. beauty from darkness
"For death is all the fashion now, til even death be dead."
- William Butler Yeats
Akin to alluring images of disorder, beauty asserts its signature strangely in contexts of spiritual darkness, making for a morally queasy and unstably polarized viewing experience. This phenomenon is explored in the three galleries here. I hardly need warn you, as well, that a tour of these precincts makes for a painful confrontation with fear, suffering, and the horror that flows from human evil. To peek through this window takes fortitude, and will leave you disturbed. Not for kids, or childlike adults. And especially not for persons who think they like horror films.
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 surmise that evil is tamable, more a concept or misunderstanding than anything else, a bad idea that good triumphs over, as immaterial as a fairy tale. Sleep well.
H.M. "Season of the Rat" (2015)
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. It 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.
During our times, which are steeped in selfishness, lies, and cruelty, 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.
You will find three galleries here:
- 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 profoundly dark places does or does not amount to obscenity.
- Satan's Selfies pairs Lucifer's imagined headshots with some of the ugly things our culture values these days (images complete, but text is still under construction at this time).
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.