Kirsty Mitchell’s Wonderland Book is an enormous volume containing over 600 photographs, featuring the seventy-four pieces in her Wonderland series. It is a labor of love created in memory of her mother, who died from cancer in 2008, and took over five years to complete. These otherworldly images, lush, extravagant, super saturated with color, feature Mitchell’s lavish, wildly imaginative costumes and embody a fantastical, whimsical, and unrestrainedly vibrant fairytale aesthetic, inspired by the storybooks her mother read to her as a child and by her personal journey of grief and transfiguration.
Witch-Ikon: Witchcraft in Art and Artifact is an upcoming publication from Three Hands Press, examining the iconography of witches and their magic through the centuries, to be released on October 28. There will also be an exhibition of contemporary artwork which is featured in the book, running from October 5 to 31 at Mortlake & Company in Seattle. I have long been fascinated by the witch as a powerful image and symbol, and by the history and aesthetics of witchcraft and diabolism, so this promises to be delightfully edifying to me.
“The figure of the Witch has haunted the margins of religion and spirituality for thousands of years, as a figure of transgressive spiritual power, outlaw magic, and alluring sexuality. Equally pervasive is her presence in art, from ancient depictions in the Near East, through the European Middle Ages, down to her present representations in occult subculture….Equal in potency to the figure of legend and romance are the magical artifacts which emerged from the varied traditions of malefic magic… The mask, the idol, the knife, the cauldron, the spirit-bottle, and a thousand other magical objects also serve, like the image of the witch herself, to embody a transgressive and beguiling aesthetic.
The exhibition WITCH-IKON brings together an international consortium of artists with varied esoteric and artistic backgrounds, infusing the witch-mythos with new imaginal vitality.”
Laura Makabresku’s photography reminds me of stills from some lovely film, the type of utterly modern movie that’s in love with the past and seeks, with minimalism and airy grace, to elucidate a series of enigmatic, symbolic scenes in an atmosphere of restrained horror, an exquisite nightmare slow to unfold and penetratingly beautiful. The milky, delicate, startlingly clear palette feels both nostalgic and almost clinical, combining a severe elegance with a soft, ethereal fairytale quality. The imagery is enchanting and sinister, quietly eerie and lambent. It is like a tale of supernatural horror, of witchcraft, of woods, of murder, of treachery, of spellbound sleep, of ritual sacrifice – all watched and attended by the harbingers, animals of ill omen, foxes and crows and goats.
Lost Souls is a beautiful collection of black-and-white images by photographer Lena Herzog (the wife of Werner Herzog). Radiant, velvety, and both crisp and dreamlike, these photographs depict specimens in the cabinets of wonder and curiosities and early medical museums that were established beginning in the early 18th century. The subjects are mostly infants with genetic defects and abnormalities that prevented them from surviving, either stillbirths or ill-starred newborns. Declared by the Church to be “lost souls” because of their uncertain status as to heaven, hell, or limbo, having existed as both scientific specimens and as objects of mere curiosity and shock value over the ages, Herzog captures them with a sense of wonder and tenderness, focusing on them a kind gaze which translates them into a transcendent and mysterious realm of intense light and shadow.
Jessica Roux’s earthy, muted, and delicately whimsical paintings are reminiscent of natural history illustrations from bygone centuries and depict animals, flora, decay, and man-made objects in fanciful arrangements with a sense of wistful tenderness.
Drawing inspiration from manga and children’s picture books as well as psychedelic paintings, Kyoko Aoki, who goes by the artist name Kyotaro, meticulously creates intricate, sinuously flowing illustrations representing unseen or invisible beings. They are wonderfully alive and seem to move with a radiant fluidity. Her work is both delicate and dynamic, full of luminous texture, delightfully rendering “light, deities, beasts, animals, and fairies.”
Tabaimo’s immersive, haunting video installations delve into the complex contemporary psyche, exploring themes of isolation, anxiety, and malaise. Surreal and a little unnerving, lovely and delicate and nightmarish, they are evocative of traditional Japanese woodblock prints and combine hand-drawing with computer animation. An exhibition of Tabaimo’s works is currently at the Seattle Asian Art Museum.
A collection of Anne La Fever’s whimsical collage works combining vintage anatomical illustrations with natural history motifs is currently exhibiting at the Ghost Gallery in Seattle.
The hauntingly lovely paintings of Henrik Aarrestad Uldalen convey a quality of photosurrealism, depicting figures entranced in a suspended, limbo-like state of delirious serenity, sleep, or swoon.