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

Friday, June 18, 2010

Layers of Reality

I have very caught up in the stalking of and plotting against of a certain evil man who is contaminating the dreams of the innocent in Views of a Crime. It has kept me quite occupied. However, on occasion, I do stop to work on the sketch for an illustration I’m thinking about and browse the Red Bubble site. There, I recently discovered the art work of Janelle McKain, which made me stop and readdress my sketch. Who knew so much could be done with just a pencil? Not me--but now I’m investigating...

Unravel Me

Janelle McKain was born and raised in Nebraska, and recorded and released an album at 16. She claims she had a very happy childhood, except for one detail...
"...I was tormented by graphic dreams, (nightmares really). Most vivid were the ‘white people’ who appeared to me from age 8, well into early adulthood, age 21 or so. These ghost like spirits had no real identity, but pressed their faces and hands in and out of the layer of reality that separated their world from mine. They DID appear and they DID exist in my little blue bedroom each and every night. They never spoke, (but I was terrified they might) and I frequently called out to my mother who would come to me in the middle of the night and sit on the edge of my bed until I could fall asleep. My mother’s presence offered protection, but unfortunately as soon as she left the room, the night stalkers reappeared."

We can see them, pushing through the edges of reality--edges which often look a lot like fractals--in many of her drawings, drawings which seem to be moments of seeing through the curtain to several realities all at once. Janelle does not generally use photographic references, which makes her work even more amazing, especially with images like this one:

Bon Vivant

where you can see the muscles pulling at the jaw...She also says she draws in a spontaneous, free-flowing way, a sort of surrealist automatism (though obviously with great stylistic control), and she prefers to let the viewer tell her what the image is about. This drawing, “Enigma,” inspired me to try...


The faces in “Enigma”--which she calls "past, present, and future"--are really what pulled me in, as well as the bird’s headdress. But also I like that part of the image is about pulling open the guts of one figure and peeling back the wall at the top. I would think peeling back the wall is the work of the future, and that particular bird head looks in the same direction we do. Whose guts are those? The past would make sense, and would mean that the “present” is so far only a face and hands--something to do the work, and the mask (held up on a stick by the snaking arm of that hand) of self we present to the world. Everything is action, there is no stasis: the process of living is just that, a process. A process of making sense of what's happened so far and digging forward for something completely unknown...

Janelle also quotes Magritte: “People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent poetry and mystery of the image.” But I am a puzzle person--pulling out a thread, a story, a symbol, though these are things that in all likelihood have more to do with signs and directions I happen to be needing than anything the artist was trying to say, is a big part of the joy of art for me. It makes me feel like an active participant. And Janelle’s work has plenty of mystery and poetry to spare.


  1. Really interesting artworks, Zoe. They are oniric, belonging to a dream. Surrealistic, for sure. It seems to me,in the third picture, the artist wants to divide all components of the subject. After all, each of us had been made by different part, our souls encloses different souls. I love the dinamism of the pictures. They would be perfect for a Detective's story of yours, I think...

  2. Interesting surrealistic drawings. Great technique! It's handy to have your sources of inspiration from your dream, but I don't know if I want to be tormented by nightmares every single night. I think I'll be an unhappy painter:)

  3. dessins très intéressantes , très beau!