I have never understood why some people fight off doom and gloom by embracing all things bright and beautiful while others go even darker as a way to work it out.
I, of course, am one of the latter. This summer I’ve been on the sidelines of others’ hard times (ranging from parasites to seizures). Plus it was hellishly hot for a couple of weeks with the kind of humidity that makes you want to strangle somebody.
So—I turned my attention to Edgar Allan Poe and began to work with lots of red and black. Nearing the low point, I produced this lovely portrait of “Berenice.”
This story (1835) concerns a narrator’s fascination with his female cousin, Berenice, once lovely but now fallen ill. Finally she dies shrieking in the night, the narrator only dimly aware. He wakes next morning to find in his possession a tool of extraction and a box containing her bloody teeth. Things do not end well for Poe’s women, and the narrator is often suspect.
The teeth necklace is not my original idea (nor does it appear in the story). I found images online by someone who makes jewelry using wisdom teeth.
Poe wrote the story of Berenice on a bet that he could not take an unpleasant topic and treat it seriously and engagingly as a piece of fiction. You might well wonder whether he succeeded.
He described his effect as “the ludicrous heightened into the grotesque; the fearful coloured into the horrible; the witty exaggerated into the burlesque; the singular wrought out into the strange and mystical” Maybe in poor taste, he acknowledged (to which many editors agreed) but “invariably sought after with avidity” (too true, then and now).
I next decided on lurid wall paper as a back drop for The Man Who Was used Up and blood red brews and cocktails for Masque of the Red Death.
Morella (who rises from the grave as her own daughter) and another version of the Gold Bug have new back drops with the dull metallic glow of a forgotten monument or an old grave marker.
I also made a bunch of Poesque cut outs to scatter around a wall in the gallery space for a library show in the fall. For whatever reason, this was all very satisfying and made me a nicer person, kept me from biting anyone.
Coming in Charleston SC, October 2016