Contributor Update: A Whole New World Awaits You With Sarah Kriehn

Hey all, this week brings us a lil’ closer to home with the news that there will be an artist reception at our very own Herberger Theater Art Gallery, right here in Arizona. The show will be featuring the work of Sarah Kriehn, a past contributor to Superstition Review whose paintings were featured in the Art section of our 10th issue. Her work will be appearing alongside work by Kathy Taylor, and the reception is to be held Friday, April 7th, on the 2nd floor of the Herberger Art Theater Gallery, at 222 E Monroe, Phoenix, AZ, 85004, from 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm. Come through and marvel at the work these two wonderful artists have done, and when you’re done, drop us a line in the comments section below!

Go to this show!

The digital flier for Sarah Kriehn’s artist reception, held Friday, April 7th at Herberger Theater Art Gallery.

 

Guest Post, Matthew Felix Sun: Unlikely (Anti-)Heroes as Artists

As an artist, I am naturally drawn to literature depicting artists: historical or fictional, painters, sculptors, composers, writers, and craftsmen of all trades. I am drawn to their struggles for inspiration and perfection of execution, to their achievements or failures, and to their intriguing techniques.

There have been some fine examples of fiction that depicts the foremost artists of their time. Perhaps the best known, recent novel in this category is Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, on the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer. Other works in this vein include As Above, So Below by Rudy Rucker (Pieter Brueghel), Rembrandt: A Novel by Gladys Schmitt, and The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone (Michelangelo).

Opening windows to fascinating worlds or processes of beloved artists, these fictions prove endlessly engaging; if there are any shortcomings, perhaps they lie in the authors’ attempts to present the broad historical fabric in which an artist was active, which sometimes interferes with dramatic arc or character development.

Those who seek more uninhibited imaginations might turn to novels on fictional creative characters, especially those engaged in unique and unforgettable trades; or even more fascinating, to books on well-known real-life or mythical figures not previously associated with any artistic ambitions or endeavors.

Recently, I have read several books in that last category, which have inspired this post. They were Oedipus on the Road by Henry Bauchau, Darker Muses: The Poet Nero by Dezső Kosztolányi, and Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind.

In Bauchau’s retelling, the exiled, blind Oedipus, accompanied by his daughter Antigone, embarks on a spiritual cleansing and a journey in pursuit of self-discovery. Oedipus launches an improbable career as a sculptor, culminating in sculpting a huge relief of wave on a cliff.

Oedipus started modestly by moulding clay figures or carving branches, giving his creations poetic names such as “The Stone’s First Smile” or “There is a Spring”. He soon fixated on a cliff and was determined to reveal the waves that he perceived, despite or perhaps because of his blindness, beneath the stone surface.  He installed himself “at the top of the headland,” listened to “the waves crashing against the cliffs and the cry of the seabirds. … something has begun to open up inside him and periodically the sea appears in all its fullness, yearning for him to abandon himself to it or be consumed by it.”

“Sometimes he slips and cuts his hands. It is almost a pleasure to mark the cliff with his blood for the wave is there as well as within him.”

He carved one oarswoman, modeled on his daughter Antigone “how Oedipus sees her, how he wants her to see herself”, “a vibrant, determined beauty, suffused with confidence,” while Antigone carved another oarsman as Oedipus, “as he was before that time, the savage boy – conqueror and victor”, without blemish and relieved of his fate.

His struggle was mighty and meaningful.

On the overhanging rock the wave curves back, twisting under the pressure of its own weight and falls, as Oedipus wanted it to, plunging back into the sea.

The wave, dark at its base, becoming lighter as it rises, spring up out of the sea. … Nothing can stand up to it. It is about to fall back into the vast trough but the boat gets there first and uses the power of the wave and the gap it has created to project itself forwards … guided towards the port by the blind man of the sea, … sending out a message of hope to all sailors.

Kosztolányi’s Nero, soon after his ascendency to the Roman throne, suffered from a feeling of purposelessness in life. His mentor, the poet Seneca, unwisely turned his attention to poetry. Consequently, the talentless yet committed young emperor “himself had no idea how or why it happened, but suddenly he began to write. Line after line he wrote, Greek hexameters which flowed precisely. But upon reading them aloud, he began to feel less confident. He weighed the lines in his mind, tested them, made corrections. Now his mood was black and desperate like that of a murderer aiming himself for an ominous deed for which, should he fail, he must pay with his life.”

He wrote and re-wrote and invited critiques from Seneca, a seasoned courtier, who praised Nero’s efforts and cemented the emperor’s ambition and self-confidence, which outstripped his artistic self-doubt. Eventually, however, the populace came to see Nero’s banal efforts as buffoonery and travesty, the insecure poet-emperor became intolerant, and so commenced his downfall.

In contrast to the sculptor-king and the poet-emperor, the protagonist in Süskind’s Perfume was an orphan without status, but engaged in an unusual artistic career. The young Grenouille, endowed with extraordinary olfactory sense, installed himself in a struggling Parisian master-perfumer’s workshop, and invented countless superior perfumes for his master while perfecting his own skills.

The scent of his first perfume for the master, “was so heavenly fine that tears welled into Baldini’s eyes. He did not have to test it, he simply stood at the table in front of the mixing bottle and breathed. The perfume was glorious. … It was something completely new, capable of creating a whole world, a magical, rich world, and in an instant you forgot all the loathsomeness around you and felt so rich, as at ease, so free, so fine. …”

Grenouille’s dream was to capture and preserve a most glorious scent of a young girl he encountered. “But of course this unique scent could not be used in a raw state. He must set it like the most precious gemstone. He must design a diadem of scent, and at its sublime acme, intertwined with the other scents and yet ruling over them, his scent would gleam. He would make a perfume using all the precepts of the art, and the scent of the girl behind the wall would be the very soul of it.”

In his obsessive efforts to obtain similar scents, he would steal toward a series of muses/victims and hammer them to death, suddenly and instantaneously, before fear could interfere with their wondrous virginal scents.

Then, he would seal the body with scent-absorbing oiled-linen, “not a slit, not a hole, not one bulging pleat was left through which the girl’s scent could have escaped. She was perfectly packed. There was nothing to do but wait, for six hours, until the gray of dawn.”

Grenouille fulfilled his artistic dream, creating the most glorious scent out of his fine, gruesome collections. Yet, due to his personal flaw — he was without a scent himself, therefore, in his own mind, without any presence, and meaningless — he used the angelic scent he created to lure a crowd of people, in a fit of mad love, to consume him — literally, in a horrifying orgy of cannibalism.

These fables demonstrate artistic struggle in multiple ways, with successfully realized art or not. All point to the conclusion that abandonment, total commitment, obsession, and being possessed — even bleeding for one’s art — is the prerequisite for artistic fulfillment.

As a painter, I have experience many artistic struggles: for inspiration, to execute my ideas, to succeed in the frustrating business of marketing. I have also worked on pieces featuring creative characters — painters, musicians, dancers, or sculptors — finding myself drawn to sympathize with these characters, and to empathize with their struggle as my own. But to do justice to my figures’ inspirations and struggles has not been easy. Due to the limitations of painting and drawing media, my works were the visualization of only momentary snapshots of artistic processes, without the deep analyses and temporal unfolding that novels are able to render.

One of my paintings, titled Encounter, is an interesting case in point. It depicts a young man, in a nocturnal light, meeting a bronze bust of a young boy. A wave of emotions reveal themselves through the young man’s posture and facial expressions. The subject can be seen as a sculptor who unexpectedly sees his creation in a new light, or the Muse facing a creation he inspired. In the single moment depicted in the painting, the artist/muse was possessed by the creation.

Indeed, the key for an artist to succeed is to be possessed!

Encounter Oil on Canvas 36" x 48" Completed in 2001 © Matthew Felix Sun www.matthewfelixsun.com

Encounter
Oil on Canvas
36″ x 48″
Completed in 2001
© Matthew Felix Sun
www.matthewfelixsun.com

Contributor Update: Barbara Crooker

Hey there, readers! In the most recent bit of good news that’s floated by Superstition Review’s open windowsill, we are immensely pleased to announce that past contributor Barbara Crooker has a new book out called “Les Fauves,” which has been published by C&R Press. “Les Fauves” is a collection of ekphrastic poems that utilize the works of the Fauve and Post-Impressionist in order to move through the world, both as it is given and as it is withheld. Crooker’s poetry was featured in the Poetry section of our second issue, and can be viewed here. Go check out some reviews and order yourself a copy of “Les Fauves” here. A hearty congratulations to Barbara Crooker, and as always, feel free to let us know what you all liked about “Les Fauves,” as well as the rest of Crooker’s poetry, in the comments section down below.

Buy this book!

The cover for Barbara Crooker’s new book of poems, “Les Fauves.”

Contributor Update: Adam Houle Brings It Home With “Stray”

Good afternoon! Superstition Review is elated to announce that past contributor Adam Houle’s first book, titled “Stray” will be dropping March 21st from the good folks over at Lithic Press. Lauded by press and peers alike, “Stray” features an updated version of one of Houle’s poems that were featured in the Poetry section of Issue 9, which can all be found here. Go pre-order your copy of “Stray” right here, right now, and behold the wonders of Houle’s poetry!

Buy this book!

The cover art for Adam Houle’s first book “Stray,” forthcoming from Lithic Press.

Authors Talk: Sherril Jaffe

Sherril Jaffe Today we are pleased to feature author Sherril Jaffe as our Authors Talk series contributor. Sherril discusses her opinions on art and its relationship to character. In particular, she explains the multifaceted purpose of art and how it is interested in the truth, which is currently under assault.

She also discusses the nature of the short story as an art form, referring to her piece in Issue 18, “During the Republican Convention.” She reveals that short stories are powerful because they can break all the rules, and she emphasizes that “a short story should crack something open in us.”

You can access Sherril’s pieces in Issue 18 of Superstition Review and Issue 4 of Superstition Review.

Contributor Update: Victor Lodato Waxes Romantic In The Times

Hey there dear readers! Superstition Review is back after a brief hiatus with more good news: past contributor Victor Lodato’s essay “When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship” has been published in The New York Times‘ “Modern Love” column. Lodato was featured in our Interview section of Issue 8 in an interview conducted by former intern Marie Lazaro. In addition to being a recipient of the PEN Center USA Award for fiction, Victor Lodato has also been the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Institute as well as the National Endowment for the Arts.  His latest novel, “Edgar and Lucy” is out now from Macmillan, and can be found both online as well as at most major bookstores. Do yourself a favor and check out the essay here, and buy one (or two, or seven) copies of “Edgar and Lucy” here. Congratulations Victor, we couldn’t be happier to know you!

Read the essay and buy the book!

Victor Lodato, author of “When Your Greatest Romance Is a Friendship” and “Edgar and Lucy.”

Guest Post, Nelly Rosario: Welcome III

Pratt Institute Sculpture Park

Brooklyn, 2006

Photo of statues kneeling in parkA head goes missing on Monday.  Man #2, second from left, suffered the blow. I stand above him, nursing the cutaway view of his neck. Overnight, the lipstick mark I planted on his neck the day prior had been cut in half. The concrete grain feels like bone.

Just yesterday, Sunday, I posed between him and Man #1. I knelt in Virasana. It was a struggle forming prayer hands behind my back; reverse Atmanjali mudra always hurts shoulders, arms, and wrists. The days of the arrested being handcuffed hands-front are long gone, an aspiring cop once told me; the standard today is behind-the-back, palms faced outward. Bad yoga. I switched to Dhyani mudra, hands visible on lap for the camera. The stranger who took my photo was careless: a campus security guard cheeses at us in the background.

So Monday is sucking. Concrete is supposed to be strong, even on its knees. My morning walk through Pratt is supposed to remind me that life is good. Like a sawed-off index finger, the beheading gives me the urge to vomit up my shitty job, then eat an everything bagel. The E train with my name on it must be in Manhattan by now. Boss will have to swallow my latest excuse: “Man #2 needed a memorial.” I flag down an art student, who takes my picture: me kneeling behind Man #2 so that he bears my head.

“Welcome II” is a “commentary and protest on recent events” by South African sculptor Raphael Zollinger. The work “examines both personal and public representations of social change”. But now the eye has begun the inevitable countdown: four to go. I stay up too late, counting. Checking account balances, my daughter’s math homework, sheep. Insomnia has me munching popcorn tonight, watching “The Battle of Algiers”. Sleep finally comes during Mambo #0, just as the French bar blows up. In the dream I argue with Raphael:

Pérez Prado invented the mambo.

Benny Moré invented the mambo.

No, he didn’t.

Yes, he fucking did.

1010 WINS breaks the loop. Tuesday is staticky. New York’s terrorist alert is “high,” worse than yesterday’s “elevated,” yellow to orange in mambo time. “Let them throw the bomb, already,” growls a woman waiting for the bus near Pratt. I’m also tired of wincing. Yesterday my boss complained about my tardiness to the temp agency. Today I must delay again and check up on the Pratt 5. Hurry never turns out well. So I will delay my delay and get coffee. “They should cut off his hands,” growls the bodega owner. We hope the vandal will get caught soon. His son walks with me to see the carnage at Pratt, breaking some news along the way: “Yo, I got into the Police Academy.” No more bodega counters for him. I’m happy for him, really I am, but I tell him to go ahead and look at the Pratt 5 without me. I stay at the rose garden, where I pick dandelions, smoke a cigarette, finish my coffee. Once the coast is clear, I walk to the Pratt 5 and find that the four remaining lips taste like nickels.

Wednesday morning, Mambo #0: I’m fired. The temp agent’s voice is sunny with the news. I have Man #5 listen to the voicemail. He is stone-faced. I lay on the grass beside him in Shavasana, waiting for the vandal. The dead man’s pose is illuminating. I think of things thought to have never been: Humpty Dumpty was never described as an egg and Marie Antoinette never said, “Let’em eat cake,” and Van Gogh never cut off his whole ear. Let the vandal come now.

The rain is insane on Thursday. I do not have to fax or answer phones or proofread legalese. It’s proper that I do some writing. It’s proper that I stop to notice that one of my goldfish is swimming upside-down: swimbladder disease. It’s proper that I eat red-velvet cake for breakfast at Mike’s. It’s proper that I return books to the library, then take a quick nap over a stack of graphic novels. And after a clap of thunder wakes me up at noon, it’s proper that I pick up my kid at school, earlier than usual. She helps me administer the medicine to our sickly goldfish: feeding it peas gets it swimming right-side-up in no time.

Friday lands on new proofreading gig at Ogilve & Mather. En route to the subway, a sight makes me spill my coffee: the Pratt 5 is whole again. Man #2 has a brand-new head. Seen up close, the change back to normal drains my solar plexus, like the dry-heave withdrawal at the end of a hiccup spell. Had the artist been the vandal all along? I don’t know, and I don’t want to know. What I do want to know is that Cachao invented the mambo, and whether I would make it to work on time.