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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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New England Nightmares by Bill Crisafi

Bill Crisafi creates delicately eerie pen-and-ink drawings which are “heavily influenced by the dark nostalgia of his home state of Massachusetts.” A macabre quasi-Victorian aesthetic, both spooky and ethereal, depicts themes of paganism, occultism, and folklore. Towering black-haired female figures, spindle-boned witches, stalk across a grim landscape of colonial architecture, decaying ancient farmhouses such as Lovecraft would have dreamt of, and New England forests.

Baba Yaga, Gryla, triumvirates of Fate-like women, bats, satanic goats, mythical chimerical creatures, and demonic bacchanals form the subject matter of Crisafi’s spidery illustrations. The wispy long masses of dark hair of some of these beings are beautiful and reminiscent of the terrifyingly tragic women of Poe’s stories. Cloisonné pins and lovely tapestries are available in his online shop. I also love the plates which he has designed in collaboration with Miss Havisham’s Curiosities.

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Dehn Sora

Multidisciplinary artist and graphic designer Dehn Sora, also known as Vincent Petitjean, produces the most darkly beautiful and alluringly disturbing work. The exquisite textures are haunting, lyrical, and partake of the ashy fineness of a Shade’s dreams in the Underworld.

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Grotesque Mysticism: The Art of Zakuro Aoyama

Brazil-based Zakuro Aoyama’s highly detailed, imaginatively macabre drawings and paintings are strongly appealing to me. Reminiscent of Takato Yamamoto’s work (who is my favorite artist along with Vania Zouravliov), they are fascinatingly intricate, luring the eye in with strange phantasmal layers and concentrities of flesh-like threads. Both ethereal and carnal, the images are wickedly beautiful, conveying a sense of playfulness, of invitation, and of corrupted purity. They seem to take inspiration from old Japanese kaidan and from French Symbolism, among other things. Their delicate boldness is refined as well as sensational, permeated with a melancholy eroticism.

The molten, striated textures of the paint are tantalizingly lovely. Aoyama skillfully pairs the spectral with the corporeal. I also love the way in which he combines swirling, hazy, yet full-colored, surreal backgrounds with the precision and meticulous delicateness of his linework. The solid lushness of the color is satisfying and provides body where there is a certain quality of vaporousness and highly-wrought elegance, giving an overall effect that is both elusive and gripping. The encrustations, the enameled and elaborated nature of these visions, are abysmally intriguing.

I had previously posted about Zakuro Aoyama, but he had not yet introduced color into his work – an element which I think has added a sumptuous gorgeousness and a further depth to his art that make it even more richly eerie.

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Garden and Grave: The Tragic Naturalism of Teagan White

Teagan White’s art seems to depict the lost souls of animals. It deals with humankind’s predatory relation to nature, wherein destruction, decay, and ruin reign within us. It also explores the intertwined brutality and tenderness of the natural world and its “subtle, gentle reciprocity and wild, tragic discord through muted colors, ornamental layouts, and meticulous detail.” I find myself drawn to the empty eyes of the eerie small animals who find a resting place within these delicate illustrations – the somehow soulless yet sad, pleading, melancholy look of a mouse or a rabbit… Ever-dying and ever-undead, they seem to me to have a perpetual and voiceless appeal. I also love the ominously poetic titles of some of these works, such as Thy Bleak Moor Shall Be Stained With Blood As She Enters the Dwelling of the Dead. The elegant, naturalist perspective of Teagan’s style is infused with passion/compassion for the stricken creatures. It is a form of visual lament or dirge for the diminishing earth.

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Unbearably Lovely: Photography by Kristamas Klousch

The self-portraiture of Kristamas Klousch has had an enduring fascination for me. Enigmatic, alluring, and almost painfully intimate, her portraits of a self-described “strange little wolf-girl residing deep in the forests and cities of Canada” are often blurred, double-exposed, over-shadowed and seemingly encroached upon by time and imperfection. The decaying and spectral beauty of these images is extremely nostalgic. Taking inspiration from classic self-portraitists such as Francesca Woodman, Cindy Sherman, and Sarah Moon, Kristamas’ work harkens back to such vintage analog photography, and has immense individuality, every shot being touched with emotion, atmosphere, dreams, and attended with all the ghosts of subjective experience. They are eerie, disturbing, moody, distorted, fervidly beautiful and otherworldly – filled with an almost sinister sadness.

The myriad, muse-like, ever-changing face is partly obliterated and obscured over and over, but retains the vividly evocative ability of the most memorable visages. Having a phantasmal and nebulous quality, these images are yet charged with an emotionality that seems mercilessly to pierce through to the private and intimate regions of being. They resemble daguerreotypes capturing intense moments of interiority, of childhood and adolescence and womanhood, the bizarre deliciousness and agony of so strangely inhabiting one’s body – precious tintypes which have been warped with the emotions like the presence of a ghost. The decay has bloomed on them, frosting them with shadows in so mysterious a manner. They faintly give off a scent of crushed flowers. The poetic quality and experimental nature of Kristamas’ photography appeals to me like a lingering ache, like a mossy cabin, like fallen leaves, like a cross blazing from the wall, like lipstick with the redness of wounds, like a lost glove, like a dress that I loved as a child.

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“I Want to Say Goodbye Human”: Paintings by Akiko Ijichi

The still, slightly eerie beauties in Akiko Ijichi‘s watercolors participate in a sinister serenity. Their direct but almost unseeing, melancholy, red-lidded gaze has a silent languor, a breath of the simultaneously sterile and erotic; grim passion. The theme of her work is antinomy, the contradiction and struggle between opposites, life and death, evil and holiness, happiness and lament. Ijichi uses traditional nihonga techniques to achieve a clarity and lightness of effect emphasizing the opalescent pallor of the girls depicted, the delicacy of the flowers with which they are surrounded and garlanded. It has an intermittent sparkle or scintillating quality, as if dusted with gold powder, due to the crushed mineral pigments used in her painting.

The marriage of traditional techniques with the modern aspect of the subjects, whom she describes as like shrine maidens, creates an interesting juxtaposition. These palely luminescent beings seem to be giving up their humanity or exchanging childhood innocence, the path of the straight and narrow, or some such unimpeachable condition of life, for the bittersweetness of darker dreams, fairy tales gone wrong. Wolf-girls, flower-girls, butterfly-girls, their pearl-sheened skin tinted with rosy hues is in the embrace of death, turning them into beautiful memento mori, portents of deathlike change.

Two posters and a monograph of her work are currently available on AkaTako.

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