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The man who drew mathematics: ‘Adventures in Perception’ with M. C. Escher
03.20.2019
10:35 am
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The train services in Scotland are dreadful. Probably the worst in Europe, possibly the worst in the world. Trains are never on time, often delayed, regularly canceled, while empty carriages flash by stations without ever stopping. Tonight was no different. All trains going to where I was going were delayed then canceled and finally replaced by a bus.

But there are always good things to be found even in the most frustrating of times. The replacement bus was crammed with passengers—tired, weary, cold, just wanting to get home. I managed to find a seat beside a young woman who was returning from a conference on Bioinspired Nanomaterials. She explained how one day it will be possible to make organs (livers, kidneys, hearts) in laboratory conditions from these nanomaterials. One day. Maybe five years from now. But at present it’s a question of getting the cell replication correct. A cheery young man on the seat in front turned around and said what a fascinating conversation—which was certainly not because of my input—and started asking about the practicalities of these future technologies. It turned out this fellow was equally smart—a quantum mathematician. He explained how this will one day help computers to become faster. Computers, he explained, work on binary code 1 and 0. Quantum math is working towards using a particle that is at once both 1 and 0.

These kids were super smart and I felt like Grampa Simpson, which will explain if I get anything I heard wrong. Too soon, it was my stop. But it was the kind meeting, two ships in the night-kinda thing, that makes life good, richer, much more fun and far more interesting.

I got off the bus wondering if the late genius mathematician Simon Norton had ever gotten around to completing his formula and theories on getting buses to run on time would it have ever helped the trains in Scotland? These thought of mathematics, binary, and cell replication made me think of M. C. Escher with his seemingly impossible yet beautiful artworks like Relativity, Waterfall and Metamorphosis III.

Escher (1898-1972) was never an academic. He was by his own admission bored by school. His only passion was art, but even at this he considered himself just average, graduating with a seven in his studies. As his parents encouraged him to find a profession, Escher briefly studied architecture at the Haarlem School of Architecture and Decorative Arts. Here, he learnt how to make woodcuts. It was his woodcuts that first attracted the interest of graphic artist Samuel Jessurun de Mesquita, who encouraged Escher to abandon his architectural studies and concentrate on art. It was one of those Pauline moments, where Escher’s life path was utterly altered.

He developed his artistic skills during the thirteen years he spent living and traveling in Italy and Spain from 1922-35. He was inspired by the geometric designs and shape of the Italian landscape and its buildings rather than the more obvious beauty of the country’s Renaissance and Baroque architecture. In Spain, he was particularly influenced by the Moorish designs at the Alhambra, which first started his intricate and complex tessellations. He became almost obsessed with these designs, spending days working on one image, admitting that he had become “addicted” to producing such drawings to the point of “mania.”

His work attracted fan mail from mathematicians, which led Escher to study geometric and mathematical forms as a basis for his designs. This led him to produce works like House of Stairs and Ascending and Descending, which was largely inspired by the Penrose stairs—an impossible object devised by psychiatrist, geneticist, and mathematician Lionel Penrose.

Escher’s work can be divided into two categories—the early work inspired by nature, and the latter, gradually growing more abstract, inspired by mathematics and geometry like Gravitation, Möbius Strip II and Circle Limit.

Not long before he died in 1972, Escher was filmed for a Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ film Adventures in Perception, by fellow artist and filmmaker Han van Gelder. The film captured Escher at work and offered a portrait of an artist whose work intuitively visualised the essence of many mathematical theories and ideas.

Escher once said he never thought of himself as an “artist”:

This name, artist—I’ve always been very suspicious about it. I don’t actually know what it means. I don’t even know what art is. I do know what science is, but I’m no scientist.

 

 
H/T Hi-Fructose.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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03.20.2019
10:35 am
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Off with your nose!: A look at the long, strange, cinematic history of Baron Munchausen


An enchanting movie poster for the Czechoslovakia film ‘The Fabulous Baron Munchausen’ (aka ‘The Outrageous Baron Munchausen’/‘Baron Prášil’) directed by Karel Zeman (1962).
 
I suspect the vast majority of Dangerous Minds readers have seen Terry Gilliam’s’ multi-multi-million dollar film, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)—though I also believe that many of our devoted followers are probably also acquainted with the rich, cinematic history (at least eight shorts and more than a handful of films exist) based on the tall-tale-telling Baron who was actually a real person. It should also be noted that any George Harrison superfan likely knows a bit more about the Baron’s 200-year-old history as Harrison was an avid collector of the work of Gustave Doré, the great illustrator and engraver who conceived the quintessential image of the Baron.

As he notes in the extras of the Second Run Blu-ray of The Fabulous Baron Munchausen Terry Gilliam gives much credit for his vision of the story to director and special effects artist Karel Zeman saying Zeman’s influence on his own work is “continual,” and he’s “pretty sure” he has stolen many of Zeman’s artistic methods for his own films. Other fans of Zeman’s work include Tim Burton and special effects legend Ray Harryhausen who has said he “deeply appreciated” Zeman’s talent. As it relates directly to this post, one of the films the former Monty Python member perhaps pilfered from was The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (aka The Outrageous Baron Munchausen/Baron Prášil).

The Fabulous Baron Munchausen was directed by Zeman who also created the multi-layered, dreamlike special effects in the film. Here is Zeman (as seen in an interview with the director in the Second Run release), on his vision for the movie:

“I wanted to capture the surreal world of Baron Munchausen. I wanted this romantic fantasy to be unleashed from the mundane reality. So I used imagery resembling prints from the period. At the same time, I decided to treat color like a painter on a canvas. I put in only when it was necessary.”

 

Zeman on the set of ‘The Fabulous Baron Munchausen’ giving direction to actors Milos Kopecký (Baron Munchausen) and Rudolf Jelínek (Tonik). This image is part of a large collection of Zeman’s work displayed at the Karel Zeman Museum in Prague.
 
Every shot in The Fabulous Baron Munchausen contains some variety of extravagant special effects, and Zeman’s vivid imagery—much of which is based on Doré‘s original illustrations, fill every inch of every frame. According to Zeman’s daughter Ludmila, her father was an avid reader and collector of comic books and would often incorporate jokes or gags he found amusing into actions performed by his actors. Zeman even recruited Ludmila for The Fabulous Baron Munchausen and the then fifteen-year-old got to ride a horse as the stunt double for Jana Brejchova, the stunning Czech actress (and former wife of director Miloš Forman) who played Princess Bianca in the film. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen is widely considered a masterpiece thanks to Zeman’s determination to make a very different film than German director Josef von Báky’s beloved Nazi-funded version of Munchausen’s story, 1943’s Münchhausen or The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

The budget for Báky’s movie was estimated at $6.5 million dollars (or approximately $95 million dollars if it had been made in 2019) and was commissioned by Nazi propaganda pusher Joseph Goebbels. Interesting, the screenplay for Báky’s adaptation was written by Emil Erich Kästner whose novels were regulars at Nazi book burnings. Kästner was in fact banned from publishing his literature in Germany between the years 1933 and 1945. The wildly opulent film was intended to rival The Wizard of Oz, but with an adult-oriented twist including a scene full of topless harem girls and other fantasy-based, “grown-up” scenarios. Despite the fact the film intended to serve as a mechanism for war propaganda, it ended up a luxurious, over-the-top take on the amorous, adventurous, cannonball-riding Baron.
 

George Harrison and Eric Idle on the set of Terry Gilliam’s ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.’
 
As previously mentioned, Python super-fan George Harrison would be the main conduit for the last of the final big-three Baron Munchausen films, Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. In 1979 he showed off his large assortment of Munchausen stories and shared his love of artist Gustave Doré with Gilliam. Then, Gilliam’s pal musician Ray Cooper gifted Gilliam with a copy of a book full of the stories of Baron Munchausen written (though published anonymously) by Hieronymus Karl Friedrich Freiherr von Münchhausen (1720-1797), encouraging the director (if not daring him) to make a film out of them. Allegedly $46 million (though Gilliam says it was “nowhere near $40 million), flowed into the lengthy, arduous production that was already over budget by two million dollars before filming began. Though it was a financial box-office bomb, it received high praise and would collect three British Academy of Film & Television Awards, and was nominated for four Oscars. The stories from the set have become legendary, such as Oliver Reed being perpetually drunk and hitting on a seventeen-year-old Uma Thurman, who plays Venus/Rose in the film. Gilliam’s finished product will forever be considered a triumph in the realm of fantasy filmmaking and “fantastical exaggeration” which the real Münchhausen perfected and unwittingly passed along over hundreds of years through other storytellers fond of hyperbole.

If you’d like to learn even more about the history of Baron Munchausen in cinema, film historian Michael Brooke provides a fascinating, in-depth exploration of the Baron’s many appearances on the big screen on the Second Run Blu-ray for The Fabulous Baron Munchausen (Baron Prášil). Far-out images and trailers from all three films follow.
 

A still of actor Hans Albert as Baron Münchhausen riding a cannonball in 1943’s ‘Münchhausen’ or ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.’
 

A curious scene from ‘The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.’
 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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03.19.2019
08:51 am
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Cherie or Carrie?: Rare photos of Cherie Currie of The Runaways drenched in blood
03.11.2019
08:42 am
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Vocalist for The Runaways Cherie Currie on stage at the Starwood in West Hollywood covered in fake blood. This and the other photographs in this post were taken by veteran rock/nature/surfer photographer Brad Dawber. Dawber has generously allowed Dangerous Minds to publish his rare photos of Currie. Use of these copyrighted images without consent will get you in trouble.
 

I’m a blond bombshell, and I wear it well
Your momma says you go straight to hell
I’m sweet sixteen and a rebel queen
I look real hot in my tight blue jeans

—lyrics from “Dead End Justice”

It’s well known that The Runaways vocalist Cherie Currie drew inspiration from David Bowie for her own stage persona, as did the rest of the band who aligned themselves image-wise with other musicians like Suzi Quatro and even Gene Simmons.  Photographer Brad Dawber was at the Starwood one summer night in 1976 and would capture Currie and The Runaways performance during which Currie would end up covered in fake blood. Here’s more from Dawber on that night and others he spent at the Starwood:

“Rodney Bingenheimer introduced the band that night. After the show, we went to Bingenheimer’s English Disco, and it was another scene there. Band guys, groupies, wannabes, etc. Sometimes Iggy Pop would make an appearance.”

As far as the theatrics behind the bloodbath are concerned, here’s a little backstory on the concept: During the band’s set, Currie “pretended” to hurt her ankle during the song “Dead End Justice.” Jackie Fox (Fuchs) and Lita Ford then used their guitars to “shoot” Currie, following up the fictional assault by “stomping” and “kicking” Currie while she was lying on the stage floor. During the for-show skirmish Currie would periodically puncture the blood packs she was armed with, and when she finally stood up after her beating, she looked like something out of a horror movie. The girls pulled off this show-stopper pretty regularly during “Dead End Justice” but nobody ever managed to capture it as vividly as Dawber.

The images shot by Dawber during Currie’s complete transition from ass-kicking vocalist to blood-drenched vixen are extremely rare, and it appears no video footage of the show that night exists. However, as it has been said before, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words—and Dawber’s NSFW photos of Currie looking more like horror-film icon Carrie (played by actress Sissy Spacek in the film of the same name) at the Starwood absolutely fall into this category. Interestingly, Carrie was released in November the same year as these photos were taken—maybe Brian De Palma caught one of The Runaway’s shows during their blood splatter phase? A girl can dream about such things being true, can’t she?

Many thanks to Brad Dawber for letting Dangerous Minds share his incredible photos of Currie below. Dawber has been taking photographs for decades, and I highly recommend checking out his site and Instagram to see more, as many of his other images of Debbie Harry and other notables are available for purchase.
 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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03.11.2019
08:42 am
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Mingering Mike was an imaginary soul singer who dreamt of superstardom
03.04.2019
08:07 am
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Mingering Mike dreamed of making it big. The D.C. native came into his own during a period of turmoil in the nation’s capital, where drugs, crime, and political frustration ruled the streets around his home. His mother died from leukemia when he was six and without a father figure present, Mike’s oldest sister Cathy raised him and his siblings when she was just a teenager. Mike was shy growing up, still is today. He preferred to watch the world go by at his window. It was a challenging upbringing, but he had his music.
 
Mike still hasn’t learned to play a musical instrument. Cathy was part of two spiritual groups and would often sing at home. Mike liked to sing, too. He performed his songs in the bathroom where the acoustics were better. Oftentimes family members would contribute to his original compositions, lending an additional voice to mimic instrumentation. To date, Mike has written over four-thousand original songs, but only a few rough demos were ever recorded. When I spoke with him, Mike told me that he wants a hypnotist to help him recall some of his vast, forgotten discography.
 

Mingering Mike’s “There’s Nothing Wrong with You Baby.” Recorded in 1969
 
Music of the District’s African American community flourished in the Sixties. At the center of it was the historic Howard Theatre, where Mike’s older brother was a manager. The time Mike spent watching performers at the Howard, along with an early-age obsession with record collecting, led him to fantasize about the life of a famous musician. So he decided to become one.
 

 
With limited resources, Mike created his first album in 1968; the appropriately titled Sit’tin by the Window. The record was the first of many chart-topping hits, jumpstarting a prolific music career that would last Mike ten years. When he called it quits in 1977 to get a real job, Mingering Mike had self-released over fifty full-lengths on record labels he also founded. Of these releases were smash-hit live albums, greatest hits compilations, a tribute to Bruce Lee, a benefit for sickle cell anemia, and soundtracks to his many films. That’s right - Mike wrote, directed, and starred in over nine feature length films. He also produced and collaborated on legendary works by artists like Joseph War, Audio Andre, and the Outsiders. The ensemble traveled the world together and performed to sold out crowds.
 
It was a music career of infamy, but the thing was, Mike never actually released any music. In fact, his name isn’t even Mike. His LPs were one-of-a-kind, painted record sleeves with fake liner notes, copyright info and packaging. Each release even came with a cardboard cutout “disc,” complete with painted grooves. It was in Mike’s imaginative world that he was the soul superstar that he often dreamt about.
 
The records promoted social justice, protested the Vietnam War, decried drug usage. Like a true musician, Mike expressed his heartfelt emotions through his albums. When the draft slip arrived for Vietnam, Mike wrote the hit song, “But All I Can Do is Cry.” Refusing to serve, Mike went AWOL and spent most of his time working on music indoors, hiding from the military police. The unsettling environment of the era gave him a lot to think about.
 

 
Despite leading a bountiful career in an imaginative cardboard world, the fable of outsider artist Mingering Mike had remained unknown to anyone on the outside. After calling it quits in showbiz, Mike took a final bow and his discography was placed in storage. Once he fell behind on a payment, his entire collection and was sold off. In December 2003, crate-digger and soul devotee Dori Hader was scoping bins at a D.C. flea market and stumbled across the myth of Mingering Mike. Confused at its significance, Dori posted photos on the record collector forum Soul Strut and he, along with fellow discoverer Frank Beylotte, were able to track Mike down at home. Today, his story can finally be told.
 
In 2007, Hadar published the book Mingering Mike: The Amazing Career of an Imaginary Soul Superstar. The book contains scans of Mike’s incredible album covers and backstory. The Smithsonian acquired the collection and in 2015, exhibited Mike’s discography at the American Art Museum. David Byrne had even reached out to produce a tribute album based on the enlightening story. Today, Mike’s album imagery lives on through releases by Daptone’s The Ar-Kaics and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. It had been nearly fifty years, but Mike had finally gotten the spotlight he had once envisioned.
 
Take a look at some of Mingering Mike’s iconic album covers, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Bennett Kogon
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03.04.2019
08:07 am
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The remarkable story of the pioneering Renaissance artist Sofonisba Anguissola

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‘Self-Portrait’ (1556).
 
You don’t have to be no punk rock star or drug addled cult writer to earn the tag of a dangerous mind. A Renaissance artist who painted court portraits can equally fit the bill. The artist was Sofonisba Anguissola (c. 1532-1625), a brilliant and pioneering female painter who worked at a time when women were considered only suitable as the subject matter for a canvas rather than the one applying the paint. When Sofonisba started her career there were no women artists in Italy, or rather no recognized women artists. Art was not a career suitable for a woman—no matter how talented.

Sofonisba was exceptionally talented. The drawings and paintings she produced as a child drew considerable interest but little help in establishing her career as an artist. Yet at fourteen, she somehow convinced her father to allow her to train under the tutelage of portraitist Bernardino Campi. However, she could not be apprenticed to Campi, like any other young male artist, as this was considered morally dangerous for a woman, and even sinful. Therefore, Sofonisba’s father arranged for his teenage daughter to stay at Campi’s studio as a paying guest. This enabled her to watch, learn, paint, and develop her talents.

In her hometown of Cremona, Sofonisba was hailed as “among the exceptional painters of out times.” Though her subject matter was very much limited as women were banned from hiring models to pose less they be corrupted. This was a minor irritant for Sofonisba who focussed on painting her father, mother, and siblings.

After Campi left Cremona, Sofonisba’s father began promoting his daughter’s work by giving away as much of his daughter’s work as possible in the (unlikely) hope of finding a rich patron. One sketch was sent to Michelangelo, who was so impressed by the drawing asked for another. This was duly sent and a correspondence began between Michelangelo, who was then in his eighties, and the young Sofonisba. In 1554, she traveled to Rome to meet and work with the great artist. This association attracted the interest of the Spanish court and led to Sofonisba being offered the position as lady-in-waiting and court artist to Elisabeth of Valois the third wife of the Spanish king Philip II.

Elisabeth was just fourteen when she married Philip II in 1559. Sofonisba proved a deeply loyal and trustworthy consort for the young queen. When Elisabeth died at the age of twenty-two, Sofonisba remained at the palace in Madrid and helped raise the royal children. Throughout all of this time, she painted portraits of Philip, Elisabeth, their family, and members of the court. She also met and married a Spanish grandee, who died in what some describe as “mysterious circumstances”—he drowned in a shipwreck in 1578.

This could have been the end of Sofonisba’s career, who was now in her forties and no longer the court artist (having been replaced by Peter Paul Rubens) or even a lady-in-waiting. She decided to return to Cremona to continue her life as an artist. But things took a surprising turn, as on the voyage home Sofonisba met and fell in love with the ship’s captain, a much younger man called Orazio Lomellino. It was a passionate affair and the two were married in 1580. They set up house in Genoa but then moved to Palermo. It was here, towards the end of her life in 1624, that another young artist, Anthony Van Dyck, came to pay her homage. Though Sofonisba was 96 years of age and almost blind, Van Dyck said that she told him what she had learned from Michelangelo and gave him the best advice on painting and portraiture which he used in his own career as court painter to the English king Charles I.

Sofonisba had a remarkable life, one that almost reads like the plot to a novel, but she also faced considerable obstacles in achieving success. Many of her paintings were wrongly credited to male artists as there were those who could not or rather would not accept a woman could paint as good as or even better than men. Her work prefigured Caravaggio and she produced a considerable number of self-portraits (mainly from a lack of subject matter) long before artists like Rembrandt. 
 
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‘Three Children with Dog’ (c. 1570).
 
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‘The Chess Game’ (1555).
 
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‘Family Portrait, Minerva, Amilcare and Asdrubale Anguissola’ (c. 1559).
 
More of Sofonisba Anguissola’s work, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.27.2019
09:26 am
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Terrifying Feelings: Innermost anxieties, curious creatures and alluring lands
02.25.2019
05:05 pm
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On Thursday February 28th, a pop-up gallery event will take place in New York’s Lower East Side at 198 Allen Street featuring the work of four artists working outside of the gallery world. Grace Lang, Hydeon, Dima Drjuchin, and Graham Yarrington have taken matters into their own hands to produce Terrifying Feelings, a show organized by the artists themselves. The show will open Thursday night and run through the following day. Blink and you’ll miss it in other words. All four artists will be present in the gallery for the opening.

Terrifying Feelings is an exploration into the lush and sensorial worlds the four Brooklyn-based artists have created in order to capture the complexity of experiences such as love, pain, memory, and impermanence. All of the featured artists are visual storytellers, using characters and symbols from their personal mythologies to reveal pieces of their own histories, as well as invite introspection from the viewer. The feelings referenced within the work are not necessarily explicit, but more importantly, serve as the impetus behind creation. Terrifying feelings are the ones that are often difficult to say out loud and for these artists, visually depicting a challenging emotion can create space to find the right words. Including over 25 two-dimensional works of varying media, this exhibition seeks to unite the artists as creators of singular universes in which their innermost anxieties are reflected back through unknown creatures navigating curious and alluring lands.

While the artists all cite different “terrifying feelings” as being central to the creation of their new work, a common thread throughout seems to be the fear of loss that comes with experiencing something beautiful. Whether considering a relationship, professional stability, or physical form, the understanding that nothing lasts forever informs the dualities present within the artists’ work: beauty and decay, fear and attraction, monotony and rapture. It is with these contradictions in mind that the artists have attempted to create moments of tender reflection for themselves and their viewers –– the act of which is, in itself, a response to the uncertainty of life as an artist. On the one hand, there is the ecstasy of expressing a feeling through visualizing it. On the other, there is the anxiety of sharing that expression with an often-unresponsive world. The demand to produce, commodify, and sell can all too easily overshadow one’s love of creating. In preparing for the show, each artist actively chose to focus on the satisfaction derived from simply making marks and manifesting ideas for their own sake. The result is a collection of works that demonstrate experiments in new media, as well as deep comfort in the familiar symbols that have been present in each artist’s work for many years.

Below, Fatal Shame: The Animated Series from the warped mind of Dima Drjuchin:
 

 

“The hyperdimensional artwork of Dima Drjuchin comes bounding to life in his new animated series ‘Fatal Shame.’  Blending wit, slapstick, and a deeply sardonic tone set to original music, Dima’s cast of characters travel across the fractured multiverse with affection and recklessness, spreading mayhem, havoc, and waxing philosophically about the mundane and the great mysteries of existence.”

Posted by Richard Metzger
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02.25.2019
05:05 pm
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Kembra Pfahler on 30 years of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, with exclusive Richard Kern pix!


Photo by Richard Kern, courtesy of Kembra Pfahler

On February 15, Marc Almond, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, Sateen, Hercules & Love Affair, and DJs Matthew Pernicano and Danny Lethal will perform at the Globe Theatre in downtown Los Angeles. This absolutely mental, once-in-a-lifetime bill will celebrate the second anniversary of Sex Cells, the LA club run by Danny Fuentes of Lethal Amounts.

Because I am so eager to see this show, and because the life of a Dangerous Minds contributor is high adventure, last Sunday I found myself speaking with Karen Black’s leader, the formidable interdisciplinary artist Kembra Pfahler, by phone, after she got out of band rehearsal in NYC. My condensed and edited take on our wide-ranging conversation follows. If I’d noted every time Kembra made me laugh with a deadpan line, the transcript would be twice as long.

Kembra Pfahler: My guitarist is Samoa, he founded the band with me; he’s the original Karen Black guitarist, Samoa from Hiroshima, Japan. And then Michael Wildwood is our drummer, and he played with D Generation and Chrome Locust, and Gyda Gash is our bass player, she plays with Judas Priestess and Sabbathwitch. I just came from band practice, and I am one of those folks that really enjoys going to band practice. Doing artwork and music isn’t like work, and being busy is just such a luxury. It’s been very pleasant preparing for this show we get to honorably do with Marc Almond. We’re so excited!

We played with Marc Almond at the Meltdown Festival that was curated by Ahnoni in 2011. That was a great show with Marc Almond and a lot of other incredible artists. And I have an art gallery that represents me in London now, which is called Emalin, and I had an art exhibit there, and Marc Almond, thankfully, came to it. He’s friends with one of my collaborators called Scott Ewalt.

I’m not a religious person, but I did think I had died and gone to heaven. When artists that you have loved your whole life come to, for some strange reason, see the work that you’re doing, it’s one of the truly best things about doing artwork. I’m very much looking forward to this concert.

Can you tell me what you have planned for the show? I’m sure you want to keep some stuff a surprise, but is the disco dick in the pictures going to be part of the set?

You know, the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black has always made a lot of props and costumes, and I never really just buy things. I’m not much of a consumer. I’m an availabilist, so I usually make the best use of what’s available, and we are going to have a lot of props and costumes in this show that I make myself, and I have art partners in Los Angeles, collaborators. We’re going to have a big grand finale sculpture that’s going to be my Black Statue of Liberty holding the pentagram. That’s a huge pentagram sculpture. I made that with a friend of mine called Brandon Micah Rowe.

That sculpture lives on the West Coast, and it comes out when I go to the beach and go surfing. I usually take the Black Statue of Liberty with me, ‘cause it’s a great photo opportunity on the beach. And the last time I was photographing the Black Statue of Liberty—‘cause of course I have several—I took this Black Statue of Liberty in a truck and drove down to Sunset Beach, right at the end of Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, and I just have a great memory of almost drowning with the Black Statue of Liberty. It was very much like reenacting Planet of the Apes. That was the impetus for the Statue of Liberty; I’ve always loved the last scene in Planet of the Apes where Charlton Heston realizes that the future is just a disastrous, anti-utopian, dead planet. Kind of similar to what’s happening to us now.
 

Photo by Brandon Micah Rowe
 
[laughs] Yeah, it’s uncomfortably close to the present situation.

To me, it’s very close. I mean, film has always been very prophetic, to me. Orson Welles always talks about magic, and historical revisionism, and truth, and the ways that film can actually inform you of the truth in politics, mythological truth, cultural truths. And I’ve always learned the most just by watching films. That’s why I named the band Karen Black, because I was so educated by the films of Karen Black. I know that sounds sort of wonky, but what I’m getting at is I love listening to Orson Welles speak about magic and truth and film as a way to articulate that truth.

Are you thinking about F for Fake?

I’m thinking about the little tricks and happy accidents that occur in film that are what Orson Welles spoke to. I mean, Kenneth Anger talked about magic and film constantly, and light, and Orson Welles just had a different articulation of the same side of the coin.

I grew up in Santa Monica, so I always loved Kenneth Anger; I was always happy that I lived near the Camera Obscura on Ocean Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. I thought, I don’t fit in with any of these other Californians, but Kenneth Anger was here at the Camera Obscura. I can’t be doing everything wrong.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and my family was in the film business, and I left for New York because I wasn’t accepted by my family and the community, because I was interested in music, and it wasn’t fashionable to be a goth or be into punk when I was in high school. So I moved to New York. But no one was going to New York when I first moved there. I really just moved to New York to be as contrary as possible, and I knew no one would follow me at the time.

You moved to New York in ‘79 or thereabouts, right?

Yeah, I did.

I think the LA, probably, that you were leaving was more, I don’t know, provincial. . . I can imagine the appeal that New York would have had in 1979.

Well, also, the thing was that I really wanted to be an artist, and I got accepted to School of Visual Arts when I was in 11th grade at Santa Monica High School. That’s why, really. The Los Angeles that I was familiar with wasn’t provincial at all. I mean, there’s been generations and generations of weird Los Angeles. My grandparents met on the baseball field: my grandmother was playing softball, my grandfather played baseball, and my father ended up being a surfer, and I’ve always had exposure to a really incredible kind of lifestyle that I think people mostly just dream about. Like, Beach Boys songs at Hollywood Park race track in the morning and surfing in the afternoon. If you think about being born into this time when the Beach Boys and the Stones and the Beatles are playing, and then Parliament-Funkadelic’s playing, and then. . . just the most incredible exposure to music and art and nature, surfing even, surf culture. I mean, when most people are born in countries where they can’t even eat dirt for breakfast, I was born in the most incredible place, that I’ll never forget.

It’s such a huge part of my work, I named my interdisciplinary music and art class at Columbia University “The Queen’s Necklace.” Because when I was a child, I used to meditate on all the beach cities. Starting from Zuma Beach, I would meditate on the cities by saying: [chants] “Zuma, Malibu, Topanga, Pacific Palisades, Santa Monica, Venice, Torrance, Palos Verdes”. . . I’d say all of the cities that represented the Santa Monica Bay area. That was in my field of vision, that was what I saw every day. All those piers, all those waves, and all of the mythology that I grew up with was all about beach culture.

So Los Angeles, I feel closer to writers like John Fante than anyone else. Do you have books in your library that you’ve had your entire adult life that you would say represent your thinking, more so than any other books? Do you have your favorite, favorite books? One or two books that always are with you.

Oh my God, I’d have to think about it. 

I do. I mention that because one of them is Ask the Dust. Another one is David J. Skal’s Cultural History of Horror.

What’s that?

It’s a great book that talks about the horror film genre being quite prophetic, and it’s kind of what I was trying to speak about, as far as how film and horror kind of teach us about the future. That’s one book, and also Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies, Volume 1 and 2 is important to me. Do you know that book?

I do not. Is it like a case study?

It’s a case study of men’s relationship to women during World War II and pre-World War II. It’s about men’s relationships to the women in their lives, in Germany, particularly.

Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Oliver Hall
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02.07.2019
01:18 pm
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Rare behind-the-scenes photos of Alex Cox’s gritty f*ck Reagan masterpiece ‘Repo Man’


Emilio Estevez on the set of ‘Repo Man.’
 
Alex Cox was thirty-years-old when he took on the task of directing his first feature-length film, 1984’s Repo Man. It’s a film which seems to perfectly encapsulate gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s apocalyptic quote “Too weird to live, and too rare to die” as it nears its 35th anniversary this March.

Unlike what the ravages of the aging process does to most of us mortal types, Cox’s film endured and remains as defiantly DIY as does its equally angry soundtrack, containing venomous jams from the Circle Jerks, Iggy Pop, and Suicidal Tendencies. However, Cox faced an uphill battle while trying to shop Repo Man around because nobody outside of actor and writer Dick Rude understood what the fuck the film was supposed to be about. Rude had approached Cox with his short story Leather Rubbernecks, hoping to make it into a short film but ultimately Leather Rubbernecks would become a part of Repo Man, as did Rude in his role of sushi chew and screwer Duke in the movie. At some point, the Repo Man script would end up in the hands of former Monkee and visionary in his own right, Michael Nesmith. According to folklore, Papa Nez was instantly impressed and stepped into the role of Executive Producer for the film because, as we all know, Papa Nez gets it and helped Cox (a former repo man in real life) bring Repo Man to the big screen.

Wild stories surrounding this timeless film have been discussed and dissected by writers, film historians, and scholars since its release. A few weeks ago I cracked open my copy of Criterion’s impeccable 2013 release of the film and rewatched it in all of its pissed-off glory. Of the film’s vast merits, which are too numerous to lay out in this post (all of the repo men are named after domestic beer brands, and so on, and on), let’s focus on what many consider to be Harry Dean Stanton’s best acting performance as unhinged repo man Bud (a play on the gross suds known as Budweiser).

Stanton was 58 when he took on the role of Bud (which almost went to Dennis Hopper) and had long since established his alpha hangdog status in Hollywood starring in films with elite actors like Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, and Donald Sutherland. Stanton didn’t waste any time letting everyone know, especially Alex Cox, what he was and was not going to do during filming. Within a few days, he was already refusing to learn his dialog for the film. Stanton supported his decision by citing actor Warren Oates who Stanton claimed read his lines off of cards stuck to a car dashboard while filming 1971’s Two-Lane Backdrop. All of Stanton’s complaints finally set Cox off and the director began to think it might be easier to cut their losses by writing Stanton out of any future scenes. With Nesmith’s support he shut down Cox’s quest to make Bud disappear and eventually, Stanton delivered his lines without skipping a beat. But that didn’t mean Stanton suddenly became some sort of fucking choir-boy after almost getting ghosted by Cox. And this time his bad-boy behavior involved baseball bats.
 

Stanton and his trusty baseball bat.
 
For a scene involving Otto (played by a 22-year-old Emilio Estevez), Stanton pitched the idea of using a modified baseball hand signal used in a scene to tell Otto where to park a car. Cox said no, and Stanton went off telling Cox that other “great” directors he had worked with like Francis Ford Coppola let him do “whatever the fuck he wanted.” Later in a scene where Stanton was to act aggressively with a baseball bat at competing repo dudes the Rodriguez brothers, Stanton requested he be able to use a real baseball bat claiming he could do the scene in one take. The film’s cinematographer, Robby Müller, didn’t get behind the idea of arming Stanton with a baseball bat for the scene and was afraid the combination of an unruly Harry Dean Stanton and a baseball bat equaled bad times for someone’s head or worse. When Stanton was told he would have to switch out his Louisville slugger for a plastic version he went batshit and allegedly screamed the following in response:

“Harry Dean Stanton only uses REAL baseball bats!”

The quote “Harry Dean Stanton only uses REAL baseball bats!” is on par with Dennis Hopper’s terrifying endorsement in Blue Velvet for Pabst Blue Ribbon and it’s regretful at best that no footage of Stanton screaming these words seems to exists. In closing, I would highly recommend picking up a copy of the Criterion release of Repo Man as, in addition to a fantastic booklet full of illustrations by Cox and Mondo artists Jay Shaw and Tyler Stout. I’ve included all kinds of cool visual artifacts from Repo Man below including rare photos taken on the set, vintage German and Japanese lobby cards and posters, and some of the gritty neon artwork from the Criterion release.
 

Michael Nesmith and Harry Dean Stanton on the set of ‘Repo Man.’
 

A candid shot on the set of ‘Repo Man’ of Emilio Estevez, his father Martin Sheen, Harry Dean Stanton and Alex Cox.
 

Estevez, Stanton, and Cox.
 
Continues after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.05.2019
09:21 am
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Pornographer Royal: The erotic caricatures of Thomas Rowlandson (NSFW)
02.04.2019
09:43 am
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Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) was an artist and caricaturist whose work poked fun at the mores, politics, and attitudes of Georgian England. Highly feted in his day, Rowlandson’s work, in particular his erotic etchings tickled the fancy of the Prince Regent—the heir to the throne or as he was later known King George IV. What kind of erotica Rowlandson supplied to dear old Georgie, we will never quite know as (sadly) the bulk of his porny prints were later destroyed by the prim Queen Victoria. Any saucy pix that do remain are (unfortunately) kept under lock and key at the present monarch’s (QEII) private collection at Windsor—though 962 of Rowlandson’s etchings and paintings held in the Royal Collection can be viewed online.

What little is known of Rowlandson comes mainly from his obituary as published at the time of his death and a few anecdotes about his early life recalled in memoirs by fellow artists and those who bought/liked/documented his work. Born in Old Jewry, in the City of London, Rowlandson was the son of a weaver. His father became a trader in the City, but he was soon bankrupted and took his family out of London to Yorkshire in the north of England. Rowlandson’s mother died when he was very young—not more than an infant—and his childhood may have been ruinous had not one relative (an uncle) died leaving funds for his education. The pattern of poverty and good fortune recurred in Rowlandson’s life and was more than apparent on the city streets where the working class and a world of crime and vice, drunkenness and licentiousness rubbed along with lords and ladies, soldiers and priests.

Rowlandson returned to London where he attended a school in Soho Square. He apparently showed considerable aptitude for drawing—his schoolbooks were filled with sketches and caricatures of school friends and teachers. Around 1772, or thereabouts, he attended the Royal Academy studying painting and drawing. He traveled to Paris where he lived for three years before returning to London where he exhibited his paintings. On the death of his aunt, he inherited a small fortune (£7,000 apparently) which was quickly squandered on women, drink, and gambling.

Once more in poverty, Rowlandson was encouraged by friends to seek a career as a caricaturist producing work for books (Tobias Smollett and Laurence Sterne), magazines, and private collectors. He worked in pen, ink, and watercolor. These pictures were then engraved to make etchings and hand-colored. During his lifetime, he produced over 10,000 etchings and illustrated some 70 books. He also wrote and illustrated his own books starting with Tour of Dr Syntax in Search of the Picturesque in 1812. His work proved highly successful and Rowlandson has been rightly described as “one of the most talented British draftsmen, unsurpassed in his expressive flowing sinuous lines, and tactical use of watercolor.”

The magnificence in his pen and ink work is easily seen in his drawings across the genres of his career. His contemporaries were William Blake, known for his poetry and mysticism, and William Hogarth, for his extensively detailed satirical drawings. Among them, Rowlandson is incomparable in his relaxed, playful creation of renderings and his genius graphic placement of color.

He met life head-on considering it an adventure to be gained:

He was deeply involved: an infamous gambler, a big drinker, ribald, loud, laughing—a big man in many ways. He came right up close against the world, and chose to stay there—all the better to feel it live and grow and change, and ultimately to die. That is what his art is all about: the world of England, especially the boisterous London of George III and the Regency from the late eighteenth century up until his death just ten years before Queen Victoria ascended the throne.

His work is filled with an “abounding and insatiable gusto of enjoyment”:

His gift was a “kind of running fountain, purveyor of laughter to the average man,” with a piquant taste for variety and an almost unboundable sense of energy for provoking both mockery and mirth. As W.H. Pyne wrote shortly after Rowlandson’s death in 1827, “He has covered with his never-flagging pencil enough of charta pura to placard the whole walls of China, and etched as much copper as would sheath the British Navy.”

Rowlandson produced a considerable amount of erotica for private collectors including royalty, most of which “is now hidden away in Windsor Castle, among what is known as the George IV collection.”

It is no secret that Thomas produced for the same royal patron a series of drawings “notoriously of free tendency as regards subject.” ...Rowly spent much of his play-time in the famous pleasure palaces of London, particularly the Vauxhall, and the unrestrained life in those centers gave him inspiration for many curious and effective erotic pictures.

Some (like fellow caricaturist George Cruikshank) felt Rowlandson squandered his talent and “had suffered himself to be led away from the exercise of his legitimate subjects, to produce works of a reprehensible tendency.” Whether true or not (too much of his work has been lost or is held in private collections to know for sure), Rowlandson’s erotic caricatures are some of the finest ever produced with their mix of a shared world of unspoken experience and a scathing sense of humor. Rowlandson understood human desire and its attendant frailties. But we can only guess as to what King George IV found so pleasurable about his work.
 
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View a selection of Rowlandson’s erotic caricatures, after the jump…
 

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Posted by Paul Gallagher
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02.04.2019
09:43 am
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Undressed to Kill: KISS’s X-rated ‘S & M’ photoshoot, 1975
02.04.2019
09:35 am
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One of the tamer shots taken of KISS and model Megan McCracken during the “S & M Session” in New York in 1975 by Fin Costello.
 
The early days of KISS were all about pushing boundaries and, let’s face it, the list of things KISS was not willing to do back in the day is pretty short and likely begins and ends with their refusal to take off their makeup for their first industry gig in New York on New Year’s Eve, 1973. The things they were willing to do became instant benchmarks for other rock and metal bands and, of course, everything from their stage shows and costumes would revolutionize how rock was supposed to look. So how does KISS follow up their infamous drunken orgy shot with Norman Seeff? They do another photo session much like it with Fin Costello and a model named Megan McCracken.

Called the “S & M Session,” Costello, who had shot the band on many occasions, traveled to New York on August 23, 1975, to again photograph the band. Megan McCracken was living with KISS manager Bill Aucoin at the time—although her participation in the shoot has been noted to be a “last-minute” kind of thing. McCracken wore strange satin overall shorts and nothing else and, during several shots, is completely nude. Props for the shoot include a cat o’ nine tails, assorted bondage gear, and fake blood—you know, just a regular day for Ace, Gene, Peter, and Paul in 1975. According to at least one KISS fan, t-shirts with Costello’s X-rated images were a thing, as well as iron-on transfers. And while I’ve never had any luck tracking one down, I believe they existed based on the stuff I saw with my own eyes during the same period when I was a kid. Porn star Marilyn Chambers had one of her own back in 1973, and I know she wasn’t the only naked lady to become an adult-oriented iron-on transfer—this is a fact. Those were good times. 

Photos from Costello’s NSFW S & M shoot with KISS follow.
 

 

 

 

 
More after the jump…

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Posted by Cherrybomb
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02.04.2019
09:35 am
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