“Lovecraft: A Darker Key” opens tonight at Sanctuary Tattoo [A discussion with Michelle Souliere]


Tonight is First Friday Art Walk and at Sanctuary Tattoo will present Lovecraft: A Darker Key. It is a group show curated by Carrie Vinette, Michelle Souliere, and Brandon Kawashima, and it features the collective efforts of twelve artists (Eric Anderson, Tom Brown, Clayton Cameron, Ryan Fleming, Brandon Kawashima, Max Leon, Marco, Christian Matzke, Eric Pomorski, Dave Stelmok, Jason Thompson, and Carrie Vinette).

Work ranges from graphite and ink drawings, to paintings, to photography, to sculpture both assembled and cast, and beyond.

I asked curator [and proprietor of The Green Hand Bookshop] Michelle Souliere, who I have known since we were both zine-publishing younglings, a bit about the show.

Why do you find yourself drawn to H.P. Lovecraft?

Lovecraft is an author that has fascinated me from the first time I read him. There is a combination of elements that continue to draw me to his work. His imagination is worlds away from the mundane human world, but starts firmly rooted in it. His affinity for the New England land and cities comes through clearly and adroitly in his writing, lining the flesh and bones of seaside and foothills with his words so they appear in your mind’s eye as solid as the table in front of you.

Is there a substantial Lovecraft-appreciating community in Portland? What is your involvement within it?

There is a substantial Lovecraft community, both in the U.S. and abroad, and there has been for sometime. Recently, however, it has exploded, and Lovecraft is terribly popular at the moment. My own involvement in it is peripheral — I have long known local filmmaker Christian Matzke, who made waves at various Lovecraft film festival with his successively more ambitious adaptations of Lovecraft’s stories into short films, and he introduced me to the current world of Lovecraftians in the 1990s. Recently as a bookshop owner I have taken pains to cultivate my Lovecraft-related inventory, as well as participate as a Kickstarter sponsor of the resurrection of the NecronomiCon convention in Providence.

Most enjoyably, as an artist I have organized a couple of Lovecraft-themed art shows locally with other artists. Lovecraft: A Darker Key is the most ambitious show yet, featuring about a dozen artists, all inspired by Lovecraft’s work.

Can you describe your pieces in the show?

My pieces in the show flow in two different veins. The more spontaneous and smaller body of work is in color pencil on black paper, which is tricky and fun to work with, as it turns my brain upside down from the dark-media-on-white-paper land it lives in most of the time. Those two pieces include a fun take on the fishmen of Innsmouth, “Innsmouth Dandy,” and the other attempts to catch the feel of a quote from Lovecraft’s story “From Beyond” and the feel of some of the otherworldly settings of his Dream Quest cycle. This is the quote:

“I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness… Space belongs to me, do you hear?”

The other two pieces, which are much larger, are both intensely detailed graphite drawings, each focusing on Lovecraft’s fictitious Massachusetts town of Innsmouth.  These continue the series I began in last year’s art show, Immemorial Madness: A Tribute to H.P. Lovecraft.  One is an interior setting from a house in Innsmouth — a fanciful imagination of what might be in the attic drawers of the old houses.  The other piece shows an aspect of Innsmouth’s waterfront as it might be seen by a young woman introduced to the community as a household servant.

As usual, I feel like there are a million more things I want to do for the show, but deadlines call, and the time will come again.

What are you most excited about for this show?

I’m really excited about the variety of work that has been assembled for the show.  The combination is close to alchemical!  The artists’ work is all over the map, from photography, to sculpture, to drawings, to paintings.  Every one of us enjoys Lovecraft’s work, but each for different reasons.

The title of the show almost wrote itself — so many of us were focusing on the shadowy nature of his work, and simultaneously working from the Dream-Cycle texts for inspiration!   It was like something out of one of his stories — as in his most famous story, “The Call of Cthulhu,” where dreamers all over the world experience frantic, phantasmagorical dreams over the same series of dates in response to the cosmic forces at work, which prey on the dreamers’ creative sensitivities no matter where in the world they are.

Lovecraft’s influence itself is rather like those cosmic forces, these days.

I’m also excited to see what comes out of this show — sometimes doing an exhibit that is this charged with energy creates a domino effect.  So… who knows?

IMAGE SOURCE: Michelle Souliere, “Innsmouth Attic Room”

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Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.