski first showed Ombres in 1984 at the Galerie 't Venster in Rotterdam. There he suspended the figures from a makeshift metal frame whose supporting legs ended in mounds of clay. Three slide projectors, camouflaged with pieces of crumpled aluminum foil, were trained on the figures, thus catapulting their shadows onto the surrounding walls. Revealing the work's jerry-rigged nature, the electrical cords from the projectors created a disordered web on the floor. A small fan in one corner of the gallery gently set the marionette-like cast of characters into motion. Kept at a distance, spectators viewed the shadows from the doorway of the gallery and, in later variations, through small windows in specifically constructed rooms.

The room-sized installation transformed the Galerie 't Venster into a magical theater. The scale and definition of the quivering shadows varied, depending on how far their source figures were from the projectors. The closest to the light cast darker, sharper forms; those farther away, fainter, blurrier shapes. At first, unsuspecting viewers were enchanted with the spectacle of moving images that covered the walls, unconcerned with the jumble of equipment on the floor. Gradually, however, the shadows' more sinister qualities came into focus. The figures themselves, literally suspended in air, underwent an iconographic metamorphosis as viewers realized that what they were looking at was an army of hanged men, interleaved with menacing skeletons and supernatural beings. Among the group and constructed out of wire, the hunched figure of the grim reaper, scythe in hand, reinforced the bleaker aspects of this macabre dance of death."
(source for image and quote: Christian Boltanski by Lynn Gumpert, published by Flammarion, Paris, France © 1994)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

countdown to Halloween: vengeance

Pierre-Louis Pierson (1822 - 1913), Vengeance, 1863-67, Albumen silver print partially painted in gouache, 24.4 x 19.2 cm. Martini di Cigala Collection, San Giusto a Rentennano, Siena. (The Countess Castiglione (1837-1899) sent this photograph of herself to her husband after a marital argument. She entitled it Vengeance.)

The following except is from the book Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French & English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes. It describes the case of Claire Reymond, the 25 year old wife of a Parisian businessman. Reymond was tried in July 1892 for premeditated murder. The jury acquitted her.

"But, according to Claire [Reymond], her suspicions were rekindled a few months later when, disappointed over Paul's [Reymond] canceling a luncheon date at the fashionable Ledoyen's, she gave in to curiosity over a mysterious valise her husband kept in their bedroom and summoned a locksmith to open it. In it she discovered sixty-odd letters from Yvonne [Lassimone] to her husband, many written since the promised break, which made it clear that parting was hardly uppermost in their minds. She also found, in addition to a corset and a veil (whose presence was suggestive if nothing else), the receipt for a recently let apartment. She took the letters upstairs to her father's apartment with instructions to her parents to read them and guard them well.

Claire described what happened next as "instinctive." She armed herself with her husband's revolver and a knife and ordered a cab to take her to the address on the receipt. The concierge directed her to a third-floor apartment; when her husband came to the door but refused to admit her, Claire slipped a note through the door stating that Yvonne's husband had discovered them and was on his way. She assured Paul that she had only come to warn them and he opened the door to her. Then, as she had anticipated, her husband dashed downstairs to instruct the concierge not to let anyone up, which left her free to make her way into the bedroom of the apartment. There she found Yvonne seated on the edge of the bed, beginning to put on her stockings. Claire described the scene to the judge:

Finding them together there . . . I was strangled with emotion . . . I did not really expect to see her in the bed . . . she was almost naked . . . I reproached her: "How could you be so shameless. It was I who was so good to you, who forgave you."

Yvonne reportedly dismissed Claire's charges with sarcasm: "Your husband, and is he really yours?" At that, Claire testified, "I lost my head, I fired."
(Source for photograph: "La Divine Comtesse": Photographs of the Countess de Castiglione by Pierre Apraxine and Xavier Demange, published by Yale University Press in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY © 2000 ; Source for quote: Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French & English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes by Mary S. Hartman, published by Robson Books, London, England © 1985)

PiL - (This Is Not A) Love Song

Friday, October 15, 2010

countdown to Halloween: prob'ly he was a witch

Hans Baldung Grien (c. 1484–1545), Witches' Sabbath, 1510. Chiaroscuro woodcut, 14 7/8 x 10 1/4 in.

Below is an excerpt from The Witch, a short story by Shirley Jackson (1916 - 1965). In the story, Johnny, a four year old boy, is traveling on a train with his mother and baby sister. An elderly man wearing a blue suit* enters the coach, sits down next to Johnny and begins a conversation with the little boy:

""Listen," the man said, "shall I tell you about my little sister?'

The mother, who had looked up anxiously when the man sat down next to her little boy, went peacefully back to her book.

"Tell me about your sister," the little boy said. "Was she a witch?"

"Maybe," the man said.

The little boy laughed excitedly, and the man leaned back and puffed at his cigar. "Once upon a time," he began, "I had a little sister, just like yours." The little boy looked up at the man, nodding at every word. "My little sister," the man went on, "was so pretty and so nice that I loved her more than anything else in the world. So shall I tell you what I did?"

The little boy nodded more vehemently, and the mother lifted her eyes from her book and smiled, listening.

"I bought her a rocking-horse and a doll and a million lollipops," the man said, "and then I took her and I put my hands around her neck and I pinched her and I pinched her until she was dead."

Kym Hepworth, detail, The Ballad of James Harris, 2009, mixed media, 8 1/2 x 10 5/8 x 6 ½ in.

The little boy gasped and the mother turned around, her smile fading. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again as the man went on, "And then I took and I cut her head off and I took her head--"

"Did you cut her all in pieces?" the little boy asked breathlessly.

"I cut off her head and her hands and her feet and her hair and her nose," the man said, "and I hit her with a stick and I killed her."

"Wait a minute," the mother said, but the baby fell over sideways just at that minute and by the time the mother had set her up again the man was going on.

"And I took her head and I pulled out all her hair and--"

"Your little sister?" the little boy prompted eagerly.

"My little sister," the man said firmly. "And I put her head in a cage with a bear and the bear ate it all up."

"Ate her head all up?" the little boy asked.

The mother put her book down and came across the aisle. She stood next to the man and said, "Just what do you think you're doing?" The man looked up courteously and she said, "Get out of here."

"Did I frighten you?" the man said. He looked down at the little boy and nudged him with an elbow and he and the little boy laughed."
(*James Harris, the Daemon Lover - for more click here)

Hans Baldung Grien (c. 1484–1545), The Bewitched Groom, 1544, Woodcut, 13 1/2 x 7 7/8 in.

(source for Shirley Jackson quote: The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson, The Noonday Press, New York ©1991. Source for Hans Baldung Grien images: Northern Renaissance Art: Painting, Sculpture, The Graphic Arts from 1350 to 1575 by James Snyder, published by Prentice Hall, Inc., Upper Saddle River, NJ, and Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, NY © 1985 )

Frank Sinatra - Witchcraft

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

countdown to Halloween: Albert Pinkham Ryder

Marsden Hartley's (1877-1943) description of Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917):

"Ryder was so majestic in his grey wools, sweater, skull-cap to match, with a button of wool at the top, and this is the Ryder that we should have had completely recorded. This cap came down to his shaggy eyebrows which were like lichens overhanging rocks of granite, the eyes that they now tell me were brown I thought of course to be blue -- thought them blue probably because blue eyes seem always to be looking over desperate horizons. . . .

Brown eyes then that seemed blue, skating on the far thin ice of labradorean visions.

Visionaries are nearly always summoned to the centers of revelation, and Ryder, being among the first citizens of the moon, became at once prince and serf of this exacting kingdom."

Albert Pinkham Ryder, Moonlit Cove (Moonlight on Beach), early to mid-1880s, Oil on canvas, 14 1/8 x 17 1/8 in., The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Albert Pinkham Ryder, Moonlight, 1887, mahogany panel, cradled, 15 7/8 x 17 3/4 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Albert Pinkham Ryder, Moonlight Marine, 1870-1890, oil and possibly wax on wood panel, 11 1/2 x 12 in., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

(Source for quote and images: Albert Pinkham Ryder by Elizabeth Broun, published by Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., © 1989)

The Waterboys - The Whole of the Moon

Kym Hepworth, moon (gravestone)

Monday, October 11, 2010

countdown to Halloween: bats!

Germaine Richier, The Batman, 1956

(source for image above: Women, Art, and Society by Whitney Chadwick, published by Thames and Hudson, London, England © 1996)

excerpt from V is for Vampire: the A to Z Guide to Everything Undead on bats:
"The premier emblem and avatar of vampirism, the bat has a rich place in world folklore. It is, of course, the image of the blood-drinking vampire bat that forges the strongest link between the winged mammal and imaginary vampires, but the bat has many other associations with darkness, death, and the supernatural that reinforce its mythic reputation...

Kym Hepworth / Rorschach Inkblot Test /mixed media / 2008

Bat-winged demons are a common fixture of religious and occult iconography; such creatures were, of course, travesties of angels. The motif of wings grafted onto the human form is an ambiguous image, one that (in the case of feather-winged angels) can represent man's highest aspirations, or (in the case of the leathery bat-demon) divine presumption. The idea of flight has always captured the human imagination in a double-edged manner. Freud tells us that flying dreams are sex dreams; dreamlike images of flying monsters, therefore, contain a distinct air of dangerous or forbidden sexuality -- a powerful component of the vampire mystique. The bat is nocturnal, and night is associated with unknown forbidden realms, not to mention death. In one Australian aboriginal variation on the Adam and Eve myth, a woman is warned to stay away from a bat instead of an apple; when curiosity gets the better of her, she approaches the bat and frightens it away -- only to learn that it was guarding the cave in which death was hidden."
(source for quote: V is for Vampire: the A to Z Guide to Everything Undead by David J. Skal, published by the Penguin Group, New York, NY © 1996)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Happy Friday!

Francisco Goya (1746-1828), The sleep of reason produces monsters (Los Caprichos)

Imagination abandoned by reason produces impossible monsters: united with her, she is the mother of the arts and the source of their wonders

Kym Hepworth, sleeping beauty

The Pretenders - I Go To Sleep

Kym Hepworth, sleep

sweet dreams

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

countdown to Halloween: Edgar Allan Poe and Ed Ruscha

Ed Ruscha (b. 1937-), Five Past Eleven, acrylic and oil on canvas, 59 x 145 1/2 in., 1989

excerpt from Edgar Allan Poe's short story, The Masque of the Red Death:

"It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chime of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused revery or meditation.

Ed Ruscha, The Beginnings, acrylic on canvas, 24 x 20 in., 1987

But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies), there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before."
(source for quote: Selected Stories and Poems: Edgar Allan Poe, published by Airmont Books, New York, NY ©1962)

Ed Ruscha, The End, acrylic on canvas, 70 x 112 in., 1991

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

countdown to Halloween: 'til death do us part

Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), broadside reproduced in Ilustrador showing a well-dressed couple

Dueling Tombstones
"They said that it was true, I don't know; said this man's wife and he never really got along, ya know. She was very self-righteous and he was just a, ya know, plain ol' sinner. And she tried to inspire him down through the years, ya know, to change. And so she thought best thing she could do was to speak to him even beyond death. And she knew she was gettin' sick and she wasn't goin' to live long; so she had her own tombstone made and put her own epitaph on it, ya know, for him.

And so whenever they put her tombstone up, he went over to read it. And it said this:

"Husband, think of me as you pass by;
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, someday you'll be.

Prepare for death and follow me."

So the husband he looked at that, ya know, and he studied it. And so he fixed his tombstone and answered, ya know, what she had to say. And when he passed away they put up the tombstone, and it read like this:

"Wife, unto your wish I'll not consent,
'Cause I just don't know which way you went.""
(Recorded in spring 1978 by Bill Powers from Zenus Windsor, forty-three, of Cragford, Alabama. Source for quote: Storytellers: Folktales & Legends from the South edited by John A. Burrison, published by The University of Georgia Press, Athens, GA © 1989)

Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913), broadside reproduced in Ilustrador. The male skeleton, dressed in the traditional costume of a charro (horseman), is acting jealous.

The Smiths - Girlfriend in a Coma

Monday, October 4, 2010

countdown to Halloween: a ghost is born

A Ghost In Black

An Iowa City Terribly Excited by a Ghost Changing Her Raiment.
"Albia, Ia., Aug. 18. --It has now been over a month since Albia's "ghost in black" began to frighten the good people of this city. As time wears on the mystery grows deeper. Instead of being clad in the usual robes of white, the figure, which is that of a female, goes arrayed in flowing garments of black. Night after night her ghostly form goes prowling about the streets between 11 and 3. All attempts to clear up the mystery or prove her identity are fruitless, scores of men and boys being constantly on the alert for her capture, but she always eludes them, even gunshots going wide of their mark. Children returning home late in the evening have been chased and nearly frightened to death, while ladies, for whom the ghost seems to have an especial aversion, dare not leave their homes after dark lest they be chased. Various descriptions of the form are given, some saying the figure is that of a small woman, while others, who probably have been scared worse, declare she is six feet high. The town is in a regular furore and all sorts of stories are afloat."
(source for newspaper article and illustration: Saturday Telegram, Manchester, N.H., August 20, 1892, Vol. IV, No. 34)

Wilco - Theologians

Friday, October 1, 2010

countdown to Halloween (Mario Giacomelli)

I got an early start on this with yesterday's post, but today - October 1st - it's official: Let the countdown to Halloween begin! Below are two works by the Italian photographer, Mario Giacomelli (1925-2000). Many of his starkly poetic black and white photographs evoke feelings of mystery, loneliness, alienation and decay.

photograph by Mario Giacomelli from the series The Theatre of Snow / Il teatro della neve (The series was created in 1984 and 1986 from photographs taken in Senigallia, Italy between 1954 and 1986.)

"The series contains a photograph of pieces of cloth spread out on a bramble hedge, taken in the 1950s. As if on a specifically created stage-set, the photographer suggests transparencies and the play of an unearthly light; a human presence is barely hinted at by the folds in the cloths which make them look like ghosts."

(quote from Mario Giacomelli by Alistair Crawford, published by Phaidon Press Inc., New York, NY © 2001)

detail of photograph (above) by Mario Giacomelli

Giacomelli's photograph not only gives form to ghostly figures, but I think it entwines imagery of late Autumn (and its associations of harvest, melancholy and decline) with the Danse Macabre:

The Nun and the Witch, Grant danse macabre des femmes (Paris: Guy Marchant, 1491), Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale

(source: The Danse Macabre of Women: ms. fr. 995 of the Bibliothèque nationale
, edited by Ann Turkey Harrison; with a chapter by Sandra L. Hindman, published by The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, © 1994)

photograph by Mario Giacomelli (an early work taken in Senigallia, Italy in 1969)