CELLspace, ghosts, & Neil Hamburger?
What do these seemingly disparate topics have in common? The short answer: Me! It’s been a busy summer over here at rococonouveau and I thought it was due time for an update on some of my toilings. Last night was the opening for CELLspace’s first Thursday gallery event called Spacecraft. I was selected to show a few pieces for their August theme: Science & Fiction. “These two disparate forces, science & fiction, have taken shape in our careers and daily choices, offer us focus, creativity, inspiration, escape…” The show will be up in the CELLspace gallery until September, I’ll be available to schedule viewings if there are any requests!
For this show I debuted a new lady, her name is Martha.
After talking a bit about my process to some people at the show last night, there were some requests for better documentation on the stories and thoughts behind each piece. So, here goes! My main inspirations to make these pieces are mostly ghost stories, decorative arts, decadent arts, and early 20th century female rebellion. Many of these pieces reference vintage photographs taken of 1920′s chorus girls. It’s my attempt to keep their sassy spirits and the essences of my favorite bygone art styles alive via what I’m calling “painted transmutation”. Each piece tells the story of an individual, some truth and some fabricated, but when dealing with ghosts doesn’t the legend truly make them real?
Part of my process is selecting a photo of a mystery person that I find inspiring in some intangible way. So far most of them have been by a well-known photographer of Ziegfeld Follies named Alfred Cheney Johnston. When I’ve come up with a concept for the piece I dive in with the painting and illustrating. Then once it’s complete I pull up the photograph again and start researching who the person in the photo really was. In this case it turned out to be a former Ziegfeld girl and film actress Martha Mansfield. Martha’s rise to fame came quickly, from the start of her stage career at age 18 to the tragic end of her life at age 24 she had already moved on from the Follies and acted in 24 films. On the set for her last movie, someone had tossed a match as she climbed into her car at the end of the day. As soon as she closed the door the match which had caught fire to the petticoats of her elaborate civil war era costume burst into flames. Only her neck and face were saved from burning when leading man Wilfred Lytell threw his heavy overcoat over her. However, she still died from severe burns within 24 hours.
I love asking people I’ve just met what they think a “ghost” really is, everyone seems to have their own theories or preconceptions. Some say ghosts only come from tragic events, some say they are energy attached to the earth because they can’t let go. Then there are some with more elaborate theories on parallel dimensions or quantum realities. The point is, there’s really no final answer to this question. But I find it to be a endlessly interesting question to propose. In my work I present the supposition that we are the ones that make ghosts real. Perhaps just keeping the idea of a person or event or energy alive is how they haunt us. Like the saying that a person is really only dead the last time someone speaks their name. Supposing this is true, can’t we can create our own ghosts? More thoughts on this to come.
On a lighter note! A couple years ago I was granted the opportunity to draw a paper doll of one of my favorite comedians, Neil Hamburger, for a comic book he was publishing. The book was finally released at Comic-Con this July! They sent me a few copies in the mail along with a poster for their Comic-Con appearance with Tim Heidecker. Plus I’ve been invited to make him more outfits for the next book, squeee!
Coming soon: new web designs, photography, and my album art for Crashfaster and their kick ass kickstarter!