member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life

This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo

(Slideshow is of Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Monday, August 10, 2009

Craniopagus Parasiticus and Other, More Balanced Forms of Multi-layered Existences.

"Edward Mordake and his Parasitic Twin," a two-sided doll made from oil paint on vintage fabric and paper clay, by JennyBird Alcantara.

[PLEASE NOTE: I'm sort of off-line for a bit, here. Hopefully, I'll be back soon...]

According to J. Tithonus Pednaud, of The Human Marvels,
"The true tale of Edward Mordake (Mordrake) has been lost to
history. His unusual case occurred early in medical history and is referenced only in tales handed down. Indeed, the tale of his life has become so muddled through the passage of time that no solid date of birth or death is evident to modern researchers.

The story always begins the same way. Edward is said be have been heir to one of the noblest families in England. He was considered a bright and charming man – a scholar, a musician and a young man in possession of profound grace. He was said to be quite handsome when viewed from the front – yet, on the back of his head there was a second face, twisted and evil.

In some versions of the story, the second face of Edward is a beautiful girl. This is an impossibility as all parasitic twins are of the same sex. Often it was said that it possessed its own intelligence and was quite malignant in its intentions. It has been said that the eyes would follow spectators and its lips would ‘gibber’ relentlessly and silently. According to legend it would smile and sneer as Edward wept over his condition. While no voice was ever audible, Edward swore that often he would be kept awake by the hateful whispers of his ‘evil twin’.

The story has always concluded with young Edward committing suicide at the age of twenty-three. The method of his death also differs, sometimes poison does him in and in other versions a bullet ‘between the eyes of his devil-twin’ puts him out of his misery. In both versions Edward leaves behind a letter requesting that the ‘demon face’ be destroyed before his burial, ‘lest it continues its dreadful whisperings
in my grave.’"

"Keepers of the Primordial Egg" oil on wood, 19" x 23", 2009
(Two heads share only one heart, though here they each have their own--gorgeous blue-- swan body. Alcantara's various hues of blue are amazing, throughout her works).

According to Wikipedia:
"Craniopagus parasiticus is a medical condition in which a parasitic twin head with an undeveloped (or underdeveloped) body is attached to the head of a developed twin..."There have only been ten documented cases of this
phenomenon, though to-date there have been at least eighty separate cases of this phenomenon written about in various records. Only three ever have been documented by modern medicine to have survived birth....
"Prognosis for craniopagus parasiticus is generally poor. As of 2007, only three cases are known to have survived birth. Everard Home described the first and longest-lived of these, the "Two-Headed Boy of Bengal", who survived until bitten by a cobra in 1787, at the age of four.More recent cases have attracted considerable media attention as well as efforts to correct the condition through surgery. An infant girl in the Dominican Republic died in 2004 from complications in surgery. Egyptian doctors, having studied evidence of that operation, successfully removed the parasitic twin from an infant, named Manar Maged, in 2005; however, she succumbed to an infection the following year. The twin removed in this case could smile, blink, cry, and tried to suckle but never developed a body (except a small remnant), or lungs and heart, and instead was dependent on oxygen and nutrients provided by Manar. The case illustrates that there is a continuum from craniopagus parasiticus to the phenomenon of the conjoined twin."

For your viewing and listening pleasure (?), I offer you ElKulte's stop-motion music-video to Tom Waits' song "Poor Edward," about this doomed man. Make sure you're in that sort of jovial, drunken mood that can survive this kind of tune...

Ok, so, enough about that, and onwards towards a better, more survivable balance...

"Flight Out of the Garden," acrylic on paper, by JennyBird Alcantara
[Is this the head escaping?]

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, then, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."
--Walt Whitman

"Bird Watcher," Jennybird Alcantara oil on wood, antique frame, 12" x23.5", 2009

Notice in the above painting that there are three bodies: one facing right, which holds the hand of the one facing left, both of them with bird-necks and heads as feet. The third, the way I see it, continues the trunk of the neck down below the collar and forms a sort of (pink) heart, with the life's path inscribed in it, all resting on a directional symbol. Again, the painting follows the theme of the above Whitman quote, the theme of one being being made of many...

"Hiding Place," Jennybird Alcantara, oil on wood, antique frame, 33" x 37", 2009

In "Hiding Place," there is a pair of creatures, almost--if-not--conjoined, the big bad wolf in all of us wearing a dress with a bow on the back but fish-net stockings, and the girl whose hand he grips wears red (like his target in the fairy tales) and her one visible foot is a deer hoof. However, predator and prey issues aside, he is opening up the cage around her mind, allowing her eye to see more clearly, and freeing the birds (transcendence). We are all our own worst enemies, perhaps. And we all have a bit of the innocent and a bit of the not-so innocent, and even as a meeting with a monster terrifies you, it usually brings with it (in myths and fairy tales), some form of advancement in your personal evolution, some form of release. Note also the labyrinth behind them.

"Struggle in the Garden of the Porcelain Queen" (Please, please follow this image and hit the zoom button to see all the exceptional details).

Jennybird Alcantara lives in San Francisco, where she attended the San
Francisco Art Institute, receiving her BFA. She says:
"I like to explore the complex interconnectedness of opposites as seen through the prism of myth, fable and fantasy. I use the symbolism of duality to explore the connection of life and death, as well as the relationship between the beauty and cruelness of nature, that of the natural world as well as
human and animal nature. The anthropomorphic qualities in my characters show the relationship of the central figure to the world she inhabits."

What goes into these works also comes out: when I was preparing to make a post on her works, I sent the image "Hiding Place" to consummate micro-fiction writer Vesna, and asked her to write a fiction impression based on it. The dualities and the "complex interconnectedness of opposites" were prevalent in her story: darkness and light, old and new, internal and external, and more. Here is that beautiful piece, and the
painting once again:

"My grandmother didn't like to take any kind of medication, ever. She believed that our body starts to feel sick if our thoughts get sick and the way to get better is to purify the mind. What she called a medicine cabinet was a collection of the paintings, photographs, poems and different kind of items that meant something to her. She kept it in an old wooden box, unlocked, and I could find there a seashell, a purple feather, a black button, a lock of hair (she told me it is mine)...
A few months ago doctors told me I have only 1 year to live.I was advised to take medication to ease the pain, to undergo treatments that could possibly postpone the final hour.The right side of my brain, intuitive and holistic, was telling me to
look for my grandmother's medicine cabinet again.The left side, following logical and sequential thinking, was telling me to cure the body with chemicals. I followed my intuition and closed one eye. I embraced my grandmother's nature, warm and wise.
I am aware that maybe I am risking everything but my thoughts fly freely now and I am where I belong: Loving the choice that I made, loving my Life. Maybe it looks like a Hiding Place to you, for me it is what I call Home." --story by VESNA

Jennybird's work is currently showing in the Strychnin Gallery, in Berlin Germany (August 7-30, 2009).
Her page is here

Along with her lovely paintings, she makes dolls, like the one at the top of this post, out of vintage fabrics and paper clay, which she then paints with her lovely, singular tones in oil paint.

"Master of Disguise"

"Ink Eater"

"Queen of the Underworld"

Her etsy shop is here



  1. When I read your post Zoe I feel as I am in Wonderland too. Perfect post, so beautifully composed, well written, carefully selected...I love it! Jennybirds world is so enchanting and mind provoking. Thank you for making me part of it.

  2. An antological post, populated by coexistence, contradiction, opposites and similarities, the substance of life itself. Vesna's story is just perfect... "un canto a la vida". Thank you for this luxury, dear Zoe!

  3. Thank you so much Zoe its a wonderful post and thank you Vesna for your fictional impression of 'The Hiding Place' I read it twice and it brought tears both times.

  4. You made my day Jennybird. I feel so privileged to be here, in yours and Zoe's magical world. And thank you dear Sylvia for your kind words.

  5. i'm so glad you liked it, jennybird and silvia, and i'm so excited to have been able to post a story here by vesna, as well :)