Women in Horror: Artist Edition
Hello lovely people!
Welcome to the beginning of my project on spotlighting people who identify as women and are working in the macabre and horror creative fields. If you would like more information I wrote an intro blog in December outlining the process of my project and what to expect in the coming year. In short, every month I will write a blog in addition to my monthly personal art blog, which will take artists who have a personal effect on my daily life and place them in a light where more people can enjoy, discuss and be inspired by their work. My goal with this is to expand our global community's knowledge of female identifying creators in the horror genre as well as to create an archive, so as to have a place in history. Too often I find women are erased or diminished in the books of our current world and I would like to be a part of the change. Even if I'm a small corner of the world, it creates a ripple which I hope will flow across the interwebs and into minds, willing and wanting to learn.
"I'm Coming Back Tomorrow to Look For More"
Oil and Ink on canvas 18" x 24" 2014
Candice Tripp creates ominous paintings full of darkness, riddled with human bodies in often precarious, sometimes deadly situations. I first came across her work when I lived in NJ. I went to a group show with a few artist friends who shared my dark tastes. It was a group show at Joshua Liner Gallery in NYC if I am not mistaken, it's been awhile. I remember the wooden floor boards and the smell of art mixed together in the upper floors of a high building. Coming around a corner and seeing Candice Tripp's artworks with disturbing girl-like figures in strange worlds was akin to my first time falling down the rabbit hole with Alice in Wonderland. Red and white parasols; masked faces; twisted tree branches - all adding to my feelings of being in another world, one where animals could talk and have tea but also tied to this subtle brooding feeling of unease. As with most artists we expand and grow. As of late her work as grown even darker, with paintings of almost illustrative quality, seeping with story. She always incorporates some white negative space, into which the scene fades out as if the canvas were a portal to the realm of her imagination. I remember dearly that first time viewing Candice Tripp's work, I was just starting to find my own style in art so when I saw her work it sparked me. It was a light bulb moment, like: 'Wow, women can be unapologetically creepy too!'
It took me back to the moment I first discovered Artemisia Gentilelleschi, an Italian painter known for her bold themes and strong compositions. She did a painting called "Judith and her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes". It is a brutal, bloody painting. It was the first time I saw blood spurt in a painting. I had seen war scenery paintings, but never a piece with such intense violence as this. It was breath-taking and cathartic at the same time. The look of peace on the woman's face as she dragged a huge blunt sword through the man's neck, his face riddled with agony, forever will be one of my favourite oil paintings. The layers of this painting are there if you look, each one full of stories. In our time when women are in action, I find her piece to be a focal point for taking your life into your own hands and creating your own change.
Embraced #1, Ronit Baranga, 2016
The way hands wrap around items, gripping, flexing creating action in a simple gesture or dramatic motion. I feel that when I look at Ronit Baranga's sculpture work. The inflections of human touch in her work are simply exquisite to experience. Her series of ceramic inanimate objects such as tea pots, plates or cups, are gifted with human body parts, often hands, lips, teeth and they are often gripping each other. Picture a teapot reaching out and squeezing a milk cup, a plate with a mouth sucking it's own fingers. Feel their surreal humanity. It left me with the question: What do our objects get out of our relationship? And always the thought of what do they get up to when I'm not around? Ronit Baranga is not limited to the creature-like inanimate objects, she also works with the human figure. Her series "Grave Watchers' Childhood" is a haunting depiction of the childhood of tomb guardians. The juxtaposation of youthful, chubby babies with vampiric teeth, sharp animalistic horns, yowling mouths brings a level of delightful, disturbing horror to me.
The next artist I recently came across here in Berlin goes by the name Zigendemonic. I am always on the look-out to discover new horror artists, so when I came across her work at a show where I originally went to see another artist Fufu Frauenwahl (also awesome), I was struck by Ziegendemonic's work. I love intimate exhibitions by the way. It was presented by Anagram Book Distributions, a book printing company which prints mainly art/art theory books and just wanted to show some love for the local artists. I met one of the organisers Adeline, who was great to talk to about the show, which mainly focused on prints and graphic designs. She is a horror fan herself so she was excited to have a few horror artists at the show. Hopefully they will do more shows like this in the future.
Zigendemonic "I'm Taking Things Way Too Seriously" - 2017 Handprinted Silkscreen
Anyway, back to the art. Zigendemonic has a way with composition, structure and texture that makes one feel all too uncomfortable. There was one in particular, a female figure twisting in on herself, printed on red paper with black ink and bugs, bugs everywhere, crawling all over her. It's a feeling of anxiety, collapsing in on oneself, the arms and hands are twisted in an unusual position and the figure is so thin it creates a stress I often feel when I see bone protruding through too taut a skin. Body horror may be a lot for some, but for me it holds a special place in my heart. As a person who's struggled with anxiety and body image their whole life and as I use it often in my own work to show how social identity roles change us over time and how they can morph our bodies, I was happy to find a sympathetic spirit in her work. So much so, I took three of her art prints home with me.
Flesh, slimy bodies, green skin, sticky wet are the feelings I get when I gaze upon Jaqueline Gallagher's oil paintings. Her most recent work of fishy female bodies creates this squirmy feeling in my guts, posed on top of worms these brightly painted fish women are to die for. Focusing mainly on the female figure combined with insects, fish and all manner of creature not often seen mixed with female figures, creating an otherworldly atmosphere like to that of a science fiction story. The first time I saw her work, it brought me back to the world of 'Perdido Street Station' by China Miéville, a book that revelled in its weird world and went beyond the human body. A world where ant women were sentient beings and murderous moth creatures could eat your soul, which were and still are some of the most terrifying beings I have encountered in fiction. All of this swings back into my brain when I look at the paintings of Jacqueline Gallagher and I am engulfed in the beautiful rapture of beings beyond this world.
Jacqueline Gallagher "Bedroom Eyes." Oil Paint on Linen, 2'x4'
Everyday I wake and am happy to be in a world where artists like these women exist. When I was younger I felt alone, isolated in my love of things outside the societal norm. As an adult woman, it brings me joy to live in a time where the love of horror is slowly becoming more accepted. Slowly, though. There are still troubles abound, because there are infrastructures in our global community which need reworking, but thankfully we are getting there bit by bit. Movements like the Women in Horror Month sparked by Hannah Neurotica and many others working in the horror field create these changes, building inclusive spaces where women can feel empowered by their love of horror and find friendship, support and love from a community that is growing every day. I am happy to have shed my fears of allowing the world to see my love of horror, it has taken me a while but I'm here and I'm excited to start a more open future, where I too can contribute to the ever expanding world of horror. For those still sitting in the bleachers watching, I understand and I hope one day you will join us. I offer you my love and warm welcome when you are ready.
For next month, show your support and lets get this women in horror movement bigger. For the whole month of February there is a hashtag you all should be aware of #womeninhorror and/or #womeninhorrormonth it is a month long celebration of all the hardworking women who work in horror. After that I hope more will be taking the celebration beyond the month and throughout the year so we can increase visibility, create more opportunities for women, educate new generations of people who love horror and show those who doubt us, that women have a true place in horror.
Till then, have a good month and see you soon.
I have a little surprise, along with my women in horror project I will be contributing a brand new enamel pin! It will be released in my store in February and hopefully be available for sale at our local Final Girls Film Fest here in Berlin. Check out my store for updates! If you would like to support my work please visit my Patreon page www.patreon.com/jessicafholt and help me reach my goals of creating a sustainable income while also working towards my dream of creating a LGBTQIA+ horror and macabre artist space.
What about horror gets you excited? What's your favourite horror movie or creator?
Would love to hear about it!