beauty and darkness
"For death is all the fashion now,
til even death be dead."
- William Butler Yeats
With his song of love, J. Alfred Prufrock assures us that in the unfolding modern world, There will be time to murder and create. Writing at the bloody brink of our deadliest century, T.S. Eliot foreshadowed the disquieting crossroads where society's collapsing ethics would collide with its brightening renaissance of mind, a shadowed place where evil and beauty would pause to question their kinship.
where the light gets in. The sublime asserts its signature strangely in contexts of spiritual darkness, making for a morally queasy and unstably polarized viewing experience. The three galleries here explore this aesthetic phenomenon.
I hardly need warn you, as well, that a tour of these precincts makes for a confrontation with fright, inscrutability, and the dread that flows not only from human wickedness and cruelty but also from the random outrages of freakish fate, and, inevitably, from death, which hovers ever close by.
To peek through this window takes fortitude, and is not for children or childlike adults. And especially not for persons who think they like horror films.
H.M. "Satan's Selfies - Free Gift Inside" (2018)
harry pottered. It's true that Hollywood has made a finely entertaining business out of the sanitized, Harry Pottered, Halloweened, science-fictionalized, monster-mashed celebration of darkness in this world. So much so, that our children could come away supposing that evil today is easy to spot because it’s ugly-looking.
What's more, they're apt to assume that human evil is tamable, more a concept or misunderstanding than anything else (and probably just the regrettable manifestation of somebody's unhappy childhood), a bad idea that good always triumphs over, as immaterial as a fairy tale. God is still in His heaven, which means happy endings. Sleep well.
H.M. "Melted Rocking Horse, Family Cottage Fire" (2015)
kingdom of harm. Off the sound stage, evil is not that way. Its presence in life, often stealthy, is grimly real, and never to be celebrated. Evil is predatory malevolence, an instinct present in many intelligent species and, above all, in human beings. Evil resides in each of us, waiting for its opening.
Evil is the impulse to destroy, to crush the spirit of life out of other creatures, and to enjoy doing so. To act out of evil is to serve your own vain wishes at all costs, to exalt death over love, to exploit weakness, to sew despair, to make living seem meaningless or hopeless.
Evil sparks fear, it is true, but even more, evil begets suffering, always. To observe unnatural suffering is to stand in evil's force field.
And God or no, evil gets its way a lot. During our times, which are steeped in selfishness, lies, and sadism, human evil makes its daily appearance beneath a thousand masks, some of which are grotesquely brazen, others quite subtle and indirect. The subtle ones always scare the wits out of me.
Many of the images here work like cast shadows of implied menace, seeking to convey the uncanniness of evil’s presence as though it is lurking just off-stage, a bit like glimpsing Medusa's horrible countenance obliquely, through a mirror. Because beauty is a balm that aids looking, I use it to allure and appall at the same time, in the way that evil itself often does.
prints of darkness. You will find three galleries under this mantle:
- Shadowed Things assembles objects and stories that have unnerved me.
- Nazi Death Cult inspects the former grounds of the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, considering whether locating beauty now in such a profoundly dark place does or does not amount to obscenity.
- Satan's Selfies pairs Lucifer's imagined headshots for the sexting-and-hookup scene with some of the ugly things - we used to call them sins - our culture values these days. (Gallery still under construction, coming soon.)
Such pictures are a chill breeze from nowhere, reminders that, outside Hollywood, evil is baffling yet all too material, and that superficial loveliness, evil's sometime raiment, must never be thought redemptive nor mistaken as evil's antidote.
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