Mark Ryden’s paintings feed directly into the part of my psyche that loves nightmarish beauty without consequence, the surrealist nature of dark dreamMark Ryden’s paintings feed directly into the part of my psyche that loves nightmarish beauty without consequence, the surrealist nature of dark dreams. There is a catharsis for me when I view most of Ryden’s paintings. My interest in extremity leads me into some dark places – my love for Peter Sotos is an excellent example. But sometimes the impact of horror is hard to stomach. Not so with Ryden’s paintings.
Sometimes his subjects show sadness, such as the girl on the cover of this book. She is weeping blood and looks very somber. But even when his paintings, typically pictures of little girls, encounter the frightening, the gory, the miserably surreal, they seldom show fear. At worst the girls show morbid curiosity, maybe some trepidation, but there is no fear in Ryden’s work. The introduction to this book describes these paintings as showing a loss of innocence and that may be true. But if there is a loss of innocence, it is one that is expected, one that is not miserable to those losing their innocence because the children maintain their wide-eyed beauty even as they are confronted with the dreadful and disgusting. I can look upon lovely, big-eyed children covered in blood or encountering slabs of bloody meat and enjoy them for the absolute beauty in the image, for Ryden’s paintings are always lovely. They are always sumptuous, in colors that are so vivid that they almost evoke the sense of taste for me. This is interesting to me because even though much of Ryden’s work is associated with blood and meat, the bright pinks and various pastels evoke old fashioned, boiled-sugar candy. Taffy. Cotton candy. Not fetid, iron stink of meat. For whatever reason, I don’t experience the loss of innocence the way that I suspect others do when I look at Ryden’s work. (You see the intense use of pastels most especially in Ryden’s The Meat Show collection.)
Blood is a tiny book, a fitting size because the paintings are all miniatures, and I selected it to discuss during my Halloween post-a-thon because this book contains an explanation for why Ryden engages in such morbidity, almost a defensive apology for what makes him tick and his explanations, in the introduction as well as a quote later in the book, show in action one of the warnings I often give writers: once you create, the creation is out of your hands and you have no control over what your work will mean to others. By his own words, Ryden would likely find my inability to find his works alarming, especially those in Blood, somewhat alarming itself. Ryden says:
Blood is very powerful. While meat is the substance that keeps our living souls in this physical reality, blood keeps our meat alive. Blood is liquid life. When blood escapes our bodies we are alarmed to the very core of our brains. It is life leaking out of us. It is frightening and makes red a profoundly intense color.
It is here that I think shows the chasm between Ryden’s intent and my experience with his work. If blood is liquid life, seeing children interacting with blood is alarming but it is also a transformative experience. But girls are used to blood in a way boys aren’t. We literally see our blood escaping our body several days each month. It’s less a loss of innocence than a symbol of coming-of-age. There are biblical instructions about the corruptibility and disgusting nature of menstrual blood but for many women seeing blood outside the body is not alarming and when it happens it is simply a sign of growing up. Perhaps this is why I am not appalled by the loss of innocence seen in the paintings in this collection. Blood is liquid life, but in some respects blood is a liquid proving-ground, a symbol of a trial endured, of obtaining a certain type of wisdom. Sometimes the wisdom that comes from corruption is more valuable than white, unblemished inexperience.
This book is every bit as good as everyone has said. Before reading this book, I genuinely had no cultural awareness of Patti Smith beyond knowing sheThis book is every bit as good as everyone has said. Before reading this book, I genuinely had no cultural awareness of Patti Smith beyond knowing she sang "Dancing Barefoot" and "Because the Night." I knew even less about Robert Mapplethorpe. I now I have the biggest girl crush on Smith, wanting to read every book she has written and hear every song she has sung. And that really is all I need to say about this book - you will feel a deep human connection to Smith after reading this. Her talent, honesty and adventurous nature will suck you in and you will feel her loss as your own when you finish the last page.
This book is amazing. Though the content is likely a bit morbid for most to consider it a coffee table book, had I coffee table, it would definitely bThis book is amazing. Though the content is likely a bit morbid for most to consider it a coffee table book, had I coffee table, it would definitely be prominently displayed on mine. The book discusses the career of Frances Glessner Lee, a woman Corinne May Botz describes as: "brilliant, witty, and, by some accounts, impossible woman. She gave you what she thought you should have, rather than what you might actually want. She had a wonderful sense of humor about everything and everyone, excluding herself. The police adored and regarded her as their patron saint, her family was more reticent about applauding her and her hired help was scared to death of her."
Raised in an ultra-traditional, very wealthy family, Lee spent a good majority of her young life thwarted, though she was exposed to home decorating skills that would stand her in good stead when she began making the Nutshell Studies. Unable to attend college as she wanted, once her parents died, Lee started to come into her own, both metaphorically and literally, as she then had plenty of wealth to support her interests. She met a man by the name of George Magrath, a medical examiner who testified in criminal cases in New England. Magrath enthralled the young Lee, and it was through Magrath and his knowledge that Lee began to see what would become her life work. Read the rest of the review here: http://ireadoddbooks.com/?p=147...more