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Catacomb Divinities: Wearable Works of Art by Hysteria Machine

Cara Trinder of London-based Hysteria Machine creates elaborate, lavish antiqued metalwork headdresses, diadems for royalty of dust and dissolution, bespeaking an aura of tombs, saints, and ancient deities. Reminding one of Hellboy’s Angel of Death, her blind masks are breathtakingly exquisite and exude a sense of eldritch menace and holiness, as of dead yet incorrupt gods. Ominous and beautiful, her creations wed charnel house aesthetics to a delicate fey airiness. Their inspiration is drawn from halos, religious iconography, horns, and skulls, and evokes the bejeweled, brocaded, and fantastically dressed catacomb saints in all their sepulchral splendor.

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Dark Relics: The Jewelry of Mary Gallagher

Mary Gallagher is a Brooklyn-based jewelry designer who draws inspiration from ancient weaponry, weathered surfaces, and religious and occult symbolism. She grew up deeply influenced by the dark history of New England, its abandoned graveyards and asylums as well as the Salem witch trials. Her designs have a sculptural, textured, rugged quality, the feel of twisted wood, rock, of the veins of the earth.

Witchy, tortuous, and intensely beautiful, her metalcraft is instantly recognizable and powerful. It combines the delicacy of gems and precious stones with sharp lines and textures with a deft alchemy, creating a simultaneously fragile and bold style. She has used teeth, horsehair, fossils, leather, likewise garnet and moonstone, opal and pearl, to give her jewels their distinct molding and touches. Her pieces are instruments of protection, both armor and sorcery, investing the wearer with a talismanic power. They are a blend of the natural and the supernatural, and explore the borders or shared realm between good and evil, beauty and nightmare.

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T H R J Á R

Thrjár, from the Icelandic for the feminine plural nominative of “three,” is the jewelry line of Daria Andreson, inspired by her love of nature and her lifelong fascination by Norse culture. Mythical, organic, runic, and rough, these raw and lovely pieces are like sigils or talismans of a primeval heathen world, bedecked with mists, hidden by dark forests, and alive with mystery.

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Häxan

And then they will burn you too,
maiden,
as edification for man,
as sweet scent for God.

Häxan is a fascinating and visually gorgeous Swedish-Danish film from 1922, directed by Benjamin Christensen. It is part history lesson, part dramatization and horror story lush with imaginative imagery and elaborate production. Presented in a documentary style which alternates slideshow images of medieval woodcut illustrations with historical reenactments, this piquant silent film explores views of witchcraft and Satanism during the Middle Ages, comparing them with contemporary perceptions of hysteria and mental illness among women. Häxan draws from Christensen’s study of the 15th-century German manual for inquisitors, the Malleus Maleficarum, and from other treatises on witches and witch-hunting from the era. Christensen amusingly plays the role of the tongue-waggling Devil himself.

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Evolution

Evolution (2015) is an enigmatic, beautiful, subtly disturbing film from director Lucile Hadžihalilović, her first feature-length title since Innocence in 2004. It belongs in both the horror and science fiction categories, but it isn’t confined within those genres and I wouldn’t classify it under either of those. Visually striking without being ostentatious, it has a lot of impressive atmosphere. It is not at all lavish, but everything about its visual design is so memorable, from the stark, simple, whitewashed, cube-like buildings, to the slightly decayed, peeling green walls of the hospital. It is very minimalist, managing to feel austere and dreamy at the same time – everything about it is elegant, purposeful, and careful. It has a certain purity. I feel like there is nothing superfluous in it, not a single scene, gesture, or facial expression wasted.

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Scorn

Scorn is a first-person sci-fi horror adventure game, set to be released in 2018. It seems incredibly atmospheric, beautiful, and intriguing; the environments are reminiscent of Giger but with a warmer palette, very alien and intricate yet dreamlike and enchanting at the same time. The weapons and devices appear curiously biological in nature, like the technology of the Engineers in the Prometheus universe. The aesthetic is minutely visceral, but also gives the impression of being enveloped in an aura or mist, a lovely ethereal haze. Scorn is to be released in two parts, with no sequels or expansions, and is currently in development by Ebb Software. According to Ebb, there will be no conventional plot, the narrative is nonlinear, the gameplay open-ended, and “The story and themes we are trying to convey get their desired effect through experience rather than exposition.” The visually stunning, nightmarish world is also inspired by the works of Zdzisław Beksiński, one of my first favorite surrealist artists. There is currently a Kickstarter campaign for Part 1.

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The Wonderland Book

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.

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Witch-Ikon Book Launch and Art Exhibition

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.”