Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines...a Danse Macabre

Happy Valentines Day everyone.
Well in honor of this most romantic holiday I made a some new "Just Buried" scenes.  The things you can do with wedding cake figures...if the store owner only knew my intentions she may not have sold them to me.  They are each about 5"x3"x3".  Enjoy.
Ahhhhh love....
This one is called Original Epitaph

Good Night, Good Night


Earth Papers

Love and Whaling

I'll leave you to your romantic day with a video and a little ballet of the Danse Macabre:

Be nice to your beloved...or else....

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Deal with the Devil

The story of Faust is one of my favorites.  
You know how it goes, Doc Faust, an alchemist, is in search of the ultimate truth and knowledge and for this he signs away his soul to the devil.  
It is an old German tale that spawned many versions.  

Christopher Marlowe, 
a contemporary of Shakespeare, wrote Doctor Faustus, in which the  protagonist signs his soul away (in blood) to the devil's representative, Mephistopheles. 
 Of course it all ends one would was Marlowe's end, who actually died curiously...murdered...just before he was to be arrested of heresy.  Stabbed in the eye.  I have heard other accounts where his head was backward when the found him.  
Very Linda Blair.

 A few hundred years later Goethe spent his life writing his Faust, which actually has a happy ending...this doesn't happen very often in this sort of tale.
   The opera by Gounod is based on this version and it is probably from here that we get our stereotypical devil representation. 
Pointy beard, pointy eybrows, widows peak, red suit.
Here's a version that Rembrandt did of the Faust tale.  
Notice how the alchemical symbols have subtle bat wings and smoke emulating from them.

Meeting the Devil at the Crossroads
One urban legend that I find interesting is that early blues musician Robert Johnson sold his soul to play the guitar the way he did.  As the story goes he wasn't all that great of a musician and then he leaves town for a few months and suddenly he is phenomenal. Maybe he just took some lessons....or maybe he just took some lessons from the DEVIL! 
As he sings in "Me and the Devil Blues":

Early this mornin'
when you knocked upon my door
Early this mornin', ooh
when you knocked upon my door
And I said, "Hello, Satan," 
I believe it's time to go."

It's said that he went down the the "crossroads" where he met Lucifer who hooked him up...for a small fee.  It is here in Clarksdale, Mississippi where highway 61 and highway 49 meet, where the deal was allegedly done.

F.W. Murnau's Faust
A very cool Faust movie...especially if you're into silent films, is by F.W. Murnau, the guy who did the original Nosferatu (one of my personal favs). 
 Everyone knows the Nosferatu shadow scene but check out this image from Faust:
  The devil lurking over the the town below.  Pretty nifty if you ask me.  

Movie Deals
Speaking of film, one of my favorite films involving an infernal pact is Angel Heart.  It is a Film Noire detective story.   Dark and shadowy....very nice cinematography.  Not to mention Robert DiNiro as the devil  Louis Cyphre.  
He is creepy in a very calm, self assured sort of way.   Of course there is the egg of the all time haunting scenes ever.

There are a ton of soul selling films out there.  Al Pacino in Devil's Advocate, Jack Nicholson in the Witches of Eastwick.   One of my favorites is a comedic intrepretation: The Devil and Daniel 
Webster.  Walter Huston plays devil a.k.a Mr. Scratch.
 Here, Mr. Scatch battles the famed Daniel Webster in a courtroom battle for the soul of a farmer...the a bit fixed...murderers and unsavory sorts as Benedict Arnold and Captain Kidd.

A movie I have yet to see, but really really want to is the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. 
 In this case a wager is made with the devil.    The reason I am very excited about this film is that the devil or Mr. Nick is played by one of my favorite musicians....Tom Waits...master of the Dark Caberet. 
 I can't imagine he is anything less than spectacular.  And I have to say...that is a guy who looks good in a hat.  Speaking of Tom Waits...he always seems to have Faustian themes running through his music.  His voice alone is something deliciously dark....oddly disturbing yet soothing.  In the 80's he teamed up with famed theater director Robert Johnson and renowned Beat writer/ notorious junkie William S. Burroughs.
They teamed up to make the Black Rider.
A play that is based on a German folktale about Wilhelm, a young file clerk, who falls in love with a huntsman's daughter.  
To win his love he must first prove his hunting skills to his lover's father...Wilhelm being a clerk has zero skills with a rifle.  That is...until Peg Leg (the Devil) offers him magic bullets that will always hit there mark...all the bullets except one, and that particular bullet is under Peg Leg's control... the deal is made.  The twist, of course, is that Peg Leg's bullet ends up hitting Wilhelm's beloved on there wedding day.  
 As the song goes:
And that's where old George found himself
Out there at the crossroads
Molding the Devil's bullets
Now a man figures it's his bullets, so it will
Hit what he wants to hit
But it don't always work that way
 You see, some bullets is special for a single aim
A certain stag, or a certain person
And no matter where you are, that's where the bullet will end up
And in the moment of aiming, the gun turns into a dowser's wand
And point where the bullet wants to go

Back to William S. Burroughs for a many ways this is an autobiographic story for him.  While living in Mexico City he accidentally killed his wife in a drunken game of William Tell, attempting to shoot a shot glass off her head.   
Needless to say he had his own devils to contend with.

My Personal Demons
So by now I'm sure you figured that this was leading up to something relating to what was going on in my studio.  Well...nothing major yet...but it all started with a silly little mask I was making as a class sample for my Mad Masks class.  This is the Mouth of Hell Mask.
Now this lead to some smaller little paintings/collages.  The following "Blue Devils" are 2.5" x 4.5"

Now I've really been enjoying these little paintings, but I have to admit after doing this post, I'm feeling like REALLY sinking my teeth into the Faustian theme.  I'm not  really sure what or how yet, but the wheels are churning...the devil is in the details. 

Friday, February 05, 2010

Forgot to mention...Be My Naughty Valentine

Ratso...skipped my mind to post about the Erotica Exhibit at Beet Gallery in Portland.  Sorry too late for the opening...which was last night. I heard is was very busy though and was tough to get through the door.  You should still buzz over there and check out the show.

Here are a few shots of my contribution: Baron von Frankensex

Stop on in and check it out if you're in the area.

beet gallery    pmb (private mail box) #312    1720 nw lovejoy #120    portland, oregon 97209
phone:  503.224.5000    fax:  971.544.1328    email:
gallery hours:  tuesday-saturday 11-5:30 

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Defending Old Montaneeeeee

Okay...this is kind of funny to me...but I guess I also need to vent a little.   I was recently talking to someone....blah blah blah...about this...that...and the other thing.   At some point I mentioned that I lived in Montana, to which they replied:  "You live in MONTANA?!"  This person was dumbfounded.  "You don't look like you're from MONTANA."  I explained to her that I grew up in California but moved to Missoula to go finish my degree.  "Oh, that explains it!" she said, and we moved to other subjects.  Now I'm not really sure what a Montanan is supposed to look like... obviously not me.  I suppose a native Montanan is supposed to look something like this
or perhaps like this
or this...always with a dead carcass of some sort

Now the truth of it is that there are places in Montana where the above photos might be relevant to this day...but then again I remember places like that in California too.  I have to be honest, though, before I moved here that I had the same perceptions....I thought the towns would look like something out of an old Western.  Interestingly though, people may perceive the State of Montana as being "behind the times" but remember the first woman elected to Congress was from my fair city of Missoula.
Jeanette Rankin

As for some ways it is a strange sort of anomaly...I think it to be the cultural Mecca of Montana personally...but I'm sure those from Bozeman or Helena might dispute.  Back in the day, Hunter S. Thompson  called Missoula the Hippies' Last Stand.
...which I believe that he wrote in the men's room of the notorious biker bar, Luke's. 
Someone got that chunk of tile when it closed.  

Yes Missoula has it's share culture and counter cultrure and of writers, actors, musicians and artists this is why I live here.  It is a vibrant art scene...not necessarily a lot of money for the arts, but a very supportive artistic culture.   All those years of struggling to make it as an artists could not have been endured but for comrades of artists who stood by each other as we traversed the sea of uncertainty.   It is a great place to be a struggling actually make the struggle worth it.   Perhaps you won't see the merits of this place at first glance.  Perhaps you have to "live it" to "get it" but I know that in many ways I don't think I'd be the artist I am today without a place as accommodating to the arts as this.   Will I spend the rest of my days here....perhaps not but it is a place that has served me well and I felt like I owed it some defense.

Last year a friend of mine passed away, Jim Crumley.  Some of you may be familiar with some his crime novels, such as the Last Good Kiss.  I came across a quote of his that I thought was pertinent for this little rambling I've been on about Montana:

“It's done. This may not be my final country. I can still taste the bear in the back of my throat, bitter with the blood of the innocent, and somewhere in my old heart I can still remember the taste of love. Perhaps this is just a resting place. A warm place to drink cold beer. But wherever my final country is, my ashes will go back to Montana when I die. Maybe I've stopped looking for love. Maybe not. Maybe I will go to Paris. Who knows? But I'll sure as hell never go back to Texas again.”

Teaching in Helena
Now it is not often that I teach workshops in the State of Montana.  Last year, however I did buzz down to Bozeman and also did a class in Missoula on an extremely cold day...think it was the coldest day of last year in fact.  This year I'm heading to Helena
to the Holter Museum.  
It will be nice, I've always liked Helena and haven't been back in a number of years.  I'm going to be teaching Chunky Loteria (Mixed Media Mexican Bingo Cards)