Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mother Goose X

What a Good Boy Am I! (inspired by the 1725 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Little Jack Horner) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained Victorian green damask wallpaper; tarnished Christmas tinsel; antique blown-glass miniature Christmas balls; vintage rusted “jingle” bells; dried mistletoe; dried roses; matte varnish; watercolours; black paint; enlarged colour print of antique Christmas postcard; colour print of Victorian boy holding plum tintype

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner,
Eating his Christmas pie.
He stuck in his thumb,
And pulled out a plum,
And said, "What a good boy am I!"

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mother Goose IX

They Licked the Platter Clean (inspired by the 1765 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Jack Sprat) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained vintage menu art; shattered pieces of an antique china soup tureen; genuine desiccated longhorn beetle; dried grape stem; dried carrot flowers; Fuller’s Earth; cardboard; watercolours; gold-leaf paint; matte varnish; colour prints of two antique carte de visites of circus sideshow performers; colour print of grunge Victorian wallpaper

Jack Sprat could eat no fat;
His wife could eat no lean.
So between the two of them,
They licked the platter clean.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Mother Goose VIII

And There He Kept Her Very Well (inspired by the 1825 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained orange grunge paper; antique key; desiccated Hexarthrius parryi paradoxus beetle; dried pumpkin seeds; rusted tacks; dried leaves; matte varnish; watercolours; colour prints of pumpkin pulp; hand-stained antique engraving of chastity belt; colour print of nineteenth-century daguerreotype of a young woman

Peter, Peter, Pumpkin eater,
Had a wife but couldn't keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And there he kept her, very well.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Mother Goose VII

The Lamb was Sure to Go… (inspired by Sarah Josepha Hale’s 1830 nursery rhyme, Mary Had a Little Lamb) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained dictionary pages; genuine raw white lamb fleece; custom cut mat; black paint; rusted tacks; old thumb tack; dried lily pods; matte varnish; colour print of antique Victorian postmortem daguerreotype; hand-distressed postcard of the real Mary’s Lamb School, South Sudbury, MA; colour print of antique “Mary Had a Little Lamb” illustration

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mother Goose VI

Come Blow Your Horn (inspired by the 1744 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Little Boy Blue) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained music pages; vintage blue glass Christmas horn with gilt tassels; genuine desiccated blue weevil; dried leaves; hay; dried Indian corn cob; rusted tacks; watercolours; salt; black paint; matte varnish; cardboard; colour print of antique Victorian postmortem carte de visite; colour print of grunge Victorian wallpaper

Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn
The sheeps in the meadow; the cows in the corn
Where is the boy who looks after the sheep?
He's under a haystack, fast asleep

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mother Goose V

And a Merry Old Soul was He… (inspired by the 1709 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Old King Cole) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained print of Victorian wallpaper; colour print of silk moiré pattern; colour print of sterling art nouveau frame; colour print of dried tobacco leaves; colour print of antique pipe tobacco tin; hand-stained “King’s Mixture” pipe tobacco advertisement; matte varnish; watercolours; black paint; rusted tacks; grunge harlequin patterned paper; colour print of antique tintype of a violinist; colour print of antique photograph of Henry Cyril Paget, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey

Old King Cole was a Merry Old Soul
And a merry old soul was he;
He called for his pipe,
And he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Mother Goose IV

The Clock Struck One (inspired by the 1744 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Hickory, Dickory, Dock) – Handmade “grunge” clock—illustration board, smooth Bristol board, copper metallic paint, watercolours; soot; genuine mouse skeleton; dried leaf; dried rose; bits of genuine rusted metal; antique key; cobwebs; spray varnish

Hickory, Dickory, Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock;
The clock struck one,
And down he run;
Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Mother Goose III

How Does Your Garden Grow? (inspired by the 1744 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary) – Hand-distressed frame; crackle paint; watercolours; eucalyptus bell pods; large cockleshell; dried tulip petals; dried rose with leaves; thorn branch; antique pharmacist’s bottle; genuine desiccated longhorn beetle; sterling silver paint; matte varnish; black paint, cardboard; colour print of framed Victorian postmortem tintype; colour print of Victorian mourning women tintype; colour print of dead flower design; colour print of antique Murton’s Concentrated Arsenical Weed Killer label

Mary, Mary, quite contrary;
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells, and cockle shells,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mother Goose II

To Fetch a Pail of Water (inspired by the 1765 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Jack and Jill) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained brown paper; rusted tacks; high-gloss liquid varnish; matte varnish; trio of desiccated water beetles; dried hydrangea with leaves; black paint; watercolours; cardboard; colour print of antique Victorian tintype; colour print of desolate well (image taken from the 2002 film, The Ring)

Jack and Jill went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.

Friday, March 1, 2013

One Mean Ol' Mother

Ahhh, old Mother Goose, a staple of American childhood. The nursery rhymes ascribed to this mythical materfamilias epitomize the happiness of cooing babes in their cradle, of a young child's introduction to reading, to playing with sound, language, rhythm, and rhyme. They also introduce preschoolers to the ideas of character, simple plotline, and the literary conventions required for more complex stories and poems. Yup, all that's true — it’s also true that Mother Goose can be one mean old witch when she chooses to, terrorizing children into good behaviour, her sharp-billed, white-downed avian associate snapping at their heels to keep them in line. In short, Mother Goose is a tot’s first taste of terror. Talk about child abuse! Little Miss Muffet’s assaulted by a lactose-intolerant arachnid; Jack (a favourite name for boys in nursery rhymes, it seems) takes a tumble and splits his head open while on bucket-filling duty; Wee Willie Winkie is dragooned into wandering the cold and lonely nighttime streets in his pajamas shouting out the hour; and a whole herd of future orphanage-destined waifs are crammed into a shoe for shelter, force-fed broth, and then whipped for good measure (you can double-check all this for yourselves; I’m not making this stuff up). Animals don’t fare too well either, just think of that trio of typhlotic rodents and their rump-maiming encounter with the farmer’s spouse or old Mother Hubbard’s starving pooch. And we won’t go into “Ring Around the Rosie,” which is about the Black Death, or question just why that baby was left unsupervised, rock-a-byeing way up there on that tree top… and that bough looks like it’s about to break. As one respected children’s book author said: “I couldn't overlook the violent, scary, mean-spirited, or just plain weird aspects of many of the rhymes...”— a statement, which, of course, sent me straight to them like a shot! So, I dusted off my dog-eared copy of the elderly ornithic dame’s verses to take another look… and treading carefully in the footsteps of that master of the macabre, Charles Addams, who conjured his own unique vision of Mother Goose almost fifty years ago, I will present here for the next ten months my interpretation… beware.

And, so, since leg of lamb is such an Easter dinner table staple, let’s begin with…

Little Bo-Peep has lost her sheep,
And can't tell where to find them;
Leave them alone, and they'll come home,
Bringing their tails behind them.

Little Bo-Peep Has Lost Her Sheep… (inspired by the 1805 “Mother Goose” nursery rhyme, Little Bo-Peep) – Hand-distressed frame; hand-stained brown butcher’s paper; old butcher’s twine; antique Oxford silver plate cold meat fork; dried leaves with berries; rusted tacks; brown wax; watercolours; colour print of antique framed tintype of young girl in a shepherdess costume; colour print of antique French butcher’s sheep diagram poster; colour print of Victorian tiles; colour print of antique P.C. Flett and Co. Mint Jelly label; colour print of vintage Mutton Tallow Ointment label; hand-stained print of Wood Brothers Butcher’s letterhead


Friday, February 1, 2013

Love Bites

Irena Dubrova’s Key to the Zoo’s Panther Cage (inspired by Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 film, Cat People) – Vintage 1920s art deco glass lithographed picture frame; vintage lion “Master Lock” security key; black and white print of art deco panther illustration by Major Felten; black and white prints of cage bars, distressed tile work, cement with claw marks

God made the cat in order that man might have the pleasure of caressing the lion. Fernand Mery

Man is an animal, as much as he might try and deny it.

Darwinian theory aside, man has the same needs, the same wants, the same desires as all our mammalian brethren—food, warmth, safety, sleep, and sex.

And think of the zoological similes which abound!

Stubborn as a mule.
Blind as a bat.
Busy as a bee.
Sly as a fox.
Poor as a church mouse.
Strong as an ox.
Sick as a dog.
Dead as a dodo.
Happy as a pig in…well, you get the idea.

And as we head into spring, that proverbial mating season, rutting males of the human genus are classified as wolves, young studs, or horny old goats (randy men used to be compared to hares in March, because those wild rabbits went crazy during those thirty-one consecutive days in their attempts to propagate their species—thus the term “Mad as a March Hare” and that’s why the March Hare’s bonkers in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, but I digress).

And women—don’t think you’re getting off scott-free—you’re minks and minxes and currently if you’re on the prowl for younger meat, you’re cougars.

This seems an apt way to begin our amatorial tale for this Valentine’s Day.

Meet Irena Dubrova, a Serbian-born stunner—sleek dark hair, almond-shaped eyes, slinky shape, a true catch in any man’s book. But now I’ll let the cat out of the bag…

Irena has—shall we say, a slight problem when it comes to the subject of love. It appears that when Cupid’s little arrows strike her, and her hormones are raging, she has the nasty habit of transforming into a black panther, one that has the capabilities and compunctions to devour her mate.

Oops, fellas, better cancel that dinner date!

Poor Irena. She does her best not to let her heart rule her head—that’s until she meets Oliver, and she falls head over tail for him.

But Irena has a rival for Oliver’s affections; Alice, a beautiful, smart and savvy co-worker of his, and before you can say Fancy Feast, the green-eyed monster of jealousy rears its ugly head and softly-treading, padded paws are following Alice to the YWCA swimming pool—and you know how much cats like water. Picture it: Alice, alone, doggy-paddling in the pool, the lights go out, a low growl is heard, and—what’s that?—a long, skulking shadow flickers across the tiles, here, then there and…

Alice screams.

The shadow darts away, vanishes.

Alice leaps from the water, the lights snap on, and she comes face-to-face with—Irena, who claims she’s looking for Oliver. Alice’s left believing she’s just imagined the whole thing, until she finds her bathrobe mauled and shredded.

Things just go from bad to worse—Oliver proposes; Irena accepts in spite of knowing what awaits. The marriage goes unconsummated—and mercifully, Oliver goes unconsumed—but Irena’s spending far too much time pussyfooting around the zoo’s panther cage than what could be deemed healthy. Her pet kitten hates her and the entire cute and cuddly inventory of a local pet shop freaks out—howling and hissing—the minute she walks through the door, the sweet little old lady of a proprietor intoning wisely, fatefully, portentously that animals always have an instinct about people, and then a creepy, catlike woman in black satin materializes at the happy couple’s wedding reception, asking in Serbian whether or not Irena is moya sestra, “my sister”. Sheep are soon found slaughtered, the bloody paw prints left behind by the predator incrementally changing into the imprints of a woman’s shoes. Anybody see a pattern here, or is it just me? Finally, professional help is called in—a psychoanalyst, Dr. Judd, who’s certain that he can cure Irena of her felinic delusions.

But, as they say, sometimes the cure’s more dangerous than the disease—and Dr. Judd’s soon reduced to mincemeat. Mortally wounded in the attack on her shrink, Irena flees back to the zoo, where she releases the caged panther, and where her body is later discovered by Alice and Oliver…

So, in the end, Irena Dubrova sadly learned the hard way that sometimes…

…love bites.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013


Man is Not Truly One, But Truly Two (inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1886 novel, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) – Art Nouveau gilt wooden frame; genuine nineteenth-century chemist’s etched-glass measuring beaker; dried rose and rose petals; custom cut mirror strips; rusted tacks; rusted nails; dried leaf; colour print of Victorian conjoined twins skeleton; black paint; red paint; violet glass paint; soot; cobwebs; spray varnish

“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” —Bill Vaughn
Well, if you’re reading this, it looks like we’ve survived the end of the world. The Mayan calendar ran out and we’re all still here. Another apocalypse averted. Now we can look forward to the next.
Looking ahead is a New Year’s tradition; so is looking behind. Making future resolutions to try and correct the blunders of the past.
That’s why January is named after the Roman god, Janus—the double-faced, bearded, laurel-browed deity, who had the ability of seeing both backwards and forwards simultaneously. He was the god of beginnings and endings, of foresight and hindsight, who allowed mankind to learn from its prior mistakes so that it wasn’t condemned to relive them.
But, in checking the pages of any ol’ history book, it seems that we’ve been really poor students, always rushing in where angels fear to tread, stumbling, making the same missteps over and over again.
So, class, we will start out the New Year by recalling the hard lesson learnt by one of literature’s ultimate two-faces—
—Dr. Henry Jekyll.
Dr. Frankenstein wanted to resurrect the dead, Dr. Moreau’s mission was to turn beast into man, while Dr. Jekyll? Jekyll’s noble quest was to separate man’s good side from his bad—yes, a noble quest, indeed, and one doomed to failure from the start.
We’re all familiar with the oft-told tale—honorable, moral, upright doctor seeks the division of the dishonorable, immoral, and downright foul aspects of his makeup, in hopes of eradicating them permanently, like a virus. Such a cure! Thus mankind would change its path, amend the errors of its way. Via chemical, almost alchemical, distillation he creates a potion, which brings about a single personification of his every loathsome characteristic, an iniquitous creature that calls itself Mr. Hyde—appropriate name if there ever was one, he the lurker forever in our shadow. Hyde does terrible things, from “harmless” vices of drinking and gambling to the true atrociousness of child beating, all culminating in the ghastly murder of an innocent old man. It is only then that the good doctor sees the error of his way, but by then Hyde has taken over, the dark side is too strong…suicide, total self-annihilation, the only way to end the evil and save the world.
Robert Louis Stevenson, Jekyll’s creator and author of such literary classics as Treasure Island and Kidnapped, claimed that this macabre allegory came to him as a dream, fully formed. His wife recalled the moment well: “In the small hours of one afternoon,” said Mrs. Stevenson, “I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis. Thinking he had a nightmare I woke him. He said angrily, ‘Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey-tale.’ I had awakened him at the first transformation scene ...”
Now all Stevenson had to do was put that “fine bogey-tale” to paper.
Stevenson’s stepson remembered that: “I don't believe that there was ever such a literary feat before as the writing of Dr. Jekyll. I remember the first reading as if it were yesterday. Louis came downstairs in a fever; read nearly half the book aloud; and then, while we were still gasping, he was away again, and busy writing. I doubt if the first draft took so long as three days.”
Stevenson finished the novel, then destroyed it in a fit of pique, and then rewrote it again in only a few days. Scholars and Stevenson biographers allege that the author’s pen was never still during the writing of Dr. Jekyll due to the fact that he was as high as a kite on cocaine at the time. Others say that his drug of choice was ergot, a strange fungus that causes hallucinations and irrational behavior in humans that has been put forward as the main instigator behind the hysterics of the seventeenth-century Salem witch trials.
Whatever the facts, whatever the stimulant, Stevenson’s tale was a sensation from the instant it hit the bookstalls in January 1886, with forty-thousand copies sold by June of that same year, and over a quarter of a million copies sold by 1901. It was praised by critics, devoured by the public, and even quoted from in the pulpit and religious papers.
Could a theatrical adaptation be far off?
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, now known simply as Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, came to the stage the very next year after the book’s publication, premiering in Boston in 1887, and starring English actor Richard Mansfield. It next went on to tour Britain, where it ran for twenty years.
Since then the adaptations have never ceased.
The first film was a silent one-reeler, produced in America in 1908; the latest a 2009 Canadian television version. The actors who have played the dual roles run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous—John Barrymore, Conrad Veidt, Frederic March (who won an Oscar for his portrayal in 1931), Spencer Tracy, Boris Karloff, Jack Palance, Christopher Lee, Udo Kier, Oliver Reed, David Hemmings, Anthony Perkins, Anthony Andrews, Michael Caine, and John Malkovich.
The story has been musicalized—a 1973 television movie with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart (he of Oliver! fame), starring Kirk Douglas (yes, singing) and a 1997 Broadway bomb by Frank Wildhorn and Leslie Bricusse with Sebastian Bach, front man of the heavy metal band Skid Row, and (horror of horrors!) David Hasselhoff. And it has been parodied—Jerry Lewis’ 1963 screwball comedy, The Nutty Professor (which attempted to have a Broadway run of its own as a musical in 2012, and failed) and the execrable films Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1953), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hype (1980), and Jekyll and Hyde…Together Again (1982). The naughty/nice medicine man has also been a character in such dubious film fare as Mad Monster Party (1967), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003), Van Helsing (2004), and Hotel Transylvania (2012) plus he’s been spoofed by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Scooby-Doo, Sylvester and Tweety, Tom and Jerry, and Phineas and Ferb.
He’s been in blaxploitation, Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde (1976), where he’s a black man who turns white; he’s been a 1968 Who song “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” as well as a 1983 Men at Work tune “Dr. Heckyll and Mr. Jive,” and he’s gone mano y mano with a werewolf in Paul Naschy’s Spanish “el cheapo” cinema frightfest Dr. Jekyll y el Hombre Lobo (1972).
He’s been transmuted into a perennial Halloween costume and a classic Aurora monster model, and he has been said to be part of the inspiration for the infamous Batman villain, Two-Face.
The women have gotten in there as well—The Daughter of Dr. Jekyll (1957) with Gloria Talbott; Dr. Jekyll and Sister Hyde (1971) with Martine Beswick; and Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde (1995) with Sean Young. There’s a 1996 novel, too, Jacqueline Hyde, by British young adult book writer, Robert Swindells. And pop/rock singer Pink seems to have taken notes from Jekyll’s lesson on the subject of duality for the stunning video for her 2008 song “Sober,” in which she tries to reconcile herself to the darkness of her hard-drinking, platinum-haired, and fishnet-stockinged party monster of a doppelgänger.
There’s even an eatery, the Jekyll and Hyde Pub, on 7th Avenue South in Greenwich Village, touted as New York’s only haunted Restaurant and Bar, where you can sink your fangs into Frankenstein’s Favorite Create-Your-Own-Monster Burgers, Cannibal Sausages, and The Mummy, a “sirloin bandaged in your choice of cheese.”
We won’t go into The Strange Case of Dr. Jiggle and Mr. Sly, an episode of the Veggie Tales children’s television series, or Jekyll and Heidi, a volume in the famous Goosebumps book set, and the less said about the X-rated sleaze flick Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hung the better.
Most of the above, I guess, show that, just as in poor Dr. Jekyll’s case itself, the bad way outweighs the good.
Maybe he can look back and learn from his mistakes, give it a rest, and not venture into the minefield of contemporary mass media again for quite a while.
But, Dr. Jekyll’s only human, and so are we.
In the end, I wish you a Happy New Year—one free from as many mistakes as possible.
Bonne année!