Abandoned places are a reliable source of wondrous imagery, juxtaposing our species’ resourcefulness in building with our tendency to lose interest in anything considered old or outmoded. In populous areas, such spaces are reclaimed in one way or another–either refurbished or demolished to make way for projects that fit with current needs. Far more fascinating, however, is what happens to abandoned buildings in more remote locations. This gradual slide into decay is captured poignantly by photographer Eleonora Costi, whose haunting work is profiled in Atlas Obscura.
I love paintings that appear in movies. This probably accounts for my warmer-than-they-should-be feelings towards Night Gallery, a show I can admit is far less good than Twilight Zone and yet which I will always gravitate towards. It’s a special delight when I get to learn more about the creators of movie paintings, so Dangerous Minds’ recent profile of artist Burt Shonberg was a welcome read. Not only do I now know who created the ghostly portraits in the Corman version of Fall of the House of Usher, but Shonberg’s bio also includes a cameo by occult superstar Marjorie Cameron!
All travelogues should come with a whiff of scandal. The Public Domain Review curates this noteworthy book by English sculptor Clare Sheridan, which you can read in its entirety. Written after her travels to Soviet Russia and shortly before the creation of the Soviet Union, the book excited the wrath of Winston Churchill.
By the time [Clare Sheridan] met Kamenev in London, she was an established artist of independent means, but she had never been published. When Kamenev personally invited her to travel back with him to Russia to make busts of his fellow revolutionaries she seemed to jump at the chance. Perhaps she smelt a great story. Certainly she wanted adventure and to know the truth about the Bolsheviks — “these wild beasts who have been represented as ready to spring upon us and devour us!” Kamenev managed to secure her passage to Moscow, getting her a berth on the trade delegation’s boat to Stockholm, and from there the Estonian visa she needed to reach Russia. She would stay at the Kremlin for two months, producing excellent models of Trotsky, Lenin, and other Soviet bigwigs.
A few pieces of original art remain in the online store, and I’m hard at work on new, original mini illustrations that will be for sale at Jersey City Oddities Market on February 10that beautiful Cathedral Hall at 380 Montgomery Street in Downtown Jersey City. I’m planning on honoring the Valentines Day theme of the event with some artwork featuring appropriately romantic imagery. Of course there will be plentiful witches, vampires, and other assorted creeps, too, since I know you guys love this stuff as much as I do. Attendees will have first crack at bringing their favorites home, so don’t miss the market!
Keep an eye on my Instagramfor previews of upcoming swag and art for purchase.
Happy 2018, the year that marks the ten-year anniversary of this particular blog! I’m still alive and doing the weird lord’s work at various spots around the web. Do check it out, won’t you?
Bad Books for Bad People is going strong, returning from a winter break of a few weeks to continue bringing our thoughts on strange lit to you in podcast form. Jack and I just issued our Best of 2017 mini-episode and are preparing ourselves to discuss Ray Russell’s Incubus in our next long-read installment. Visit BadBooksBadPeople.com or subscribe on iTunes (or your podcast app of choice).
Heathen Harvest gave me the opportunity to discuss one of the ultimate “bad books” of all time, Adam Parfrey’s incendiary Apocalypse Culture. I wrote a piece marking the thirty year anniversary of the book and the myriad ways in which underground culture has transformed since then. Turns out I have a lot to say about this topic–who would have figured such a thing!
I’ve also been working on some illustrations. Gilles de Rais and Salome are available as stickers that should go up in my online store shortly, and Salome t-shirts are in production. I also have enamel pins coming soon based on my Nazgûl illustrations–follow me on Twitter and Instagram to be notified when everything goes live.
I went to the Roadburn music festival in the Netherlands for the first time this April, and it was an absolutely stunning experience. Degtyarov wrote about his experiences at Black Ivory Tower, and I provided color commentary as well as some sketches. As someone who’s found music festivals to be a mixed bag in the past, I’m a convert to the Roadburn experience and will be making a return trip at some point in the future.
I’ve been a fan of extreme music aesthetic powerhouse Valnoir of the design studio Metastazis for some time now. I spoke to Valnoir for Heathen Harvest about his artistic inspirations, the use of unusual materials in art, and his time in North Korea with Laibach:
The artist edition of the book is limited to fifty copies and they are all signed with the palm of my whole hand. For this, you need more than a few drops of blood, so I went to see a nurse. She took a pint of my blood at her place. The device she was using was not set correctly and at one point it just blew up. The syringe popped out because she was forcing it too much and the blood started going all over the place. Her dog was there and it started jumping around and licking up the blood. She started pushing the dog away and at this point I almost fainted because it was too much information. So now I have this pint of blood and I didn’t use all of it, so I put it in the freezer just in case it can be useful.
Feral House specializes in publishing works by writers with brash voices who express big ideas. Howard Bloom is no exception to this rule, and his profoundly disturbing book During a stroll around Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, I spoke to BloomThe Muhammad Code takes an apocalyptic view of the impact of Islamic extremism. about the development of his philosophy and how it explains the violent potential of mass human behavior.
When I was twelve, I realized I was an atheist. I had a bar mitzvah coming up, and I knew that meant there were going to be presents, so to admit to myself I was an atheist at that time was very bad. I held out until I had finished with my thank you notes and then fully admitted I was an atheist. The High Holidays came around in September and when my parents dragged me to synagogue, I refused to go inside. There they were, trying to pull me by my ankles out of the car, and I had a realization. There were no gods up there and no gods down there, but where were the gods? They were right there in my parents who were busy pulling on my shoes and shredding my socks to get me into temple! I had read enough anthropology at that time to know this is true of people all over the world, that they have a link to the gods through the ancestors. I knew about science, too. Galileo’s trick was taking an existing piece of technology, the lens, and turning it in a new direction by looking up. Antonie van Leeuwenhoek turned that lens in an entirely different direction: down, to look at pond water and see the microorganisms living there. My job was to take the lens and turn it inwards to look at the gods inside of us.
After failing in his quest to find financing for his 18- to 24-hour-long film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune, Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo and Santa Sangre) partnered with French artist Moebius to create a science fiction graphic novel titled The Incal. This epic, first published between 1981 and 1988, takes its hapless hero John DiFool across strange galaxies while providing a platform for Jodorowsky to explore his esoteric ideas, which blend shamanism, the tarot, Freudian psychoanalysis, and theater. As you might gather, there’s a lot going on here.
Jack and Kate break down how Dune‘s DNA exists within The Incal even though its creators take the tale in a direction that’s far more madcap, alchemical, and… well, French.
Can a work of art succeed at being both serious and light-hearted at the same time? Why are women so goddamn allegorical? Is there such a thing as an unfilmable graphic novel? Who is Kill Wolfhead and why is he the best? Find out all this and more in this month’s episode of Bad Books for Bad People.
Celebrated on the 15th of February, Lupercalia is thought by some historians to be the origin of Valentine’s Day (which itself is a Catholic feast day for multiple Saint Valentines, but that’s a whole ‘nother zine). My handmade, fully illustrated mini zine explores some of the ways we can take a page from the Ancient Romans to spice up our own romantic celebrations.
Carisa Swenson, the artist behind Wormwood and Rue, has created a black and gold enamel badge bearing the image of a fascinum, a winged penis amulet that represented everything from victory in war to good luck to protection against the evil eye. That’s some pretty intense juju for a winged penis!
For a limited time, orders will be shipped with a button showing my illustration of the god Faunus, an Ancient Roman nature spirit.
Morbid Fantasies is a richly illustrated reader’s guide to Gothic literature, guiding fans both old and new through the ever-changing landscape of this most ghoulish of genres. In its pages, scholar Jack Shear covers the history, key themes, and major books in the Gothic movement from its inception through the current day. It’s a love letter to this often misunderstood and under-appreciated form of entertainment, hand-bound and designed by Tenebrous Kate with featured illustrations by Dana Glover, Becky Munich, and Carisa Swenson.
In February, I’d written about the unique and overwhelmingly (yet delightfully) esoteric black metal and folk zine Black Ivory Tower, which at that time had been shuttered. It pleases me to no end to let you all know that Black Ivory Tower is back in blog form with a brand-new podcast. I’ve joined the BIT team and will be writing about the music that moves me as well as various beautiful, old-fashioned things.
Transmissions from the Black Ivory Tower Episode 1: I join Degtyarov and we talk about controversial album art, the pain of visa issues for musicians, and 90s video games. Unlike my podcast, this show does not include a section where the co-host is tortured by reading a filthy section of a book aloud (sorry to disappoint you all).
Magic for the People: The Art of Ivan Bilibin: I’ve long admired the artwork of the sole Russian representative in the Golden Age of Illustration. In many ways, Bilibin opened a window for Western audiences to glimpse the folklore and aesthetics of his culture, so I took a moment to appreciate his contributions.
It’s been another eventful month in the Empire as I march towards the Fall season. I’m putting the finishing touches on a new, limited edition, handmade book to be released by my Heretical Sexts imprint titled Morbid Fantasies: A Reader’s Guide to the Gothic. Not only is it a great primer in the genre, but it also features beautiful illustrations by several incredible artists. I’m hoping to have that out in October so stay tuned for more info!
Speaking of artistic endeavors, I’ve got work in the upcoming Occult Activity Book Vol. 2, created by S. Elizabeth and Becky Munich. I was working with ideas of occult couples, so I have two coloring pages featuring esoteric love matches, plus a papercraft Gilles de Rais. Look for his partner Joan of Arc to be offered free on this blog once the book is released. The first edition sold out super-quickly, so don’t miss your opportunity to own volume two. Pre-order your copy here!
On Slutist, I did something a bit different in August and talked about Artemisia Gentileschi, the Baroque-era Italian painter who overcame personal trauma to become a respected artist in her own right. Read her story here.
Decadent German black metal band Imperium Dekadenz draws inspiration from Tinto Brass’ Caligula, among other sources. Their lush, melodramatic, melodic record is a shoo-in for my best of 2016 list. Read my thoughts on their latest, Dis Manibvs, on Nine Circles.
Another historically-grounded metal album that moved me recently was Wrekmeister Harmonies’ Light Falls. It’s an emotionally harrowing journey inspired by Primo Levi’s holocaust memoir If This Is A Man as well as by band-leader JR Robinson’s strained relationship with his son. Not an easy listen, but a deeply rewarding one. Read my thoughts here.