Saturday, December 25, 2010

The 2010 Krampus List

Last week I was asked by my local paper, the Missoulian, to come up with a "best of" list for I sort of did my own little twist.   In Xmas's past I've written about Krampus (click here to read my past post), the nasty little sidekick of Santa who dishes out coal and spankings, so I decided to do a Krampus List.   
Here's what I came up with:

A Krampus list
By Michael DeMeng, Missoula artist and art educator
Those of you who know me or my art are probably aware that I tend to like things on the shadier side of the street. Because of this, I decided to put together a more shadowy "Best of 2010" list. So, in honor of Santa's sinister sidekick - the diabolical looking guy who is responsible for the coal in the stockings - I present my Krampus List:

1. Best Album: "Dark Night of the Soul" by Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse. 
This is a freaky little album, nicely dark and demented with lots of cameos from the likes of Iggy Pop, Flaming Lips and David Lynch - yes, David Lynch. When you download the album off of iTunes you get a multimedia experience from Lynch. "Lost Highway"-esque photographs and mini films for each song. Weird stuff ... as you would expect.

2. Best Toy: Play-Doh Dr. Drill and Fill. 
Well, you guessed it. A Play-Doh dental kit and best yet, it comes with an electric drill. So next time the kids want to impersonate Lawrence Olivier in the film "Marathon Man," they will be ready.

3. Best Book: "Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary," by David Sedaris. 
I love listening to the audio book of Sedaris' "Holidays on Ice." A must for the cynical at heart. Here is a slightly twisted version of Aesop, if you're looking for something on the Grimm side.

4. Best App: Imut8er. 

I downloaded this for Halloween. Take a photo of a subject and transform their face into vampires, ghouls, zombies, etc. You want Uncle Larry to have piranha teeth and horns? You can do it. How about a powdered wig and a snout nose? Yep!

5. Best Art Exhibit: Tim Burton at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. 

There are lots of exhibits of great artists, but when you're putting together the Krampus List, how could the creator of "Beetlejuice" and "Edward Scissorhands" be denied? This was a collection of his sketches, paintings, polaroids and more. An amazing insight to a very twisted vision.

6. Best TV show: "The Walking Dead." 
Admittedly, I am vampire biased, so how could I deny "True Blood" the honors? However, zombies are back in fashion, and the "Walking Dead" is pretty phenomenal. There is evidence that zombie and vampire trends follow economic trends. Vampires for recessions, and zombies for boom times. Personally, I'm tired of the recession, so I'm giving the prize to "The Walking Dead."

7. Best Horror movie: "Human Centipede." Yikes! Really???!!!!!
2010 sucked when it came to horror movies. I almost chose the remake of the "Wolfman" for nostalgic reasons, or because Benicio del Toro did an amazing job replicating the bad acting of Lon Chaney Jr. in the original. Instead I'm giving it to "Human Centipede." Not because it is a good movie (which it is not) but because it is the yuckiest, grossest, ickiest concept for a movie, ever. You can look up the trailer on YouTube, but get the kids out of the room. It will scare the crap out of you.

Well there is my list...if you're interested in some of the other 2010 Best of 2010 lists (which includes a list from Pearl Jam's Jeff Ament) you can go here:
Merry Xmas and Gruss von Krampus

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Alchemy in the Big Easy

Eye SEE you!
Hey there everyone...I know you are all busy getting ready for the holidays.  Here's a little break from your retail therapy.   
My latest creation:
V.I.T.R.I.O.L.  (detail)
I just finished this piece as the class sample for my New Orleans workshop "A Place for Notions and Potions" from February 16-20.  

I was working on an apothecary kit...but admittedly I have been a bit obsessed with automatons like this one:
Zoltar - Remember him?  He knows your future.

I used to love these things....actually I still do.   Another influence along the same thread was the HBO series Carnivale. 

Carnivale opening credits
This series is a must if you have the in interest in the sideshow/dark carnival world.  Unfortunately it only lasted two seasons.
Carnival ad

 So I decided to merge this side show concept with an with an old apothecary/medicine kit such as this one:
In theory this is an authentic Vampire Killing kit from 200 years ago.  

I actually have heard that the above kit is a fake.  Either way it is a damn nifty example of an apothecary kit.  

This is what I came up with:
VITRIOL (side view)
A little bit of this.  A little bit of that.  A little seltzer in your pants.
By the way before I go any further I should mention a little something about the title of the piece: VITRIOL.  
 Alchemical Chart of Vitriol
It is an alchemical term that is actually an acronym for "Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem ("Visit the Interior Parts of the Earth; by Rectification Thou Shalt Find the Hidden Stone." 
Another chart of Vitriol
I'm not going to go in to great detail about it's meaning.  Basically it stems from the Alchemist's concept that by mixing elements you will find a divine source.   In this case the seven letters also represent the seven known planets and the corresponding metals:

 dominated by Sol ☉ ☼

Silver dominated by Luna 
Copper dominated by Venus ♀ 
Iron dominated by Mars ♂ 
Tin dominated by Jupiter ♃ 
Mercury (quicksilver) dominated by Mercury ☿ 
Lead dominated by Saturn  

Alchemy is a strange mixture of science and mysticism.  Okay enough of that...back to the piece...
Front view
I've also include a place where the user can write prescriptions, design odd critters, or devise alchemical formulas.
Take a memo
Let's take a peek inside the doors...
Cabinet door
Open Sesame
Inside I have filled it with lots of pseudo-medical goodies.  In this case I have some vials and yes a this case it started as a cow syringe....poor cows.
Bitter medicine
Oh I have to show you this drawer...
Eye of newt...
In this drawer, I found a place to keep all those false teeth I purchased in an Indonesian dental kit.   But thats not all...I finally found a spot for those mammal blood slides I've had floating around the studio.

Originally the box was a dressing kit.  So there is another interior aspect of this piece.  Originally it had a mirror.  
As you can see the mirror area got a bit altered.
Interior portrait
I wanted to transform the mirror into a portrait.  I wanted something very sideshow or snake oil salesman-esque.
Lets head back to the exterior.  I included a wheel of fortune which can be spun to see which bit of alchemy is necessary.   
Where it stops nobody knows
I used an old film editing device for the wheel spinner.
Back view and wheel spinning device
 Anyway this is the kind of thing we will be making in New Orleans.  Hope you join me.  If you want more info:

Hope you enjoyed the tour