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

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Haunted Nonsense

It’s been quite a while since I’ve been inspired to provide a visit on this blog to Carroll’s particular version of Wonderland, but finally I have found the proper artist...

“Mad Hatter”

“Upon being informed of an impending event providing incentive to compose a series of illustrations for the enchanting "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking-Glass" by the brilliantly snarky Lewis Carroll, I was at once in a state of heightened exultation. In my visual interpretations it is quite apparent I am fond of top hats and mad grins – like a chef who adds pepper to every dish, even dishes who protest, I seem to somehow manifest one or both of these into quite a volume of my work, even a piece dedicated to frowns and people without heads. So it is not surprising how I gravitate towards the deliciously smiley enthusiast of top hats, the Mad Hatter, as well as selecting him the subject of my first illustration. These two books contain a host of the most charmingly bizarre characters ever to have lived in the memory of a work of literature, and the Hatter is quite positively one of the most enchanting citizens of Wonderland. Of course joining him we have the Hatter’s two good friends the March Hare and the Dormouse, not at all of a mind to permit the fellow a soliloquy.” --Jesse E. Larson

“Tweedledum and eedeldeewT”

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Agreed to have a battle!
For Tweedledum said Tweedledee
Had spoiled his nice new rattle.

Just then flew down a monstrous crow,
As black as a tar-barrel!
Which frightened both the heroes so,
They quite forgot their quarrel.
--Lewis Carroll

I discovered the art work of Jesse E. Larson on RedBubble, where he describes himself thus:
“Jesse E. Larson is host to numerous unrelated titles, some of which include barbering, burying and broomstick-watching – and on occasion, chimney-sweeping, crayoning, and hiding in bell towers – but most notably, illustrating. When not confined to the shadows of an ivy embraced abbey or the attic of a house that does not exist, he attempts to compose to paper visuals of a nonsensical nature with a disposition of mystery, monstrosity, and the macabre. Other times he pretends he is a pirate. An interest in the visual arts was instigated many years ago when he was visiting a rookery while abroad in Romania. It so happened that during this time one of the birds engaged him in conversation, and he having penned a quick sketch of the Parachute Jump – for a visual representation was politely requested – was told by the fowl that the depiction had been very fine. This gracious bit of praise influenced further experimentation and has continued to the present.”

His writing style is such that I will not bore you in this post with my own...

“The Jabberwock’s Waistcoat”

except to say that more of his works can be found at his fantastically-titled blog, Haunted Nonsense, that he sells not just prints but also t-shirts on his RedBubble site, and that it is through his illustrations that I discovered the deliciously Edwardian ghost detective Thomas Carnaki.


Larson describes and illustrates the good detective in such a tantalizing way that I immediately procured my own copy of his exploits:
“The English investigator of things that go bump in the night was created by authour William Hope Hodgson in the early years of last century. The "Ghost-Finder’s” initial appearance in the publications The Idler and The New Magazine coincided with the ever intriguing age of Spirituality which was pockmarked with candle-lit rooms and mournfully adorned individuals of heightened sensitivities to the visits of the deceased and otherwise ethereal passers-by. The Edwardian detective shares similar shades of tone with the brooding Sherlock Holmes, and as a Holmes enthusiast I can honestly expound of my own conviction, Carnacki as most deserving of sharing a hansom cab with the enigmatic gentleman of Baker’s Street. Of the ghosts haunting the pages of Carnackian adventures one may be reminded at times of the dreadful manifestations of H.P. Lovecraft, who was so wonderfully capable of provoking a sense of fear and uncertainty of the unknown foliations and age of existence.”--Jesse E. Larson

...and I have also discovered that much of William Hope Hodgson’s writing can be found on-line, here, for free. Go now, and read. Then come back, and visit Mr. Larson’s site, and request that he illustrate more of those stories!

However, he also creates his own kingdoms of nonsense with words, solidifying them with illustrative proof:

"During the afternoon before last I had taken to the foothills of the Loombezzo's for a walk when a rainstorm quickly overtook the vicinity and I was moved to extend the embrace of my umbrella in an effort to keep at least a portion of myself from becoming damp. The breath of the atmosphere became so hurried, I quickly lost grip of the bamboo handle to an impolite gale and my benefactor had been carried into the obscurity of the churning nimbus thundering aloft. Immediately following this occurrence an excited paper fan of an alarming size flip-flapped through the surrounding thicket and proceeded in this manner straight towards my position inducing me to take to my heels at once. I was pursued by this frantic beast for several hours until I escaped its interest and it began chasing an untenanted pram. This unfortunate experience incited the composing of the work below, and further suggested it be one in a series of similar attitudes."

"Le Ventilateur de non-Sequitur" (1 and 2)

And there is a rumor afoot that he has his own illustrated story coming out soon...

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.

Friday, June 11, 2010

When the World Seems Upside-Down...

In November of 2001, Dennis Roth submitted to the urge to flip himself upside down and begin looking at the world from a completely new perspective. And he did so by the water, thus adding a world of reflections into the mix. He began to take pictures hanging upside down from a park bench, and as he did, he discovered many woodland creatures, nature spirits, and aliens that usually hide just outside our vision.
I have written about his work before here. But since then, the liminal world shown in his photography has grown, and the results are magical. All these photos are unaltered, and I recommend visiting his Flickr page to see larger versions.


In Panoptic (above), I see two different figures. The one starting from highest up has two green horns and a female, though goat-like, face. Her robed arms reach out to each side, and one grabs a staff which is topped with a horned goat’s skull. The other woman is much shorter and wizened-looking, reminding me more than slightly of Helena Bonham Carter’s character in the new Alice movie, with the high collar and the big hair. Ask me tomorrow, and I’m sure there will be something else.

We Come in Peace

Dennis explains:
“What happens in this position is that one loses perception of the reflecting surface, the water that is, especially if it is smooth and unruffled, and one sees only the scene and its reflection, one on top of the other, mirror and mirrored, their order reversed, together with an exhilarating sense of water-dissolving space and light. And interestingly for me, at least, in late fall and winter the upper mirror is usually more beautiful than the lower mirrored scene because some of the sky's glare is modulated in the reflection and one sees a kind of otherworldly light more alluring than what is given in a simple downward glance. This contrast is less noticeable when just looking down at a reflection because in that case reflection and scene exist on different planes and cannot usually be perceived in one glance. But in the inverted perspective they are contiguous and water, rather than being just a liquid reflector of light, seems to become a kind of ether that transmits and transforms it.”

I Am the Egg Man

“Of course, there are also computer programs that will automatically create reflections, but an examination of most of the photos here will show that a simple duplication of the parts above the water line will not produce the same results. Refractions, diffusions, foreground objects, and displaced perspective points make for different "real-life" pictures. If taken further, however, computer manipulation could create an endless parade of inverted images. Although with so many other pictorial possibilities available on the computer, what would be the point? The Inverted Mirror World is ‘magic realism,’ not fantasy” source.

Leaving an Impression


These inversions have changed the way he looks at the world entirely, even when he’s walking on his feet like the rest of us. In the photo above, we can clearly see the mythological Narcissus, gazing lovingly at his own reflection. But would we have, if he hadn’t framed it thus in his photo? If we had just been walking by the lake on the way to work?

This week, Dennis put out a book of these images, The Inverted Mirror World, available by following the link to Blurb. You can preview the entire book there and see just how full of jewels it really is. Each photograph is something to spend time with, and I often find that in different moods, I see different things.

At the beginning of the book is “Yin and Yang,” the same photo shown right-side up and upside-down (you get to decide which is which)-- in one direction, the photo shows a figure with female characteristics, and in the other, the traits are clearly male:

And here is good news: on a bad day, go out and take a walk. Hang upside-down from a park bench. Force the world to change. And when you least expect it...

A Knight in Shining Armor....