You should have seen the expression on Jack's face when I came out of the Brown's Bay Salvation Army Store on Tuesday and showed him what I'd bought. A doll-maker must have grown tired of their craft and given away the last of their bits and pieces including a pair of dainty porcelain arms, a pair of legs with pointy black shoes, a beautifully sewn and stuffed doll's body without a head, and a disconnected head with the words "Emma, Tudor, 1974" written on the back.
Although I couldn't agree more with Jack's assertion about the creepiness of this bag of body parts, the reason I got so excited about them was that they provide the perfect atmospheric props to promote an upcoming exhibition that I'm curating at Objectspace called Lugosi's Children. I posed the items inside a battered violin case with orange felt lining, and added a tiny brass lamp to the scene, as well as a lace doily, a spread from Tony Diterlizzi's Film Noir inspired version of Mary Howitt's poem 'The Spider and the Fly', and the moody card for the exhibition designed by Alan Deare of Area Design.
Bronwynne Cornish Sigh, 2011, (detail) Ceramic earthenware, and found object, 70 x 23 x 30 cm
Here's the promotional write-up for Lugosi's Children. Those of you familiar with Jack Ross's prose style might recognise some of the over-the-top phrasing in the media release as his, and you would be right:
“Listen to them. Children of the night! What music they make!”
Few can forget Bela Lugosi in his famous role as the blood-sucking Count in Tod Browning’s 1931 cult classic Dracula, delivering these immortal lines of dialogue in his sonorous Hungarian accent as a pack of wolves howls outside in the darkness.
The idea of Lugosi’s offspring, his children of the night, and the music that they might make, is the concept that underpins the thematic group exhibition Lugosi’s Children at Objectspace, but the works of the eleven exhibitors are not simply an evocation of the darkness that is an ever-present part of our lives. On the contrary, each of the works deals, in some sense, with the ways in which we cope with, understand, and confront the darkness through humour and parody; through observations of the beauty and symmetry of the natural world; through rites, superstitions and spiritual beliefs; through myth and story; and through history and memory.
Lugosi’s Children, then, are the antithesis of escapists. They examine their own inner space for clues to the true nature of our experience of the world – in all its majesty and horror. A trio of oracles, a ceramic cross-dresser, a set of sutured goblets, a stuffed aunty, a vinyl curse, a plastic bag Olympia, a Freudian thought forest, a bejewelled gosling, a trio of predator/prey brooches, boxed addictions and charms, a floral memento mori, and three inedible cakes are all clues, potential maps of this numinous area where we confront our deepest hopes, memories, desires and fears.
When you examine these strange, dreamlike works of Lugosi’s Children you will see that their wisdom may be intuitive; their ‘music’ a response to the logic of darkness rather than that of the daylight world, but sometimes those can be the only answers one can bear to listen to.
‘Listen to them. Children of the night! What music they make!’
Lugosi’s Children features works by Bronwynne Cornish, Julia deVille, Jane Dodd, Katharina Jaeger, Steph Lusted, Rosemary McLeod, Tim Main, Shelley Norton, Ben Pearce, Paul Rayner and Tanya Wilkinson that include jewellery, ceramics, wood, fabric and multimedia works.
Exhibition curated by Bronwyn Lloyd, and designed by Karl Chitham
What: Lugosi’s Children
Where: Objectspace, 8 Ponsonby Rd, Auckland
When: 27 August - 1 October 2011
Gallery hours: Mon-Sat, 10:00am – 5:00pm, free admission
Publication available online (from 26 August): www.objectspace.org.nz
The Exhibition catalogue essay is written by Auckland writer and exhibition curator Bronwyn Lloyd, with an introduction by Dr Jack Ross.
Objectspace Public Programme:
• Curator Bronwyn Lloyd in conversation with various makers, Saturday 27 August, 11am
• Dr Jenny Lawn (Massey University) in conversation about the contemporary Gothic in New Zealand literature, film and art with Dr Jack Ross, Saturday 24 September, 11am
Laura Howard, Objectspace Programme Coordinator
Phone: (09) 376 6216
I hope you can come along to see the show.
I'll be back in a week or two.