Blackwood

“Some of us, that day, she led inexorably through the gates of death. Some of us, innocent and unsuspecting, took, unwillingly, that one last step to oblivion. Some of us took very little sugar.”


Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in The Castle.



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Here’s a reissue of one of my absolute favorite pieces, “Blackwood” 


This piece is part of a small group of older works where I felt I wanted to change the color profile a bit after the initial release. I pulled it for some time, and it’s now available on the site again :) 


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This piece is rooted in symbolism from Shirley Jackson’s classic novel, “We Have Always Lived In The Castle.” 


I have long been a lover of Shirley’s books, and find her to have been a many-faceted and interesting person outside of her literature. I feel a strong kinship with her stories—the liminal, transportive nature of them. Hazy, surreal, and eerie - the books often read like a dream or hallucination. Still, they cut sharp as a knife,like walking through fog into an unexpected thicket of bramble. 


As with all books, Shirley's stories are simply ink on paper. They are still, passive objects waiting to be read and thought about. However, with these particular stories, underneath the unsuspecting paragraphs, they feel truly alive. Seething quietly, waiting for someone’s senses to snare. Every time I read them, I revisit these worlds vividly. Observing something new on each trip that I never noticed before. Like spectral apparitions materializing in the empty hallways between sentences on the page.


In my own work, I layer the stories I create so thickly with meanings and symbolism that it takes multiple viewings to peel them away. You can often see your own story in them, too. I drench the dark shadows of my sets with secrets that lay in wait for a viewer to decipher or discover.


Creating this particular work felt like weaving a spell that only Shirley would truly understand. I made this work in 2021 after a re-read of the novel it’s based on. At the time, it was the end of blackberry season. If you’ve read the novel, you will know how vital the blackberry is for telling the solemn tale of the Blackwoods. Especially Merricat, caught in the twisting web of her family’s vines. Though the story is often dark and sad, there are moments of peace, and I found that myself while creating this artwork. I placed this work in that strange between-realm I often go to in my mind. Neither day or night, on the cusp of dreams and reality. 


I bided my time, nearly a whole year - for the blackberry vines to spring to life. Once I looked out the window and saw the wild green tangles blooming with fruit again, I traipsed out, snipping stalks while listening to the hypnotic hum of the bees traversing through the blossoms on the vine. The bee-song a sleepy summer lullaby for purple-mouthed berry seekers. 


Safe in the shade of my thorny bower, away from the busy world and syrupy afternoon sun, my pricked fingertips bled softly into the leaves, while I ate half as many blackberries as I collected. The elements of that day were a spell of peace and tranquility, if there ever was one.


 





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