JIM DORAN

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A Dark and Gorey Night

Jim Doran talking at AVAM

Being a part of the great mystery show at AVAM has been one of the great honors and pleasures of my life. It is a thrill to see my art in the same room with Ingo Swann’s paintings, and around the corner from Edward Gorey’s The Gashleycrumb Tinies and Georges Méliès’ A Trip to the Moon.

Gorey's Dracula Toy TheatreAfter I was well underway with my dioramas, I started hearing that my work is reminiscent of  Gorey. I wasn’t familiar with him until an acquaintance told me about his toy Dracula Theatre, which was inspired by the Broadway production that earned Gorey a Tony award for costume and set design. It made me swoony, and then I came into several of his books. Gorey had a fantastic sense of humor, elegantly placed around dark subject matter, and super human crosshatching abilities, which are two of my favorite qualities in another human being.

I read several books as I was preparing for this evening’s talk and my favorite is from CJ Verburg: Edward Gorey On Stage: a Multimedia Memoir: Playwright, Director, Designer, Performer. Verburg helped Gorey produce around twenty “Entertainments” in a community theater near where they both lived in Cape Cod. These “Entertainments” were plays that had twenty or so acts running from two to five minutes each. Gorey wrote and typed the scripts (something he began doing during WWII, when he was drafted to a desk job in Utah), designed the costumes, made puppets, arranged for the music, and designed the programs and posters. Verburg seemed to know Gorey better than the other authors I sampled.  I think the later part of his life, when he was so involved in these projects, is fascinating. Many of these were incomprehensible to the audience and abstract/absurd.

Gorey loved ballet, and dance informs many of his characters’ gestures. He would attend some 160+ performances on the New York City Ballet a year. He wore a fur coat, jeans and white converse sneakers. Verburg tells great stories of Gorey’s time at Harvard and the Poet’s Theater Project, of which he and his roommate, Frank O’Hara, were members.

Jim Doran talking about Edward Gorey

I talked about many other things, but one of the Great Mysteries I solved for myself is this: Gorey was influenced by French artist Charles Meryon. He collected some of his prints, which were heavily crosshatched, and quite nightmarish. Another interesting fact: Gorey was known to paint his toenails. Gorey claimed to be a Taoist, and maybe a surrealist. Gorey was also a voracious consumer of books, movies and television. According to his bio in the Gorey House website, he accumulated around 25,000 books by the time of his death at age 75. He liked soap operas, Third Rock from the Sun,  and anything he found entertaining.

So many of Gorey’s protagonist kids meet grisly endings.  When asked “Why do you hate children?” Gorey responded with “I don’t know any children.”

Ready to crosshatch

Pop-up drawings Gorey-esque drawings

People drawing in the gallery

 

The latter part of the evening involved a crosshatching exercise, inspired by the toy Dracula theatre. I made my own characters, and a zine with some basics on hatching techniques.

A quick guide to crosshatching

I have more of these. If you’d like one, please write to me.

 

Zine Scene

I had a very lucky thing happen today. I got to visit the special collections area of the library at work. There, I handled and read some very old science fiction zines. Fanzines, or “zines,” are amateur fan publications. From Wikipedia:

A science fiction fanzine is an amateur or semi-professional magazine published by members of science fiction fandom, from the 1930s to the present day. They were one of the earliest forms of fanzine, and at one time constituted the primary type of science-fictional fannish activity (“fanac”).

The first science-fiction fanzine, The Comet, was published in 1930 by the Science Correspondence Club in Chicago. The term “fanzine” was coined by Russ Chauvenet in the October 1940 issue of his fanzine Detours. “Fanzines” were distinguished from “prozines”, that is, all professional magazines. Prior to that, the fan publications were known as “fanmags” or “letterzines.”

 

Detours Zine, October 1940

Zine detail

Detours, October, 1940

I took dozens of photos – too many to share here. These are some of my favorites:

futurian-war-digest

Triton Cover Triton #2 cover

The Fantasy Amateur

Ray Bradbury Imagination cover

Imagination Zine

St. Louis

In an attempt to validate some theories I had regarding using WordPress in Higher Education, I attend the 3rd annual WPCampus conference in St. Louis. I had never been to St. Louis, and discovered was hotter and more humid than Baltimore. I was able to use the MetroLink to get from the airport to Washington University in St. Louis and to my hotel.

I met a lot of other folks who are using WordPress as their main institutional CMS. I learned what plugins are useful for universities. I learned about other CMS solutions. I learned about governance in higher ed (the politics are so vicious because the stakes are so low). I learned about Gutenberg. It was nice to be at a WordCamp again.

And, I learned a few things about the city itself. I visited the arch, which one really has to see in person to understand how astonishingly big it is.

The Arch in St. Louis

On the second night, I decided it was just too gross out to take the train to whatever was happening post conference, so I decided to wander around the neighborhood around the hotel. I found a place on Google Maps called El Burrito Loco. Upon entering, I wanted to move in and never leave.

I’m only sharing a few photos of the many I took, but some of my favorite aspects of this outstanding establishment are, a diorama of skeletons in a door transom:

loco burrito diorama

The fabulous art and colors. The COLORS! loco burrito

The giant skeletons partying outside the building: loco burrito

And the HUGE papier-mâché skeleton on the ceiling of the dining room. YES!!!

loco burrito

I ate very well that night – they had the best queso I’ve ever had – so, I decided to walk about, and I turned down Maryland Avenue (because, well, I’m from Maryland).

I happened upon a chess club, which I visited, and a chess themed cafe. As I looked across the street, I observed the world’s largest chess pieces, and the Word Chess Hall of Fame (which has an informative  web site).  I spent an hour and a half here and it was great!

historical Staunton chess pieces

Floating chess exhibit from London

The Word Chess Hall of Fame

World's Biggest Chess piece

I wish I had more time to explore St. Louis, but for a guy like me, I lucked into an amazing experience.