Quasi-narrative images

This post was written by guest blogger Dennis DiClaudio.

A strong image, like a good (or annoying) song, is easily trapped in my head. It can rattle around in there for weeks or even years, popping up randomly and refusing to go back into the closet of my brain until I’ve sufficiently paid it attention. I work in medical publishing, so more often than not that image is of a thousand worms erupting from a boy’s anus or a man whose face has essentially deteriorated away leaving most of his skull visible. (Just one of the fringe benefits of my job…)

I’ve been trying to figure out what makes an image memorable for me, and what I’ve come up with recently is the hint of a story. If an image conjures up just some small piece of something human (or possibly anthropomorphic at least) and makes me curious about its subject, what happened in time just before the image, or what will happen next, it is much more likely to lodge itself into my cerebral folds and influence my writing.

Blah blah blah. That’s a lot of pretentious shit. What I’m getting at is that I found some cool paintings online recently, and I thought you might like to check them out…

Mispent Years
I found Gea*’s website through a link on Fleshbot. (I go there for the social commentary, not the pornography, I can assure you.) I went through all of her paintings and sketches and was intrigued to find many themes and creatures reappear again and again. For example, the artist is usually the subject of her paintings, and the skull-headed bee to your right makes frequent visits. I don’t know exactly what’s going on with that bee, but I suspect that he’s not a good influence.

Child Bride
Judith Schaechter is a Philadelphia artist whom a friend of mine described as “the Tim Burton of stained glass.” Her images have a timeless quality, and her subjects seem almost cartoony, but that’s a terrible way to describe it. Let me try again. The way in which she renders her subjects draws to mind folk stories and fairy tales. They are dark and surreal and (from what I understand) incredibly expensive to purchase, which sucks because I wouldn’t mind have a few of these images in my home.

Bound Cat
I once watched Elizabeth Albert carefully heal a broken cigarette outside a Brooklyn gallery so that it could be effectively smoked, and I really respected that. It wasn’t until months later that I saw the painting to your right, which supplanted the cigarette thing. I really love this painting of the struggling panicked cat trying to get itself free. Most of what I’ve seen of hers involves animals that look and behave a lot like people. They seem almost to be the displaced illustrations from a seriously fucked up children’s book; one of those really terrible ones my parents used to let me read when I was a kid and which still give me nightmares.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.