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Monique Motil’s Miniature Marvels

The very eerie and very elegant creatures of Monique Motil are assemblaged from a variety of organic and synthetic materials, including bones, beads, textiles, and animal body parts. Attired in exquisite, fanciful costumes which are meticulously crafted, rich brocades and velvets, embroidery, and beadwork, each one-of-a-kind creation presents a persona combining the historical and the present, the live and the dead, the human and the animal.

With a sense of the dramatically uncanny, these aristocrats of the macabre, beautiful apparitions, avian or mink, beaver or cat skull-headed, carry out an endless mourning. They are pervaded with a sense of agedness, which is soaked into the richness and detail of their garments, and have all the delicacy of the most fragile and lovely dolls, without their quality of preciousness.

Instead, these creatures exude a foreboding sense of being timeless, deathless, ruthless executors of justice, vessels of past vengeances, long-carried grudges and dark passions. With their cruel claws, their magisterial dignity, their lace and fripperies, Monique’s hybrid creations embody haunting gracefulness on a small scale. Monique Motil also designs shadowboxes, assemblages, headdresses, and other artistic artifacts.

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Black Veil Studio

Black Veil Studio comprises a team of identical twin brothers who are tattooists and artists, based in Salem, Massachusetts. Their work is inspired by their fascination with Victorian mourning etiquette/culture and the rich lore of their ancient city. The resulting imagery is lovely and often disturbing. The vacant, fixed eyes of the spectral female figures gracefully haunting their work convey a subtle horror, and witches, demons, spiders, bats, crescent moons, New England colonial houses abound in their illustrations. The macabre panoply of images which merge beauty with eeriness make for arrestingly picturesque tattoo designs. Prints, candles, and sundry goods are available from their Shoppe of Drear and Wonder.

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Julie Heffernan’s Surreal Historical Portraits: Worlds/Selves On Fire

Julie Heffernan creates delightful, gorgeously rich portraiture which is a sly twist on historical art. Evocative of Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo paintings, her works feature a bursting profusion of flowers, trees, vines, fruits, animals, cities, gemstones, and fires in varying scales. Landscapes like visions, so shimmeringly lovely and ethereal, alternate with classical nudes surrounded by prodigious masses of flora and fauna, as well as portraits of high society dripping with luxurious ostentation. The colors are sometimes amazingly vibrant, the reds almost painfully beautiful. Heffernan combines a masterly technique with irony and surrealism in a super-encrusted, elaborated, and enameled style that synthesizes many genres and periods of painting. These metaphorical self-portraits and portrayals of an opulent and decaying world represent the trail of disaster, the constant crises, small fires catching on the exquisite hems of ladies’ gowns…in short, the picturesque carnage of a society in decline.

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Erik Bergrin

Erik Bergrin is an artist and costume maker whose collection of fiber sculptures called Shadowwork, incorporating techniques such as sewing, weaving, and coiling, are visual expressions of a ritualistic ceremony that created a mental hell. Resembling massive cocoons or sarcophagi for human forms, outlandish, abstract, and powerful, these sculptures are savagely original and dreamlike. They are terrifying, enigmatic, eerie, and wonderful. He is currently working on a stunning series based on his interpretation of the eight dissolutions of the Buddhist death process.

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An Excerpt from Bonedog by Eva H.D.

And the home-style silences and clouds
contribute to nothing
but the general malaise.
Clouds, such as they are,
are in fact suspect,
and made from a different material
than those you left behind.
You yourself were cut
from a different cloudy cloth,
returned,
remaindered,
ill-met by moonlight,
unhappy to be back,
slack in all the wrong spots,
seamy suit of clothes
dishrag-ratty, worn.

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Puparia

Puparia is a wonderful and enigmatic animated short film directed by Shingo Tamagawa. With a delicate, vibrant, and fluid art style, Puparia depicts a series of human “witnesses” to mysterious creatures or beings whose beautifully fantastical nature is truly dreamlike. At under three minutes long, it gives a compelling glimpse into a world and mythology which would be incredible to see fleshed out in a feature-length production. It is highly opaque and non-disclosive, but the term puparium means the “hardened last larval skin which encloses the pupa in some insects,” perhaps hinting at the transformation of human beings into different life forms. The white-haired girl who is gazed at by the crowd seems to suggest this coming metamorphosis as the hallucinatory colored patterns on her skin evoke the patterns seen in the creatures and strange world around her.

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The Transmundane Jewelry of Arcana Obscura

Kate Hockstein of Arcana Obscura creates jewelry designs inspired by historical and occult themes, ranging from Georgian and Victorian mourning jewelry, alchemy, Egyptian symbolism, to vanitas art, medieval weaponry, and splendors of the animal world. Using the lost-wax casting method, she represents flowers, serpents, flails, sinister left hands, life-sized sculptures of tiny fishes, mortuary designs such as the winged skull that was favored by 17th-century Puritan gravestone carvers, and the inverted torch which is found in 19th-century cemeteries. I love her penchant for Latin mottoes, and her pieces, which have a fascinating story behind each inspiration, bring to life fragments of the annals of arcane history.

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Eiko Ishioka

Eiko Ishioka was a visionary and absolutely unique art director and costume designer who died nine years ago, on January 21, 2012. Her work on Tarsem Singh’s films, including The Cell and The Fall, is a large part of why they are so visually memorable. Her operatic, magisterial costumes have an otherworldly quality, fusing Eastern and Western influences, and at the same time seeming to have no referents to existing sartorial styles – sui generis creations that are utterly fantastical. Lush, innovative, and outlandishly dramatic, her surreal designs linger in the memory with all the force of the truly original.

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