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Matthew Martens
Posted on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 - 08:48 am:   

Hi Liz,

We chatted briefly after your wonderfully entertaining reading at the South St. Seaport Museum last night. I just wanted to pop in here to say that it was a very good time indeed, and made for a terrific teaser for 'Mortal Love,' which can't be published too soon.

John Clute's reading of his delirious and possibly hilarious (if I understood it properly, or at all; it was as densely packed as we expect from him), certainly bizarre fable/creation-myth was a fine thing as well.

It was a pleasure meeting you! Now to find that George Saunders story ...

Matthew
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GabrielM
Posted on Wednesday, May 14, 2003 - 10:06 am:   

Great reading, Liz. Was nice to meet and chat with you, however briefly! Still hoping to play hooky from work and go see the Wolfli exhibit....
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liz hand
Posted on Thursday, May 15, 2003 - 06:07 am:   

Matthew & Gabriel, thanks sooooo much for coming! It was great to meet in the real world, and not just here in the Matrix. And yes, John's story is indeed meant to be (blackly) funny -- he's winging his way back to London as I write this, but I'll pass your comment on to him, I know he'll be glad to hear it.

George Saunders is great, one of the few contemporary writers who makes no bones (in interviews & such) about writing SF, even though his stuff is never marketed as such. I'll be interested in what you think of "Jon."

I wish ML was coming out sooner, too, only because it feels like waiting for Christmas -- wayyyyyy too long! But maybe I can figure out a way to get some advance copies out there to people who want to read it. That would be fun.

Thanks again for schlepping all the way downtown! Gabriel, tell me if you get to the Wolfli & how it strikes you. I found it extremely beautiful stuff, exhilirating but weirdly tranquil, too.
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GabrielM
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 - 05:02 pm:   

Did get to see the Wolfli before it closed. Not too large an exhibit, so an hour at lunch was about right, even if I hurried a tad. Very beautiful stuff, and I got more of the feeling of looking into someone's detailed personal cosmology than with Darger, where obsession prevails. I also bought the book so I could look at some of Wolfli's works at leisure.
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jeff ford
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 - 05:49 pm:   

GabeM: What's the Wolfi book like -- size, text ratio to pictures, price?

Best,

Jeff
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GabrielM
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 - 09:16 pm:   

Hi Jeff. Thin but large book, about a hundred pages, a couple of essays at the beginning and then plates. Significantly less material than the Darger books, for example, but also a lot less pricey. I bought mine at the museum, but you can check it out on Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/stores/detail/-/books/0691114986/reviews/00 2-4306200-7559228#06911149865000

I can't tell you whether it's worth it because I've still to read the essays and spend some time with the reproductions, but it looks ok. It doesn't seem like there are a lot of available books out there on Wolfli, unfortunately.
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jeff ford
Posted on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 - 10:13 pm:   

Thanks for the run down, Gabe. I might get this one.

Best

Jeff
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liz
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 04:35 am:   

Gabe, that's cool you got to check out the Wolfli show. I didn't buy the book -- the pictures were so small -- but I'd be interested in what you and Jeff think of the essays. I was disappointed the book wasn't more like the big Darger volume, with all those well-reproduced images.

The Wolfli show really did give a sense of being inside of someone's head, with a road map and many, many signs (all of them reading WOLFLI). I've only seen a few Dargers, and didn't see the Darger show, but Wolfli's work seemed much more polished, and the effect of looking at it was surprisingly calming. Some of the paintings reminded me of those HIDDEN PICTURES games in "Highlights for Children" magazine -- "look, there's a another umbrella! Look, that's really a *person*!" Kind of fun. I could imagine taking my kids to the Wolfli show -- but not to the Darger ...
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paulw
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 05:01 am:   

With Darger's art, I get the feeling of a titanic battle being waged in one man's mind or soul or whatever you want to call it; one whose conclusion is by no means foreordained. There is drama, movement, randomness, uncertainty.

Wolfli, on the other hand, seems to be recording bits and pieces of a monumental, strangely static creation that already exists in its totality. There is movement to the art, but it is like a whirlpool, or a maze with no entrance or exit; I think that's why the longer I looked at it, the dizzier and more claustrophobic I felt. I think the comparison you made as we were looking at the pictures to the Malkovich restaurant scene is right on.

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Liz
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 06:06 am:   

Great description, Paul. Wolfli's stuff really does seem like a map, ready-made, of something that's already there. Which of course it is, "there" being the inside of the artist's head. It also reminded me a bit of those strange fractal patterns one sees when tripping, which I've read are representations of the optic and neural networks that process visual information. I have no idea if that's scientifically proven or not; but Wolfli's images almost seem like a symbolic, or symbolist, overlay on something organic. Reminiscent in a way of Louis Wain's late, explosively fractal cat paintings.

All of this just makes Darger seem weirder and even more nuts than the rest of them.

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jeff ford
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 06:29 am:   

Liz & Paul: I think I could have saved my money on the book had I read Paul's post first. I didn't even see the show, but from knowing what I do of Wolfi's work, that's a beautiful description and explanation.

What interests me about Darger, which I think is brilliant whether intended or not is the sense of uncertainty he generates in me as to how I am supposed to process the images. There's a real moral ambiguity to it. In this sense, he is a very dangerous artist. And I don't use the word danger in a necessarily perjorative way.
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GabrielM
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 07:51 am:   

>>It also reminded me a bit of those strange fractal patterns one sees when tripping, which I've read are representations of the optic and neural networks that process visual information.


Funny you say that, because those of us who are migraine sufferers often see similar types of patterns as a prelude to an attack and I thought about the resemblance at the exhibit. (Oliver Sacks has even wondered whether certain saints experiencing divine visions might have been sufferers. Saints...madmen...maybe they should all be in a city somewhere....)

BTW, Paul, I stopped by The Strand the other day and leafed through the MacGregor book. I admit I was somewhat skeptical when you told me there were previously unpublished images in the book as Darger's been an interest of mine for some time and I thought I'd seen it all, but you were right -- the degree of violence depicted there is new to me and certainly casts some new light on Darger. Very disturbing. Maybe a point for the psychopathology camp, in case anyone's keeping score.

On a different but related subject, anyone read the long John Ashbery poem apparently inspired by Darger's paintings, GIRLS ON THE RUN? I haven't -- I typically find Ashbery's stuff willfully opaque -- but I'm curious whether anyone has and would recommend it.
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paulw
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 11:20 am:   

I have Girls on the Run, and have heroically attempted to get through it on a number of occasions. The poem, or what I've read of it, is at best tangentially related to the art; actually, as with most of Ashbery's stuff, I'm not sure what the hell it IS about . . .
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liz
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 01:37 pm:   

I looked at Girls on the Run at John's place in London last November, and can honestly say I remember nothing about it at all.

More useless Darger trivia: Kathryn Davis' novel HELL has cover art that's from an untitled Darger painting.
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Shannon
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 12:00 am:   

hi i'm looking for who ever painted that fabulous picture on the cover of mortal love..the colors are so breathtaking i just have to have a copy of that painting. Can anyone tell me who painted it?
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liz hand
Posted on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 - 05:01 am:   

Hi Shannon -- the painting is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The cover art is just a detail: it's a big painting, with four portraits of the same woman. I'm sorry I don't have the title for you, but you should be able to find it online or in any big book of PRB art or a collection of Rossetti's stuff. I have no idea why my publisher didn't identify the artist -- kind of a glaring omission.

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