Ryden for a Fall

Author: Kirsten K., Modern Art, Pop Culture, The Arts

I was first introduced to the artwork of Mark Ryden 20 years ago this month when My Crazy Friend Marianne™ attended The Meat Show at the Mendenhall Gallery and brought me back a copy of the companion book. I was completely captivated by his Pop Surrealist paintings of doe-eyed children and animals amid a bizarre jumble of vintage toys, flea market finds, and slabs of raw meat with macabre images hidden among the marbling.

Wanting to share this fortuitous find with Kirsti, I took the book with me to a Halloween party at her house and left it behind for her to peruse. The next day, I learned that one of the guests had laid the book on top of a lit candle, and the flame had burned a mark into the back cover and through several pages.

Kirsti offered to replace it, of course, but I declined, since the mark hadn’t appeared on any of the pictures. However, she more than made up for it years later by jumping through hoops to get me a signed copy of Ryden’s Anima Mundi.

Having become a fan herself, Kirsti attended the Blood exhibit at the Earl McGrath Gallery in 2003, where she saw the haunting image of “Rose,” with her large, woeful eyes and crimson tears. When the painting became available as a limited edition pendant, Kirsti got it for me as a gift, and while I occasionally wear the pendant during the year, I always pull it out each October to celebrate the season. Now it’s become as much a harbinger of Halloween as PSLs and pumpkin carving patterns.

Last year, Kirsti and I attended the Mark Ryden-designed Whipped Cream ballet with our friend Bryan, who later surprised and delighted each of us with a Lover’s Eye brooch. Featuring a likeness of the large, wandering eye that had been projected on one of the stage curtains, its graphic gaze has joined Rose’s blood-streaked face as one of my eerie embellishments during the month of October.

If you are new to the art of Mark Ryden, you’re in for a treat (no trick!). Each time I flip through one of my books or view his work online, I encounter something fresh and am amazed anew by his attention to detail and boundless imagination. Some themes may be disquieting, but they are always served up with a soothing palette and a healthy dose of whimsy. Every autumn I fall for them all over again.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Mark Ryden

 

The “Rose” pendant is no longer available for sale, but can be found on eBay and various online marketplaces. The Lover’s Eye brooch can be purchased from Porterhouse Fine Art Editions, along with special edition Mark Ryden books and merchandise.

 

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Touch-and-Go

Author: Kirsten K., Modern Art, Pop Culture, The Arts

Last week, as a follow-up to my ASMR post, I convinced my good friend Stephanie—who does not experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response—to accompany me to the Pacific Design Center to view Julie Weitz’s Touch Museum at the Young Projects Gallery. Unsurprisingly for a weekday afternoon visit to an exhibit inspired by an obscure and recently identified phenomenon, it was a ghost town, but the artist was there to welcome us into the space. She allowed us to wander at our leisure through dark rooms (assuring us that our eyes would adjust) in which video screens displayed scenes ranging from hands caked in cracking mud to scissors cutting through netted fabric. All the while, beautiful and slightly eerie music by Los Angeles composer Deru filled the air.

Touch-and-Go 1

I’ll be the first person to admit that I don’t “get” modern art. In 2000, Kirsti dragged me to a Paul McCarthy exhibit at MOCA and I still haven’t forgiven her. But as I walked through the Touch Museum, I began to understand what Julie was up to. My first clue came while watching a scene in which a pair of muddy hands runs over a length of metal chain. I instantly felt the sensation in my palms. Observing a video of hands caressing sculpted heads and being able to feel every groove of the carved hair under my own fingers, I experienced how this exhibit—comprised of little that is tangible beyond a series of two-dimensional screens—is, in fact, ALL about touch.

Touch-and-Go 2

Since feeling physical sensations in response to observing touch is not unusual for me, I didn’t think much of it until I consulted Stephanie about her experience. Looking at another video of hands running down a curtain of hanging chains, I asked her what she felt. She said that she had an impression of cold, but that was it. “You don’t feel the chains in your hands?” I asked. “No.” As an adult of a certain age, I’m still brought up short when presented with how differently we all experience the world. We tend to assume that most people see and feel things in the same way that we do, so it’s a surprise to suddenly realize that something we’ve taken for granted our entire lives may not be the norm. As we watched a video of mannequin hands petting a wig of thick, wavy hair, the sensation of the strands passing through my fingers was strong, but Stephanie felt nothing.

Touch-and-Go 3

After walking through the exhibit, we entered a room with pillows on the floor and two headsets facing a screen showing an ASMR video that Julie created for her YouTube channel. Stephanie and I sat down and put on our headphones to watch, but there were a couple of people talking loudly in the hallway outside the gallery and I wasn’t able to get into the relaxed mode necessary for me to experience the tingles of ASMR. I caught the barest sense of them from listening to Julie’s soft voice, but the video contained images of a model brain with long pins sticking out of it, so I felt the uncomfortable sensation of having my skull poked with hatpins—not conducive to producing tingles.

Touch-and-Go 4

Julie mentioned that she is interested in the work of Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, a neuroscientist specializing in behavioral neurology whom I happened to write to in 2012 about my experience with synesthesia. She is drawn to his studies of mirror neurons and how they relate to empathy, dovetailing with her art and the way in which observing images and actions can evoke a physical response.

If you don’t experience ASMR, I’m not sure that this exhibit will have much to offer you, other than some boldly-colored images and atmospheric music. I myself did not get any tingles as I watched the videos, despite feeling the physical sensation of touch. But to those on the leading edge of this movement, which is still in its infancy, it presents a doorway to fresh avenues of inquiry and a new way to experience art. As a number of people who signed the guest book expressed in one way or another, “I was touched.”

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Julie Weitz’s Touch Museum

 

The Touch Museum will be on view at the Young Projects Gallery in Los Angeles through February 22nd. All photographs in this post from the Julie Weitz Touch Museum.