Dec 8 2011

#222 “Captain Lupis: Werewolf Pirate

From Dr. Elijah Hobblestank in Chattanooga, Tennessee

I received this picture quite a while ago, but taking something definitive from it has proved to be quite a struggle. As such, I have avoided discussing this piece for some time now. In the end, though, the fact that I have had difficulty interpreting the underlying messages of this work doesn’t mean that I believe they aren’t there. Nay, this illustration is not some empty conch shell; it is rather a tightly sealed clam which possesses pearls of wisdom and wonder and is loth to share them with just anyone. The viewer must gently coax the messages out of this piece. It must be treated with respect, much like a lady. She will take you to worlds unknown if wooed properly, but just like a woman, this illustration will only open its legs for those who care enough to spend the time unraveling its secrets. Even at this point, I can’t say that I have discovered all that it has to offer.

What to touch on first…. Let’s start with the characters and move on from there. As we can see, a pirate-werewolf of sorts seems to be serving up a goblet of wine to a seated woman. The lady is dressed in apparent finery, but the supposed captain of this vessel wears disheveled rags to say the least. Also, interestingly enough, neither of the subject’s faces are shown. I think that ultimately this works to send a message pertaining to the illusion of comfort that is often present in the constant struggle between male and female forces. The wolf in this illustration is no doubt in awe of the woman and the beauty that she possesses, and likewise, his rugged features and wild appearance offer the promise of adventure and excitement to the gentler sex. But at the same time, something sinister seems to be at work here; the element of predator vs. prey is equally on the forefront of our minds. Also, though, while the wolf is obviously the dominant figure in the picture (he stands while the woman appears to be seated), he apparently seeks to serve her. Perhaps this is a comment on how even though the masculine sex is viewed as being more ascendant and supreme, the hardness of a man can still be softened by the mystery of a beautiful woman. In many ways, the fact that this piece pictures the man as a wolf supports this idea as well. The very fact that this sailor possesses lupine attributes might be tied in to the idea that the love of a woman is powerful enough to subdue even the most savage of creatures.

But going back to the fact that these characters are not wholly pictured, I believe that this was an intentional decision on the part of the artist to allow the viewer to inject himself/herself into the piece. Art only becomes real and important to us when it is applicable to our own lives. As a result, whether we are female or male, the universality of these “headless” subjects allows us to easily step into their shoes. For the male, he is able to explore his own sense of masculinity and assess his relationship with the fairer sex. Does he offer the finest of wines with sincerity and admiration? Or has he been scorned by the wiles of women to the point where he may have even poisoned the cup? For the woman, does she seek to be the princess that she is treated as? Does she appreciate the admiration that is due to her? Or does she sit in resentful silence, longing to cast off the trappings of beauty? In short, does she desire to be more than a decorative prize?

And finally, the notion that all of this is taking place on board a ship (which is largely suggested by the peg-leg of the lupine subject and the skull and crossbones in the background)- what can we make of this? In many ways, I feel that this contributes to the universality of the topic at hand as well. Since ships have the capability of sailing all over the world, this work of art is for all people in all places. It literally resides in international waters. But at the same time, this pirate-themed setting that causes us to picture the precariousness of the open water leaves the viewer with a sense of danger and uncertainty. And in the end, due to the amount of speculation that went into this analysis, “uncertainty” is a word that sums up this piece all too well. But I do think we can all agree that one thing is for certain: this illustration is totally awesome and all of its mysteries only serve to enhance its overall beauty.

Oct 31 2011

#184 “Boo!”

From a mysterious stranger in either Juno, Alaska or Phoenix, Arizona
(It’s a long story…)

Tonight is the night! The infamous eve when ghouls and goblins and all things creepy, crawly and slimy slither from their dank hollows and moldy caverns to wreak havoc upon the world of human mortals. Tonight is a night for trickery, for giggles and chortles of the most sinister kind, for blood that trickles from the corners of young mouths and for shrieks from ancient women in pointed, black hats. Tonight axes will be wielded by children and straw men will find the strength to disengage from their crucifixions and take to the darkened streets. Tonight is a night for black cats whose eyes shine with a mysterious and sinister luminescence. Tonight is a night of indulgence in sweetness and exploration into the extremes of sadism. It is a night of whimsy and fear, of candlelight seances and strolls through cemeteries dotted with crumbling headstones.

It is simultaneously a night to throw caution to the wind and to look over your shoulder at every turn. It is a night of mystery, a night of wonder.¬†And yes… It is a night when wolves stalk their prey with careful cunning and then feast upon the bones of their victims with wild abandon. So, if you find yourself strolling down a dimly lit midnight path and you hear the soft padding of wolven paws and the tell-tale click of claws on concrete, don’t even dare to turn around… Run! Run as fast you can! And if you’re very lucky, you might make it safely home with the cold air still burning in your lungs and your ears and fingers screaming with tingling numbness. And as you press your back against the door frame and breathe a sigh of relief, you’ll believe you’re safe and sound. And then, like the glint from a shiny butcher knife piercing through the blackness of night, the howl of the wolf will cut the darkened skies and then you’ll realize that if it wanted to have you… it could have done so all along.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Enjoy the spooky wolf story below as retold by S. E. Schlosser.

There once was a beautiful girl engaged to a soldier who caught the eye of an evil woodsman who had sold his soul for the ability to turn himself into a wolf at will. He lay in wait for the girl when she was walking home one day and accosted her, begging her to elope with him. The maiden refused, spurning his love and crying out to her love to save her from his advances.

The girl’s cries were heard by her eager fianc√©, who had come searching for her when she was late returning to her parent’s home. The soldier drove the woodsman away, threatening him with dire consequences if he ever approached the maiden again.

The furious woodsman lay low for a few days, waiting for his chance. It came on the girl’s wedding day. She was dancing happily at her wedding reception with a group of her friends when the woodsman, in the form of a wolf, leapt upon her and dragged her away with him.

The enraged bridegroom gave chase, but the wolf and his bride had disappeared into the thick forest and were not seen again. For many days, the distraught soldier and his friends, armed with silver bullets, scoured the woods, searching for the maiden and her captor. Once the soldier thought he saw the wolf and shot at it. Upon reaching the location, he found a piece of a wolf’s tail lying upon the ground. But of the wolf to which it belonged there was no sign.

After months of searching, his friends begged him to let the girl go and get on with living. But the soldier was half-mad with grief and refused to give up. And that very day, he found the cave where the werewolf lived. Within it lay the preserved body of his beloved wife. The girl had refused the werewolf’s advances to the very end, and had died for it. After his murderous fury had died away, the werewolf had tenderly laid the body of the girl he had loved and had killed into a wooden coffin, where it would be safe from predators, and he came to visit her grave every day. Lying in wait for him, the soldier shot the werewolf several times as he entered the cavern, chasing him down until the maddened and dying werewolf leapt into the lake and disappeared from view. The soldier sat by the lake with his gun, staring into the rippling waters for hours as the catfish ate the bloody bits of the wolf that were floating on the surface of the water.

When his friends found him, the soldier’s mind was gone. He babbled insanely about a werewolf that had been eaten by a catfish when it leapt into the water, and he sobered only long enough to lead the men to the body of his beloved before he collapsed forevermore into insanity. He died a few days later, and was buried beside his bride in a little glen where they had planned to build there house. Their grave is long forgotten, and the place where it stands is covered with daisies in the spring. But to this day, the people of the area have a prejudice against eating catfish, though no one remember why.

Sep 7 2011

#130 “Impasse at Dead Moon”

From a stranger in Morgantown, Pennsylvania

What/where exactly is “Dead Moon”? I can’t say for sure, but what I can tell you is that it must be a place of twisted mystery, a place where Ralph Steadman meets Leonardo Davinci, where “Starry Night” meets a horrific nightmare rendition of Scooby Doo. It’s a place where all roads converge at a dark dead end of a spooky stained glass canyon, flooded with the bizarre light of brightly twinkling red stars and the pale light of a yellow vermiculate moon.

It’s a place of perplexing and mystifying oddities, of sights and sounds beyond description. Dead Moon is a place that hums with curiosity and electricity buzzes through the air and sets the hairs inside your nostrils to itching. It’s a place where wild, mutated wolves howl in a twisted chorus of arcane loneliness so soul-stirring that few are able to withstand its lonesome cry. In the background of this illustration, you can see one such victim of these queer wolf howls, hanging from the sharply pointed tip of the dead moon, itself.

Those who find themselves in this place of unfathomable mystery often don’t know how they came to set their feet upon the shifting sands of this crazed world, this realm of warped wonder. But they do know one thing: when those wretchedly pink lips begin to curl back from the misshapen jaws of the dead moon wolves, there’s anyplace they’d rather be. Some say Dead Moon is a deep valley in the heart of a small undiscovered island off the coast of Thailand. Others say it’s a strange dystopian oasis in the middle of Death Valley. Still others say it exists only in the minds of those who have been bitten by a rabid wolf born under a crescent moon.

Some say Dead Moon doesn’t exist at all, but those people… well, somehow they always seem to… disappear.