Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Notes from the Gothic Graveyard

About a month ago I was listening to a relatively new compilation 2-CD of "post-punk and dark pop" from 1981-1986 Spain, called Sombras:


Delving into the lesser-explored gothic and post-punk corners of the late-70s through the mid-80s is one of my major musical interests, but there has been relatively little available in terms of reissues of previously unknown obscurities, to my knowledge, so this was an exciting find for me. Since then I've uncovered a few more modern bands that capture that aesthetic (Ashrae Fax, you are amazing), and also found a few private-press albums from that time period that scratch my itch (the 1986 album by the band the Soul Merchants was another recent find). 

The spidery Siouxsie guitars, the echoing empty-room Joy Division drums, and the throb of a Bauhaus bass are all represented in the tracks on that compilation, along with vocals across the spectrum of agony and dolor. It immediately put me in a mind of wanting to gather up pits and pieces of fishnet and spiderweb, silver rings and coffin-shaped things, as I have been known to do since age 14. 

I tried to capture a little of this aesthetic in a new little painting, "Meet Me at the Cemetery Gates," which I have up now. I have vague plans to do more art along these lines, though at the moment I am just of the mind to do cemetery-based paintings with this theme. Among other things, it's fun to play dress-up with paint, putting characters in outfits that I like.


The girls in the painting are both wearing things from my own wardrobe, and carrying purses that I've had at one point or another. Including little details like that is important to me, in capturing that moment where you are hanging out on a spring weekend with your friend taking cemetery photos in 1989. You have to put down your purse, take off your glasses and try to look serious even though you were just quoting the Young Ones to each other.

In fact, here is some photographic proof of myself with a lifelong friend, as we did this very thing some time around 1991. I'm not wearing a gothic gown at this particular moment, but the idea is there.

In fact, armed with black and white film and a home darkroom in the basement, I did quite a bit of cemetery photography back in the day.

And fortunately, New Jersey is full of old and interesting cemeteries and monuments in historic areas.

For now we bid farewell to the graveyard, but I suspect I will do a lot more art along these lines with my musical inspiration. This was never a phase to be grown out of or looked back on with amusement, for me. I love cemeteries, gothic guitars and spidery gowns with even more enthusiasm now -- fueled by several decades of continued musical enjoyment, along with literary and cinematic inspiration, to know that this is a world that will always feel like home to me.

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