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