Let’s Talk Turkey: Bad Taste and Blood Freak

Had a blast writing this piece on Blood Freak (1972) for Network Awesome’s Thanksgiving weekend program…

To me, bad taste is what entertainment is all about…but one must remember that there is such a thing as good bad taste and bad bad taste…To understand bad taste one must have very good taste. Good bad taste can be creatively nauseating but must, at the same time, appeal to the especially twisted sense of humor, which is anything but universal. – John Waters, Shock Value

Based on John Waters’ definition of “good” versus “bad” bad taste, it would be fair to say that the 1972 ludicrous quasi-morality tale on consumption (drugs, the bible, turkey, women) Blood Freak (Brad F. Grinter and Steve Hawks) falls into the latter category of bad, really bad, taste. Not that it’s exceptionally gory or gratuitous or offensive but just that it is horribly produced, horrendously acted, and has appalling dialogue. Yet still (!), Blood Freak is damn entertaining. Most likely this is because it fulfills a nostalgic desire to watch one of the worst movies ever made and to gleefully relish in its kitsch factor. Or perhaps the classic tale of a muscle-man-turned-drug-addicted-killer-turkey-man is a story for the ages.

To be completely honest, Blood Freak is a nearly indescribable film that truly must be watched to believe. But before you do, here’s a little breakdown…READ THE REST OF IT ON NETWORK AWESOME

The Dark Room: spectral space of photography and film in Alexander Nicolas Gehring’s Messages from the Darkroom and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom

The Dark Room: spectral space of photography and film in Alexander Nicolas Gehring’s Messages from the Darkroom and Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom is an essay I wrote for the Brighton Photo Fringe Open ’11 exhibition (November 18 – December 18) as a contributing Guest Curator.

It is profoundly seductive to believe that photography can be an evidentiary medium of a realm beyond our mortal coil. Even more provocative is the idea of photography, and subsequently film, as a tool to facilitate our voyeuristic desire to see the invisible (fleeting moments, ghostly visions, and even intense fear). In his series Messages from the Darkroom, Alexander Nicolas Gehring taps into photography’s psychological strangeness by positioning its construct and production as spectral sites. This depiction of the camera as an object to channel, capture, and visualize deathly moments, as well as its function in fulfilling our desires to bear witness, was explicitly explored in Michael Powell’s controversial, and equally luscious film, Peeping Tom (1960).

What interests me is Gehring and Powell’s shared urge to confront the past via photographic means and how their work comments on what Martin Scorsese declared [in a 2010 interview with Mark Kermode celebrating the 50th anniversary of Peeping Tom] as our “morbid urge to gaze”. This cultural gaze has evolved in the decades since the release of Peeping Tom, with its nearly prophetic social commentary, into something that is at once more familiar and disturbing in our contemporary world. With this “morbid urge to gaze” in mind, Messages from the Darkroom and Peeping Tom fundamentally comment on the attempt to visualize and record the ultimate gaze: that of death. The very foundation of the photographic medium aims to preserve aspects of memory, life, and experience in relation (and perhaps in reaction) to this very personal and profound moment we will all experience. Channeled through the lens of the camera, and re-born in the haunted space of the darkroom, the spirits contained and preserved within these images have been called forth by the artist/photographer/filmmaker/mad scientist.

Based on the historical usage of photography by scientists and occult practitioners to capture the presence of ghosts in “spirit photography”, Alexander Nicolas Gehring’s Messages from the Darkroom brings to light how space, specifically the room where film is processed, functions as a site for the spectral. This series conflates the notion of “medium” in photography in that the camera produces a physical medium (a photographic image) and acts as a spiritual medium (a channel between the living and non-living). Here the camera is medium in literal form, producing a representation of what some believe to be objective documentation of ghosts, becoming a bridge between the corporeal and spiritual worlds. Still, what is most interesting about Gehring’s photographs is not the evoked image itself but the concept of a spectral site, a place where the dead are re-born and re-placed back into the land of the living.

Now revered as a British new wave classic, Michael Powell’s career-ending Peeping Tom treads similar waters in its fetishization of camera objects, the haunted space of the darkroom, voyeuristic eye, and the distinct presence of the dead. The film shows how the torturous childhood of Mark Lewis continuously haunts his adult state of mind, compelling him to use his camera as a recording device and lethal weapon. In glorious Eastman colour, the aesthetic of Peeping Tom – the visualization of the darkroom as two-toned, red and black, dark and shadowy, warm and clinical – is most noticeable in Gehring’s photographs Medium and Light Phenomenon. The camera in these works is captured as a self-contained medium and as a sculptural object. As Powell suggests by alternating viewpoints between Mark’s “special” camera with the another “outside” lens, Gehring’s confrontational camera is also shown through the unrepresented lens (an autonomous camera that functions as the audience point-of-view).

In the cellar, darkness prevails both day and night, and even when we are carrying a lighted candle, we see shadows dancing on the dark walls. Gaston Bachelard – The Poetics of Space

The darkroom (connoting the laboratory, dungeon, cellar, etc.) is a space of process and discovery. Gehring’s darkroom becomes the place of the séance. Referencing the photographic documentation of paranormal activity by notable early twentieth century German psychic researcher, Albert Freiherr von Schrenck-Notzing, Messages from the Darkroom focuses on the dead returning and co-mingling with the living via photographic representation. This darkroom references an arena of scientific research where new technology is used to capture the unseen, in this case ghosts, in an attempt to be in closer contact with an extension of human existence. The darkroom and cinematic space in Peeping Tom acts as a dual place of sanctuary and fear. In this room, Mark returns to the site of his own psychological abuse by processing and consuming the films he makes by murdering women. With each repetitive viewing, these victims are repeatedly brought back to life, made to watch their own death, and be killed again.

Of course, this is the very nature of the filmic/photographic medium itself, a sensitized form capturing a specified series of events in time that can be replayed in perpetuity. As time and space collapse, that which is depicted onscreen never truly fades; always existing as it was at that very moment it was captured, frozen forever on celluloid. Furthermore, our current moment is one where the medium of film is in the process of becoming obsolete. In the wake of the quality, ease, and accessibility of digital technology, there appears to be little use for analog outside the realm of nostalgia. A near living object itself (film curator Henri Langlois firmly believed that nitrate film had to be used/exercised in order to stay alive), film now finds itself in a ghostly space within the digital realm.

Alexander Nicolas Gehring and Michael Powell are seduced by the psychic camera as evidence but wary of its ability to produce accurate visual records. Gehring engages in an obsession to document the afterlife while Powell challenges the perversity of documenting all aspects of our lives. They contest the “all knowing” camera eye because they also consider what happens outside of the frame; photographic representation inherently lays on the liminal boundary between fact and fiction. The foundation of the darkroom is what grounds these layers of suggested ghostly presence within the photographic “medium”. Itself in danger of becoming a thing of the past, this dark room provides the spectral space in which we can conjure up the unseen and indulge, repeatedly, in our collective and cultural morbid desire to gaze.

“Evil Dead II” essay on Network Awesome

This Halloween I contributed to Network Awesome’s Horror-Punk Weekend extravaganza with the text: Theatre of Blood: Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II (1987) is a cinematic resurrection of the director’s earlier film Evil Dead(1981). It can be dangerous territory when an artist is given license to go back and adapt their own work but in re-appropriating his own film, Raimi, much more Georges Méliès than John Carpenter, reclaims an originality within the genre during a time of over-used horror movie conventions.

And that’s just the beginning! Click on the link above to read the whole thing including musings on architecture, Gaston Bachelard, and the video nasty.

Now on Network Awesome: The Burning and A Bucket of Blood

Two essays of mine have landed on the fabulous Network AwesomeThe Burning (horror film and 1980s politics) and A Bucket of Blood (satirical horror and the art world). Check them out:

What Makes a Man Start Fires: 1980s American Culture and The Burning
Through the lens of a campfire horror tale, Tony Maylam’s slasher classic The Burning (1981) begins with a prank gone wrong and ends with a series of revengeful murders. Gleaning from a culturally volatile period in America history, The Burning visually manifests displaced youth in the most gratuitous manner. It perpetuates, capitalizes, and exploits the fear that the unknown can happen to any one…read the rest and watch the film here.

Who Says the Art World Isn’t Scary?: Roger Corman’s Classic, A Bucket of Blood
If there’s a better satirical film on the art world than A Bucket of Blood (1959) then I certainly haven’t seen it (note: John Waters’ Pecker comes close). This playful jab at the beatnik artist types of the 1950s easily translates into the ridiculousness of contemporary art. Reportedly made by “King of the B-movies” Roger Corman for a mere $50k, A Bucket of Blood is a thoughtful and provoking look at the beginning of modern art as cultural phenomenon. It has a lot in common with the 1953 version of House of Wax (André De Toth) in its representation of the frustrated and revengeful artist, however, it moves beyond the artist as “individual” to cleverly mimic — and mock — the capriciousness of the art world as a whole…read the rest and watch the movie here

Shop Smart, Shop S-Mart: Evil Dead and Jennifer and Kevin McCoy

Today is the birthday of the amazingly charismatic Bruce Campbell. An icon from 1980s horror cinema, Campbell’s career has been prolific (in addition to tv’s Burn Notice he’s been featured in almost all of Sam Raimi’s films) but he’s firmly cemented in the horror lexicon as ‘Ash’ from the incredibly funny, scary, and entertaining Evil Dead series.

While filmic montage is prevalent amongst those contemporary artists appropriating horror movies, New York based couple and artistic collaborators Jennifer and Kevin McCoy utilize and approach Rami’s Evil Dead 2 (1987) in a very performative way. Inspired by the film that was itself a literal re-make of Evil Dead(1981) – including the same director, plot, and main actor only with a bigger budget – the McCoys’ Horror Chase (2002) is a live computer driven video installation where a series of digitized chase sequences from the film are re-edited and re-presented in real time via the electronics housed in the black suitcase.

Despite the technological inclusion, the work has a tangible architectural and structural element to it as the depicted chase scenes have been laboriously re-constructed by the artists. Replication takes place is many forms. There is the re-made interior of the quintessential ‘cabin in the woods’ in Evil Dead 2 with Kevin McCoy actor Adrian LaTourelle re-enacting Bruce Campbell’s part, the obvious mimic of the movie’s scene/implicit narrative, and then the various random looping supplied by the computers. Of course this re-appropriation is interesting in relation to Evil Dead 2 being a recycled/updated version of the campy original making apparent that Horror Chase uses, re-affirms, and re-projects that compartmentalization in the horror genre by highlighting some of its tropes.

Horror Chase: production design by Roshelle Berliner and shot by Michael McDonough

You can watch Horror Chase online here. 

On the Desperate Edge of Now – Folkert de Jong

Dutch artist Folkert de Jong’s sculptural works are a grotesque and playful representation of international social histories. He establishes new narratives through the deconstruction of the past (referencing art history, warfare, colonialism, assassinations) assembled in figurative forms so that the viewer can recognize and remember our collective history.

His characters emerge through the time barrier like tarred ghosts, an evocation of negative energies brought forth to enlighten and entertain. These sculptures aesthetically ooze with attraction and repulsion; this push/pull creates a rupture that becomes our portal into an at once familiar and foreign struggle. Carnivalesque costumes, sickeningly sweet colors, and devilish grins are accompanied with barrels of oil, decapitated heads, and rifles. Humor is used to translate the horror and make it palatable. As the bad twin to characters in a Disneyland ride (think Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean) De Jong’s figures urgently perform and unfold the history of human drama. These ‘tableaus’ are dropped directly into our present – the gallery, the museum, the studio are the background settings. Here is where time and space collapses as the past merges seamlessly into the now. These are not the desolate and isolated wastelands of Ed Kienholz, they are frighteningly alive ghosts beckoning us join their ‘danse macabre’.

As sheer material form, the sculptures are wholly hand-made and consist of Styrofoam, polyurethane foam, and occasionally clay. The usage of Styrofoam is significant beyond its easily modifiable form; it’s the same medium used in the film industry for architectural and stage design and it’s also produced by the same company who manufactures Napalm (that deadly chemical agent used prolifically in military operations). This subversive combination of fantasy (film) and reality (warfare) makes de Jong’s works resonant with power; an explosion occurs between representation and the acts being represented. And it’s within this space the horrors from the past emerge to haunt our present consciousness.

De Jong gives the viewer an arsenal of information. With just enough bit of candy coating, he coaxes us into our historical tales of terror that do not exist within the confines of film set but have been living amongst us within our everyday world. In his latest exhibition at James Cohan Gallery brings this forth via newer and older works including the large-scale and ominously fragmented Operation Harmony (2008). Titled after the contradictory name given to Canada’s 1992 military mission in Bosnia this sculpture references another political invasion, the lynching of Dutch political figures the DeWitt Brothers in 1672. Depicting five headless bodies strewn across the vibrant pink scaffold, only four heads (smiling, direct, sinister) look out at us. They represent men involved in various political assassinations and genocides. With title and source separated by hundreds of years we bear witness to the fact that “progress” often involves a sacrificial death. The conflation of these different historical events and geographical locations together with the present day makes for a curiously charged experience. These men are long dead but their stories have been re-animated.

A newer installation is The Balance II: Trader’s Deal 6-9  (2010) featuring a vignette of proud Dutch traders prance with their treasures of beads and whiskey from Manhattan’s Native Americans. Place in the front portion of the gallery and directly facing the street, these men beckon viewers to share in their spoils. However unlike the charm from the buccaneers in Pirates of the Caribbean, we are more suspicious of these fellows and their inviting presentation of swindled goods. Other works like Business As Usual: “The Tower” (2008) the “No Evil” or “Morality Monkeys” remind us of our ability to look the other way and even perhaps America’s obsession with eliminating anything sad from our thoughts.

Seeped in the significant role art has played in the expression, sublimation, and manipulation of war and terror, de Jong continues the art historical tradition of bringing atrocities to light. In this sense he also acts like a skilled horror film director whose purpose is to manipulate reaction and produce affect. Tackling a myriad of historical traumas, like horror cinema, de Jong exposes universal truths to engage the viewer in a proactive remembrance.

Images (top to bottom):
Halleluja, 2007
Installation view:  Operation Harmony (2008) and Business As Usual: “The Tower” (2008)
Detail view: Operation Harmony (2008)
Installation view: The Balance II: Trader’s Deal 6-9  (2010)
Business As Usual: “The Tower” (2008)

Photos: Jason Mandella / James Cohan Gallery

On the Desperate Edge of Now

Auschwitz. Hiroshima. Vietnam. These are names associated with specific places and occurrences [of historical trauma] but they are also wounds in the fabric of culture and history that bleed through conventional confines of time and space. – Adam Lowenstein ‘Shocking Representation’

One of my research strands on the influence of horror cinema and contemporary artists is looking at how artists manifest historical trauma within their work. By using the structure of the horror film as a guide and in considering Deleuze and Bergson’s notion of the now as an “ever shifting amalgam of past, present, and future”, I’m exploring the idea of a haunted present and possible recuperation seen in the representation of trauma in contemporary artworks.

This particular project (which I plan on realizing in exhibition form) is being called On the Desperate Edge of Now, titled after the first episode of British filmmaker Adam Curtis’ documentary series The Living Dead. In a visual mash up of archival footage, interviews, and appropriated images Curtis describes the relationship between history and memory in the context of World War II as both an individual and political construct that is never fully resolved – a ghost always haunting the present or an omniscient zombie walking the earth. This collision of the past and the present that Curtis outlines makes for an explosively charged ever-present “now” particularly as it manifests itself into representational forms such as film and visual art.

Horror films are subversive and often entertaining social commentary reflecting the cultural and political issues relevant to the time period in which they are produced. Wes Craven’s Last House on the Left (1972), Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Bob Clark’s Deathdream (1974) are all
reactions to the traumatic experiences, personally and culturally, of the Vietnam War. Many horror academics also view newer films like Eli Roth’s Hostel (2005) as a reflection of America’s torturing of political prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. On the Desperate Edge of Now looks at how artists tackle similar histories through a knowing employment of strategies and signifiers found in horror cinema: humor, the family, death in life, societal repression, spatiality, allegory, and the corporeal.

Like their filmmaking counterparts, the artists I will be writing about attempt to confront history more than compensate for it. They are: Folkert de Jong, Heather Cantrell, Sue de Beer, and Gert & Uwe Tobias.

Ben Rivers: filmic montage and final girls in “Terror” and “Alice”

Following up my recent posting on Peter Doig and Friday the 13th are thoughts on the artist films Terror (2006) and Alice (2010) by UK artist Ben Rivers.

In addition to focusing on Alice from Friday the 13th and her status as the ultimate final girl (which I will get to later on), Ben Rivers uses the archive of horror cinema as a modifiable object. While the basis for his films is usually self-shot and original, Terror and Alice are his “love letters’ to horror. Sourced entirely from the “giallo” and “slasher” sub-genre (1970-80s) they include Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, John Carpenter’s Halloween, Dario Argento’s Susperia, and dozens more. By establishing a dialogical relationship between his own work and these movies through montage, Rivers carefully negotiates this particular portion of horror history and by fluently speaking the language of horror cinema he conflates the past with the present to create a new process of looking. This makes for future genre possibilities in what Sergei Einsenstein termed an “intellectual montage” (proposing that a new idea can emerge from a sequence of shots unintended by the original footage). For Rivers this new emergent idea directly involves the audience.

The chosen scenes in Terror build upon a structural frame of familiarity through a progressive sequence that increases in intensity and absorbs the viewer in its rhythm. Rivers’ filmic montage (and homage) to the influential “giallo” and “slasher” movies inverses storylines and audience participation and exemplifies Steven Shaviro’s ‘zombie time’ terminology in his essay Contagious Allegories: George Romero:

‘the slow meanders of zombie time emerge out of the paralysis of the conventional time of progressive narrative. This strangely empty temporality also corresponds to a new way of looking, a vertiginously passive fascination. The usual relation of audience to protagonist is inverted’ (1993, 99).

Rivers establishes linearity by editing similar scenes together: houses in the fog, people calling out for each other, the mysterious opening of doors, shots of keys, and even bits of comedy. Each sequence builds incrementally, simultaneously acknowledging that the audience knows these are “only movies” but still provoking some serious unease. For those who recognize the sources, the suspense becomes palpable and the alternating tension between this conglomeration of references continues just until the moment when the one questions whether or not the violent resolution will ever come. Then Rivers provides a brilliant release with the most fantastic eruption of surplus gore; a bloody violent collage that is completely satisfying and totally thrilling.

Relying on the audience’s knowledge and/or non-knowledge of horror films, Rivers acknowledges that the viewer’s familiarity with the movies determines meaning for Terror and Alice. This is most evident in his new film Alice, a heavily edited piece focusing solely on the main character and “Final Girl” from Friday the 13th.

As with Peter Doig’s Canoe Lake (1997-98), Echo Lake (1999), and Friday the 13th (1998), Rivers has completely omitted any visual expression of the life-threatening encounters Alice endures. What we see is Alice making coffee, putting on her coat, lounging in a canoe on the lake; a rhythmic succession of the benign moments that surround the unseen moments when she is fighting for her life. Those unaware of Friday the 13th could find this a little bit boring but understanding the filmic source makes the friction between what we see and what we know explode brilliantly onscreen. Still, it’s significant that the exclusion of the scary stuff has not pacified the situation – the audience is aware of the narrative tension and feels it when viewing the works.

Rivers’ films purposefully identify with an audience’s relationship to watching a horror movie. A fan himself, Rivers incorporates this passion for the genre into other works containing his own footage, House (2007) and Origin of the Species (2008). He extends his interest onscreen, acknowledging the audience and their expectations of what a “good” horror film should be.

As mentioned in Peter Doig – Friday the 13th, Alice plays into critical debates surrounding feminism in horror movies specifically addressing slasher films where the lone survivor is usually a female who is, generally, victorious over her male counterparts (monster and fellow victims). Carol J. Clover dubbed her the “Final Girl” and while her definition is tenuous at best (I think that the unique differences in each film make such solidified terms near impossible), this “Final Girl” has an enduring legacy in horror that can provide us a framework in which to consider gender roles in society throughout the decades. Friday the 13th is a particularly interesting example because not only is the lone survivor female but the killer is as well (it isn’t until the sequels that Jason becomes the monster). It’s a battle between motherly devotion and the perceived loose morals of teenagers.

Rivers views Alice as the ultimate “Final Girl” and utilizes this process of identification as a structure to creates a contemporary version of the same story. His editing might suggest we question whether women are now safer in society. Have women become more integrated and better shielded from unknown horrors? Or is the perception of equality and safety an illusion – is the past still there, lurking in the background, waiting to grab hold?

Ben Rivers recently exhibited his new film Slow Action at Matt’s Gallery in London and Picture This in Bristol. I have previously written about Rivers for LUX and his film Terror was screened last fall during The Real Horror Symposium.

Friday the 13th: Peter Doig

Furthering the topic of women in horror film as it extends into contemporary art is a discussion on Friday the 13th’s main character Alice in the work of Peter Doig and Ben Rivers. As artists both Doig and Rivers touch upon the famous horror heroine’s status as the ultimate slasher ‘Final Girl’ who Carol Clover describes as, ‘…intelligent, watchful, level headed; the first character to sense something amiss…the only one, in other words, whose perspective approaches our own privileged understanding of the situation’ (Clover 1987, 79). As our portal into the action and into narrative meaning, she is the character with whom the audience most identifies because we have shared in her suffering and she, like us, remains alive.

Peter Doig is well known for his usage of photographic, film, and cultural as image references. What makes his explicit crediting of Friday the 13th in his painting series that includes Canoe Lake and Echo Lake is that it marks the only time he has openly credited a filmic source. Despite this, the influence film has on him creatively is obvious (his ongoing commitment to the Studio Film Club in Trinidad is evidence) and a stylistic composition of horror films can be read throughout much of Doig’s work. For instance, he invests in the unknown with his cabin series Cabin Essence (1993-4), Concrete Cabin (1991-2), and Concrete Cabin II (1992). Architecturally the ‘house’, haunted or otherwise, is prevalent in horror but it is particularly the isolated cabin in the woods often used as a trope; The Old Dark House (Whale, 1932), Evil
Dead
(Rami, 1981), Cabin Fever (Roth, 2002), and The Strangers (Bertino, 2008) are but a few examples. The woods themselves are generally areas of the unknown and produce fear in imagining what kind of people inhabit them. Equally Doig’s Hitch Hiker (1989-90) contains an aimless sense of unease and feelings of solitude, calling to mind The Hitcher (Harmon, 1986) and Steven Spielberg’s Duel (1971).

What connects a seemingly miscast Doig to horror cinema is the incredible spatiality created between the captured in-between moment and the conflated relationship between the audience and the scene. Peter Doig encapsulates the entirety of meaning into one image in his works inspired by the camp-counselor killing classic, Friday the 13th. Formally he uses paint to construct this insertive space with linear divisions on the canvas, compiling multiple layers of memories and stories. This reflective image becomes the area where the viewer can insert him/herself and his/her stories into the picture.

Specifically in Echo Lake and Canoe Lake he delineates the crucial point in Friday the 13th when what appears to be resolved is anything but. With these paintings he creates alternate points of view: in Canoe Lake we look onto Alice safely in her canoe but in Echo Lake are viewpoint is through Alice’s eyes, looking onto the policemen on the shore. Viewed in relation to each other, this is similar to different cuts used in film where the audience is simultaneously the eyes of the killer, the victim, and the outsider. Importantly with Doig, who may or may not intend to completely tell the heroine Alice’s tale, he never privileges the audience with resulting action. Instead, he evokes her storyline as a device to hold all tension. By never moving forward or backwards, the girl and the audience are forever held in to this singular moment. It is a beautifully evocative way to frame anticipation and anxiety that will never be released.

Images (top to bottom)
Peter Doig – Canoe Lake (1997-98), oil on canvas
Film still from Friday the 13th (Cunningham, 1980)
Peter Doig – Friday the 13th (1999), oil on linen
Peter Doig – Echo Lake (1998), oil on canvas

The Art of Fear: Bluebeard

In Edgard G. Ulmer’s brilliant and beautiful film Bluebeard (1944), artist Gaston Morrell deals with the failure of finding pure beauty in his paintings by killing his muses. The Art of Fear on the artistic practice of a serial killer…

A spectacularly dark mixture of noir and horror, much like Ulmer’s previous film The Black Cat (1934), Bluebeard is a revenge story. John Carradine plays Gaston Morrell (aka “Bluebeard”) in one of his rare leading male roles, an artist so scarred by the revelation that his ultimate muse is a “loathsome creative” that he kills her. This woman, whom he had rescued and nursed back to health after an accident, was the source of what he believed to be his greatest achievement in painting. After her murder, Gaston becomes fundamentally broken. Unable to escape the pain she had inflicted, whomever else he painted turned into a representation of her…and so he killed them too. She continually haunted him, controlling his downward spiral in artistic practice, ability to love, and mental stability.

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