Fangs in the Day's Moonlight

I finished the crosses! Well, I have two more blanks but composing in this shape is so hard and restrictive I settled on just doing 6 of them. I'm posting these less detailed pictures for the time being and then passing them off to my friend Ryann to be photographed well (I'll post good photographs after my show). I haven't talked about the theme of these (and my show in general it turns out so I thought I would a little here.

For starters, I really like folklore (and mythology and antiquated occult stuff). I landed on Slavic folklore for this show for no very particular reason other than that I had read a lot of it, and had been looking at Russian and Ukrainian folk art and had seen a lot of aesthetic similarities to what I like to do in the bright colors, tiny detail work, the flat stylized lines of icon paintings and decorative boxes and jewelry. In reading a bit further I was predictably drawn to what are referred to as "unclean" forces, elements, and places in folklore. Places of danger, natural forces which are understandably terrifying especially outside of the comfortable modern urban world I live in, and strange creatures abound in these stories. Despite the introduction of Christianity these ideas and fears were not abandoned and I even read a passage about the complete distrust the Russian peasants had in the ability of God and Jesus to protect them from all these unclean forces and "the devil".

"Unclean" places are places that are confusing and dangerous or uncharted. Dark woods, deep water etc. "Unclean" creatures exist in these places and exist to do harm to people, getting them lost, drowning them in water, tricking them. Sorcerers and Witches were capable of existing in this world and doing harm as were the dead/undead who died "unclean" deaths through foul play, suicide or by dying young and unbaptized or sorcerers who failed to pass on their knowledge before death. A sign of the unclean world was inversion. For example the world was reflected upside down in the eyes of a witch, one would walk backwards to confuse predatory forest monsters etc. So these crosses are inverted icons with images of unclean forces. The theme of the show is shaping up to be encounters with unclean forces in Slavic folklore and literature.

From the top left:

The Wolf- is an animal associated with unclean forces and the form that malicious shape-shifting sorcerers and forest spirits often took.

The Dragon- was often found by dangerous lakes and rivers where people were likely to drown

The Magpie- is a shape commonly taken by shape-shifting witches. There is an "historical" folk tale about Ivan the Terrible attempting to burn a group of witches in a town square only to have them all turn into magpies and fly away to escape the flames

The Leshii- is a spirit of the forest which leads men astray in the woods by calling to them in a familiar voice. He may also tickle them to death (seriously, what?)

Viy- I discussed here

The Devil's Carriage Horse- because of the unclean nature of death by suicide it is said that the devil's carriage is drawn by suicides. There are also several malicious water spirits which are supposed to have been human suicides.

Anyway, that's the first wall of my show finished. Next I'm going to work on three moderate sized pieces from a Nikolai Gogol story called "A Terrible Vengeance" and a piece from another story called "St John's Eve" which you can read in full here. It's actually the basis for the composition Night on Bald Mountain (familiarized by Disney's Fantasia).

I'm also in the middle of moving during a heat wave so I'm cranky and struggling to remain productive. And I keep getting the intro to this stuck in my head.

In other news Mike has a new blog where he's posting a drawing a day of Lovecraft creatures. Check it out, it's really cool! Here's a flying polyp:


Splat Bat said...

i wouldn't want that guy tickling me. he'd probably use those gross tongues

Amy Duncan said...

holy shit jeanne, these look insane! can't wait to see the detailed photos.

pw! said...

those crosses turned out ridiculously awesome!

thanks also for showing the "shop talk" and materials you use. i'm always truthfully fascinated/curious about all that, and never think to ask others

wandering genie said...

Thanks Peter! The materials and process thing can be so very personal and internal and hard to explain to other people but I get really excited when I hear other people articulating their process and what they look for in materials. I'm about to start posting process shots too. They're um. Funny. I always enjoy seeing yours!