Juxtapoz just posted a fun 20-question style "Back Talk" feature with me on their site. I also want to point you to a wonderful blog called Lady Lavona’s Cabinet of Curiosities, and thank her for sharing my art on there.
So, the ‘Riddles in the Dark’ show. Super apologies to any of you that I missed in the first hour of the opening reception. Don’t you hate it when you’re running late and it just happens to be another day in traffic hell on PCH? Le sigh…I did enjoy the 2 hours that I was there for though, and many thanks to all of you who came out and chatted or even got a photo :) Of course, thanks so much to those of you who picked up a piece or a print, I hope you enjoy it!
As promised, here's a little backstory on the show. These five paintings were based on the concept of loss and discovery, just one of those philosophical questions I mull over while painting, heh. Pandora, from the classical myth embodies this perfectly—her curiosity, and penchant for discovery drove her to lose a great deal (letting evil and darkness into the ’perfect’ world). I find it rather fascinating that in our quest to find something new or to gain knowledge and understanding, we must lose something in return…whether it’s the loss of life (how many explorers have died for the sake of discovery?), past beliefs that must die to make way for the new, loss of stability, sanity, etc. The more things we know, the more complex our universe seems to become. This set of paintings is about all of those things.
This piece is based on the myth of Pandora's Box...the many generations of explorers have inherited Pandora’s deadly curiosity, and as they open up worlds of wonder and magic, they also unleash danger and darkness with their discoveries...Please view at the largest resolution here for all the details, some highlights include:
-the names of the Columbia space shuttle crew on the headstone at top right
-the phases of the moon in her hair
-the zodiac (on the clock and the sky, as well as the symbols around her watch) and the constellations (including Scorpius, Hercules, Serpens, Crater, Antila, Hydra, Gemini, Bootes, Corona Borealis, Ursa Major).
- the Sphinx (her riddle reads ‘Large as a mountain, small as a pea. Endlessly swimming in a waterless sea: Asteroids.’), Darwin, the polar explorer, the astronaut, the Man who Laughs, the North and South Winds blowing the rocketship…
- the edge of the world scene on the bottom (the ‘Flat Earth’ mentality)
-that well-known explorer image of the medieval man with his head in the atmosphere, except I added the tree of life, time, and the mother-goddess figure, and made it a night and day separation.
The two astronomical clocks are inspired by dozens of different ones from around Europe, which I combined into my own designs.
This piece is based on the 'Lord of the Flies' novel, by William Golding (and the Peter Brook film as well). I called it the “Lost Boys” because this story is in a way like Peter Pan gone wrong. The main figure is a combination of Jack, the violent boy (scarring), Ralph, the rational boy (conch), and Simon, the pacifist (nature and pearls). In researching the trident symbol (that he has on his chest), I found that ‘prongs up’ means to gain through the sea as opposed to ‘prongs down’ which means loss through water. In the novel, the boys set fire to the island, and are rescued by a navy ship, which I thought went well with the ‘prongs up’ symbolism. The rest of his scars are alchemical and zodiac symbols. The beast is speaking a line from the novel, which he directed at Simon: “My poor, misguided boy. Do you think you know better than I do?”
I don't normally paint male characters, so it was fun branching out on this one. I also liked trying dramatic shadows/lighting on the figure, which I haven’t done very much so far.
This one is about the people that explorers leave behind, in this case a mother-child relationship. The child’s rocket is inscribed with the phrase "memento mori.” The constellations, zodiac, and alchemical symbol theme is carried through to this piece too. Charon arrives in his moon boat to take the little lost cosmonaut away to join the stars.
Gloomy Sunday is a song about a lover who is contemplating suicide after the death of her beloved, and was most famously sung by Billie Holiday. The Americanized version of the song has an extra verse at the end that says she was only dreaming, and that her dreaming of her lover’s death only proves how much she longs for him. In the original version of the song, there is no ‘dream’ verse.
I wanted the gargoyles and funerary sculptures to evoke the anguish and violence of her thoughts, while the cameo weeps. There is a lovely line in the song that says, “little white flowers will never awaken you, not where the black coach of sorrow has taken you.” The flowers and stars (which echo the flowers), are a major focus of the piece for that line.
This one is also about lost love, but the story is more ambiguous. He is an explorer out at sea, and has either been lost or he never came back. She has written him letters, which have also been lost at sea (do letters in bottles ever reach their intended recipients?), as have the years, her youth, and beauty…she is still lingering on the past, which is colorful and populated with memories, but the future is empty and dull. The true lover’s briar and rose springing from his heart in the locket, the sea serpent, Poseidon, da Vinci’s horse and rider as a constellation, the women/sirens, and Pinocchio-character are some highlights. The lyrics on the scrolls are from two songs—the ones wrapping around the serpent are from Regina Spector’s "Loveology", and the rest are from Joanna Newsom’s "Cosmia".
Finally, I wanted to share something pretty cool with you all. The lovely Melissa sent me this photo of a tattoo she got recently, based on my “Blue Witch” painting. I’ve posted the painting here alongside the tattoo shot. Thanks so much Melissa, you must be the first person to get a tattoo of my art, and I’m absolutely floored!
Well, that’s it for now! Long post, but I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about my inspirations behind the paintings. You can see all the pieces from this show including the drawings on my website or on the Corey Helford website. I should have a bit more info very soon about the New York group show I’m going to be in next, so tune in next time…