Sunday, September 24, 2017

Magical crystals, unicorn, witch flowers and dark omens

In the weeks before Halloween, I have a mixed bag of art and styles that isn't sticking strictly to the black and orange pumpkin theme. I've been through a few phases lately, so I present these here just as a sampling of some art that is currently available. Watercolors in shades of blue, pink and purple; unicorns; dragons, psychedelic and gothic ladies; and a new favorite style of mine which is to create a "cabinet of curiosity" style assemblage in a painting featuring bones, shells, rocks, crystals, insects, plants and other oddities and pleasantries.

Here are a few new items, both originals and prints (prints are available if the original painting sold) before I crack down on putting together a grouping of Halloween-specific items!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Meditations on Twin Peaks: The Return, the nature of reality and ultimate evil

I have enjoyed returning to the world of Twin Peaks for the past few months, and David Lynch's third season ("The Return") of this legendary show easily figures among my very favorite of his creations, from start to finish.

Since I am still very busy with work-related activities stemming from the flooding that has spread across Houston and eastern Texas, I don't have a lot of time to chime in with online discussions so I thought I would present my initial response to the series finale here, for the enjoyment of my friends and casual passersby. I have only watched each episode once and I have pretty much just absorbed them along the way without prolonged commentary, but here are some of my thoughts, accompanied by a selection of Twin Peaks-inspired artwork I have done in recent months.

TL;DR: I love it.

Reflections on Twin Peaks: The Return

Twin Peaks gained a large portion of its audience because of its quirky characters and sense of mystery, but as we have known for some time, its underpinnings are profoundly dark. Would a neat resolution and a happily-ever-after coda do justice to the fact that the show is philosophically rooted in the concept that mankind’s infinite capacity for malice and destruction has threaded a new form of evil into the cosmic fabric?

Inspired by the Philip Jeffries sequences in "Twin Peaks: The Return"

The show’s concessions to conventional narrative—tying up some of its romantic plotlines and delivering on some audience-pleasing moments of triumph and reunion in episodes 16 and 17—are almost a parody of the form when viewed against the bleak and open-ended meditation which is episode 18. It is another layer in a multi-layered universe that has already been revealed to us several times during the show’s run, in moments such as Cooper’s transformation into Dougie, the audience’s journey through modes of time and reality in episode 8, or Audrey’s dreamlife and unresolved awakening in episode 16. This layering is explicit in the sequence where Cooper’s image is superimposed over the concluding moments of episode 17’s “final boss battle” and the subsequent events.
A bit of Twin Peaks catechism we will never forget.

When his image stares ahead after the big battle at the sheriff’s office, is Cooper waking from a dream the way Audrey does when she confronts her image in a mirror in a bright white room? Her dreamworld was populated by intrigues and romance and battles, but they were ultimately all shadows on the wall. She does not reappear in the last two episodes because the point of her storyline has been made. It would be nice to see her reunite with Cooper and lock arms to go out and fight evil together, but is that what this show has ever been about? Was it ever going to end with a freeze frame of everyone laughing it up in the sheriff’s office, hoisting coffee mugs while the theme song plays? We were given that moment when Cooper recovered in the hospital, but there is still a lot of activity backstage after the curtain closes on the show’s narrative action.

Following the fast-paced events of episode 17, is episode 18 merely an hour of “nothing is happening?” I see the episode as germinative, which by its nature requires a period of darkness and a length of time, but also heralds a beginning, even if it is merely the latest in an infinite loop. In a prolonged moment bridging two realities, Diane and Cooper in the motel represent a moment not unlike that in episode 8, where the same music accompanies the sleeping world’s invasion by uncanny and malignant forces. Nothing will be the same afterward.

The evolution of the arm (SOLD)

Cooper and Laura's long drive to Twin Peaks is not an action-packed sequence full of satisfying narrative elements, but it does represent movement and transition. The show as we knew it ended in 17 when Cooper walked through that door. It makes me think about other long, meditative but seemingly superfluous“driving” sequences. The first thing that occurs to me is the long driving scene in “Solaris” (1971) before the main character leaves Earth for a planet where reality is highly subjective. I found an excellent description of the meaning of the 5-minute driving scene in that film, on this post answered in Quora which I excerpt here:

Twin Peaks is a different animal, of course, but it deals similarly with questions of reality and dream states, and these long and silence sequences—in the motel, or on the road—seem to offer both the seeding of a new reality and its slow and silent gestation.

The show was never about answering a question or solving a mystery, as any viewer who has made it this far will know. It pulls back layers, but it is clear that Lynch does not intend to provide a clear explanation, for who can explain the nature of evil or reality? The concluding moments of the show make it clear that we are still within the shadow of the show’s main narrative—the whisper of Laura’s name, the flickering of the house and her unforgettable, resounding scream show that this world is still anchored in another. Is progress ever possible, within this loop, or are we merely switching between different outcomes and different levels of experience? I think it would be less satisfying to have this tie up with a well-explained happy ending, and it would completely inappropriate for the themes Lynch has explored throughout.

Inspired by Dougie Jones' unforgettable coffee scenes

The Room 315 key at the Great Northern Hotel assumes a particular importance in episode 18

So many mysteries to be revealed (SOLD)

Thank you for reading and viewing. I am always open to doing some Twin Peaks-based fan art for individuals who share my enthusiasm, both in paint and embroidery.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Fundraising art for 2017

I like to offer up art for fundraising purposes, whether through a direct sale or to an auction, etc., whenever I can but this year I would like to make significant increase in the amount that I donate to the organizations that I support, and to donate to more organizations in general. I will update this page regularly with artwork that I have for that purpose. Right now I am looking to bolster my donations to the ACLU and other groups. 100% of the sale price will go to charity and if you are in the US I will pay shipping if you purchase directly from me (as opposed to through Etsy, etc.). I will put some of these on Etsy to increase the number of people who might be able to see them.

I'm asking for a $20 or more donation for a 3 x 5 inch cat painting (the night cat has sold, but I can make more similar to it!) and a $25 or more donation for the 5 x 7 painting of the rainbow feminist unicorn which I would like to earmark for a Planned Parenthood donation as they have been the main place I have received annual cancer screenings for over 25 years. I haven't given these proper titles yet, but I think that describes them! These are on flat canvas board in acrylic paint.

Then I have little 2 x 3 inch paintings on mini stretch canvases of kitty cats. The purple one is spoken for but I can certainly do more in that or any other color. I'm asking $15 or more donations for these.

If you want to see proof of donations afterwards I can certainly provide that! I'm hoping that by offering cute little pieces of art that I produce regularly, I can help to boost my donations. Please share with anyone that you think would like to buy some art for one of these causes or others. Repaints, variations and requests are welcome.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Announcing my new Etsy shop, Crewel Sister!

It's a little later than I had intended, but I finally launched my second Etsy shop this week, called Crewel Sister. I will be selling original embroidery creations, based on nature imagery and concepts in folk horror, or general occult/gothic imagery, along with anything else that catches my fancy. The 1960s/1970s retro look is a big inspiration, but so is more antique embroidery.  We'll see what happens!

Here are the first few items that I have up for sale, incorporating some imagery that I found appealing. For instance, an all-seeing cosmic eye in a bare tree.

Some gothic poisonous flower imagery, incorporating an antique looking design with a skull and a violet or pansy.

And of course, I can't resist a nod to my gothic paperback book covers, with a lady with long hair traversing a moonlit night with a candelabra...

I'll be experimenting with some retro designs that make me think of the embroidery kits that I saw as a kid in the 1970s as well.

My favorite subjects right now are these little classic traditional embroidery icons, which nonetheless suggest something from a world of fantasy and magic.

I will also offer custom work and commissions, within my range of ability, and on similar topics.

Please check back to see what else comes along, and "favorite" my shop on Etsy for more!

Through May 1, 2017 you can get $5 off your purchase with the code 5FORFRIENDS. If you're reading this, you're a friend!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Freaks, mummies, wax and weirdness in Texas

It is halfway through September and we are doing our best to get into an autumn frame of mind. This week we visited a handful of places where one can see weird things, wax figures and taxidermy, without really planning it that way. It's nice to find this kind of seriousness weirdness in Texas - the kind of things I used to read about or see on travel shows on TV and think, I wish I could go there! Of course, being from the greater Philadelphia area, I've been to the Mutter Museum a few times, so these places had a lot to live up to, but I'm pretty pleased.

First, in Austin we have the Museum of the Weird. On E. 6th St., a $18 ticket will get you admission BOTH to this and its sister attraction, the Sfanthor wax horror museum, which isn't very far away, over on S. Congress Ave.

At the Museum of the Weird, the assortment of bizarre taxidermied animals -- two-headed calves and the like -- sideshow and horror artifacts and a couple of wax figures, culminates in the unveiling of a true sideshow legend, the Minnesota Iceman. While they don't allow visitors to photograph this exhibit, they build up the suspense by screening an old "Unexplained Mysteries" segment on the beast and give some background information about how the museum's founder saw this exhibit back in the 60s and finally tracked it down and bought it. I won't give anything away, but if you want the full experience and mystique of this creature, don't google it any further -- let them tell you about it, and believe the legend!

The Museum of the Weird is joined to the Lucky Lizard curio and gift shop, which you can visit for free of course. They sell amazing horror t-shirts (I got a Tombs of the Blind Dead t-shirt, I'm happy to say -- they dig deep for truly excellent films on these tees!) an other fun stuff.

Over at the Sfanthor House of Wax you can see some beautifully displayed horror classics in wax -- mostly from old movies, but there's an Alien at the end as well (with a strobe light, so I had to close my eyes -- strobe-sensitive folks, be aware of this!). I can't recall ever being to a wax museum before so this was a treat.

Those exhibits are always open, and are open late -- but over in Houston for a limited time, the Museum of Natural Science has a wonderful exhibit called the Cabinet of Curosities. Modeled after Victorian-era curio cabinets from well-to-do explorers and collectors, it is an interactive exhibit full of dozens of drawers you can open to reveal more wonders: feathers, bones, crafts from native peoples around the world, shells, insects and other delights.

It's a wonderful, unique exhibit and so much fun to just wander around marveling at all of the artifacts. Even if you're like me and don't care for taxidermy, in a modern context -- as a mostly-vegetarian for 30 years, I recoil at the thought of killing an animal just to put it on display -- the fact that these are older artifacts makes it something I can appreciate on a different level within a historical context.

I'm not sure how long this will stick around but it really does seem to fit in with the Halloween time of year, for me.

Of course, Houston boasts one of the most gothic of all museums next to the Mutter, the National Museum of Funeral History, but we will save our visit to that for October. It's been two years since we last stopped by there, so perhaps there will be some new morbid things to enjoy there by now as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Halloween season

I have not posted anything in a long time because of a new day job, but it wouldn't be right if the Halloween season got past me without a few comments! I'm busy working on some special projects this year rather than general random oddments and there's not a lot to share publicly right now

But here's something cool. The UK magazine "She Who Knows" requested to use one of my paintings as a backdrop in their Autumn 2016 issue. Please visit them and consider subscribing to this excellent feminist magazine full of nurturing and spiritual articles, art, poetry and wisdom.

One other small note for fall is that I will open a second Etsy shop soon focused on gothic, folk horror, fantasy and Halloween-themed embroidery work. Here is a sneak preview of a couple of items. I will be starting with just a couple of items this fall and will slowly add to it. The name of the shop is "Crewel Sister" because crewel is the type of embroidery I am aiming at (I'm still learning...I haven't done this since I was a kid!) and it also refers to the excellent English folk song "Cruel Sister." See what I did there?

 I've gathered a few resources on the subject and will be working more on the themes and techniques in the upcoming months, as time allows. It's more of a project for my own amusement than a serious attempt to make a big pile of craft-related money, so I won't be doing commissions or anything right now. Time is too rare of a commodity at the moment, so I can only fit things in as it amuses me to do so.

Hoping to include more updates soon for the season...

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My very big and exciting album cover art announcement!

I'm running pretty late on blog posts right now but I just have to get this in before Record Store Day, because it's kind of the most exciting thing that I have ever done, art-wise!

Last year I was asked by a good friend if I would be willing to do some special album cover art. Not just ordinary everyday special, but artwork for what happens to be my very favorite band, for the past 25+ years: the Legendary Pink Dots. Being asked to do some album cover art for your favorite band is kind of like...well, there's nothing else quite like it. When you've spent a certain number of years of your life writing your favorite band names on high school and college notebooks (or even on steno pads in township committee meetings if life has taken you in that direction), the opportunity to do this for the actual band is pretty amazing.

So, the details are: this is an unofficial Record Store Day release, and the inaugural release of the label Noise Noise Noise, based in California. It will be available in select independent record stores around the country, as well as at the store where the label-owners are based - Factory Records, 440 E. 17th St., Cosa Mesa, Calif. I've never been to the store in person because I haven't been in California in about 20 years, but they will definitely have copies there! They will also have them out where I am, at Vinal Edge in Houston (239 W. 19th St.) and I believe they will be at Sound Exchange in Houston as well (1846 Richmond Ave.). And many other locations around the country, so if you are interested in the LPDs, be sure to check the coolest, most independent stores that you know. :)

While you're at it, read the story of my friends' amazing label, store, and love in this OC Weekly article. It made me cry!! And it's a solid piece of journalism. :D

So, here is the description of the EP from the label itself:
All new material from neo-psychedelic musical experimenters Legendary Pink Dots. Three brooding, emotional, quiet, and lovely tracks from this beloved underground Anglo-Dutch experimental rock band! 500 copies pressed: 400 for Record Store Day release, 100 for the band's upcoming tour.

And here is the front cover! 

There is also a totally different back cover which I will post pics of when I receive my copy. It has the same hand-lettered, notebook-drawing kind of look to it. It was done in pen and colored pencil on Bristol board and based on some notebook doodles that I started last autumn.

I've never been in a record pressing plant, but it's one of those things I'd really love to do some day. My friends at the label took some pictures while this record was being pressed, so I am sharing those with their permission:

Pretty neat, huh? It's all very magical!

So here is another look at the cover, with some back covers scattered behind it (you can just get a glimpse of it here)...

And below, the inserts...

And here they are all ready to be put together and shipped out.

So if you're a Pink Dots fan, I hope you are able to snag a copy! A million thanks to Dave and Lisa, the folks behind the Noise Noise Noise label, for inviting me to be a part of this, and to the Legendary Pink Dots and Edward Ka-Spel, for allowing my artwork to be associated with their immortal music. It means more to me than words can describe, and I don't think it's ever going to fully set in that I was able to participate in this way. It's the kind of thing you want to go back in time and tell your 17-year-old self!

And whatever your musical tastes are, go out and buy some records on Saturday. :) Support independent music and independent record stores, and keep making and listening to amazing sounds.