Feminist surrealism taps into a clear reality

Although I feel that “surrealism” isn’t quite the right word.  Frida Kahlo is often classified as a surrealist, and it was a label she hotly denied.

Grete Stern’s work strikes the same chord.  I look at her lovely photos and don’t feel the confusion and slight intellectual hysteria that I would feel looking at a Dali.

Her photos look very real.  Those I have selected all say something to me which is quite clear, and rebels against the happy disorder and peppy juxtapositions of true surrealists.

The woman looking in the mirror, for example.  She sees multiple images of herself, her face a look of horror.  The images aren’t placed in any realistic angle.  Three are fanned together, the mouths almost joining in one gaping black hole.

But, of course.  It seems almost too obvious to me, what this photo is talking about, what it is reaching for, the action it is taking.  The horror of seeing more than you believe you can see or want to see.  The woman looks in the mirror to find disorder that can be ordered, or to receive validation of her identity.  What she finds is multiple versions of herself that do not make sense.  Which is what happens with self reflection.

The amazing thing about this photo is the timeline.  Did the woman look in the mirror and see multiple and scream, and then the multiple faces mirrored her?  Or did the woman look in the mirror and see multiple screaming faces and then, by the power of a mirror, find her face forced into an expression of screaming?

What kind of refuge can this refugee find?


This is a haunting expressionist water color is entitled Refuge.  But is this a refuge?  Or is the refuge what the figure is looking for?

I see this as a painting of a trapped refugee, caught between worlds and in danger, both physical and emotional.

Our point of view is from above; we look down on the figure.  The figure is neither a he or she—perhaps the implication is that refugees have become less than people, that there is little sympathy for them.  The face looks up, wide simple dark eyes, an imploring dumb face that cannot voice any need or desires.

And hovering above it, or beside it are a series of circles, looking frighteningly like blades that the refugee will fall into, or be consumed by.  Orientation in this universe is skewed—we cannot orient ourselves.  This mirrors the experiences a refugee must endure.  Trauma disorients.

The colors are of raw flesh, the color of intimate and hidden flesh, or flesh irritated or wounded.  And, of course, blood.  Is the refugee standing in a pool of it?  Is it coming from the refugee, or others who have died.  And what is that dark red smear to the left?  Has something been squashed into naked simplicity?

Is there hope?

Writing prompt:  Who is this refugee, where have they come from, where are they going, what have they endured?  And, most importantly, the essence of this painting is struggle and obstruction–the refugee is trapped in this purgatory of nothingness.  What is standing in the way of your refugee of attaining safety and a home?


What is a sex wind?


I love the absurdity of pulp fiction covers.  Often, they propose absurd ideas, and yet, simultaneously, make them seem seductive and real.

As with this cover: I read the words “sex wind” and I want to laugh.  Then I look at the picture and I think, oh yeah, I know exactly what they mean.  Yet I don’t.  There’s no such thing as sex wind:  to shed the metaphor, there is no time when women are suddenly taken by furious sexual desire and become sex maniacs.

Of course, these covers and books were designed according to male fantasies, not about the way women actually are, but the way men both want women to be and afraid of what women could be.

A woman who becomes possessed by sudden sexual desire is both a great thing (men get laid easily!) and terrible (women are out of control and will fuck anyone).  The books walk the line between desirable and frightening.

This thinking is the origin of the femme fetale.  I’ve always wondered, what would be the male fetal?

I would think it would be different from the female version, but when I started listing characteristics (sex maniac, wanting sex all the time, dangerous, life threatening, emotionally distant, mysterious, etc.), I realized it’s pretty much the same character.

Chaotic Shiny is a fun read even if you’re not in the mood for a generator

I don’t use writing generators because, one, I forget they exist, two, when I do use them I don’t like what they spit out at me, and, three, I don’t find them fun to use.

Then I found chaotic shiny.  It’s a website with such a modest design, rather retro in its font choice and color scheme, that I had to be at least slightly smitten with its intension.

It’s also the biggest fucking generator of anything that I’ve ever seen.  Though I could see the site being used primarily for roleplay games, RPGs and writing stories are basically the same thing, the former being a primarily oral manifestation.  The generators are from a variety of subject, and you can have anywhere between one and fifteen examples.

From the Motto generator:

Purity and Pride
Integrity, Vengeance, Competition
Supremacy is Dedication
Virtue from Gods
Work, Humility, Madness

Modern Name Generator

Elmer-Samuel Jose Cimmino
Amelia Virgen Minchow
Cassy Porell
Chung-Elvin Toledo (this one is a keeper)
Nana Vanderen

And my new penname…..Elva Candra Vankilsdonk

The Art Object Generator

A somewhat large mosaic of a crow. It was done in an exotic style.
A rather small watercolor of a garnet. It was done in a very plain style. It is in incredibly poor condition.
A somewhat large fresco depicting a mystery involving a very tall, stocky young man. It was done in a hyperrealistic style. It is in incredibly poor condition.

A somewhat large copper sculpture of a sword and a goblet. It was done in a particular artist’s style.

A rather small tapestry of a beggar and a flail. It was done in a simplistic style.

Savemur Arrow (SA-752)
Savemur-class Fighter (SFI-1034)
Runcible Destrite (RD-897)
Violet Tachyon Marit (VTMA-15)
Dyson Cougar (DCO-649)
Niven Reaper (NRE-960)
Covert Hare (CH-551)
Uranium Turret Savemur (UTUS-621)
Epinicios Galleon (EPGA-2702)
Rogue Rocket (ROR-925)
Iron Harpy (IH-94)

The Motive Generator is where, I think, we get to the real meat:
This character is motivated by fear, envy, misplaced duty and pride.

This character is motivated by vengeance, very strong wanderlust, feigned impatience and misplaced lust.

This character is motivated by unlikely boredom, pride and bloodlust. They are not entirely aware of all of these.

This character is motivated by feigned desire to prove themself, overpowering anger and deep-seated faith.

This character is motivated by artificial greed, zealotry, twisted love and mild bloodlust. At least one of these is due to a falsehood they believe.

This character is motivated by honor and unlikely stubbornness. At least one of these is due to a falsehood they believe.

This character is motivated by very strong jealousy, curiousity, misplaced faith and feigned bloodlust.

This character is motivated by misplaced impatience, stubbornness, perverse compassion and resentment. They are not being honest with themselves about their primary motive.

This character is motivated by overwhelming ambition, resentment and anger. They are very self-aware about all of this.

This character is motivated by overpowering love, suspicion and integrity.

I like these characters for several reasons.  Most of them believe in a lie.  It’s such a powerful idea, that a character could be doing something incredibly good because of a lie they have been told, or is doing something terribly bad because of something they refuse to believe or have been told.
This central lie BEGS the moment when the character discovers the truth.  When you have such an enormous discovery to be made, it can hijack  story.  And let it.  Who wouldn’t want to watch that kind of Hindenburg crash and burn?

Queen Kong



This is one of my most favorite images, and I’ve used it as a profile pic for many accounts.  It creates a very simple feminist message: women fighting for an elevated position (figuratively and physically), fighting for an expression of physical brutality, and independence.  It implies that, like her male counterpart, Queen Kong does not belong in a “civilized” city and is present only because she has been kidnapped as part of a freak show.

For me, personally, it’s more than that.  It’s about fighting.  It doesn’t have to be against men.  It’s about daily battles, about the precarious balance I feel when I’m besieged on all sides.  Sometimes the oncoming planes feel as harmless as flies, other days they sting like mosquitoes and I develop welts on my body.

Queen Kong’s nudity is an interesting choice: after all, we wouldn’t want to see a hairy woman, right?  I’m being snarky.  Showing her hairless and naked shows that she is a woman (King Kong could have been a woman–it’s difficult to tell male from female apes after all).  She is also incredibly, inhumanly white.  A ghost?  Is it symptomatic of illness?  Is she a mythical creature, like a white buffalo?

Whoever she is, she is a story.

The Headless Lady


She is headless, alive, and named Mademoiselle Yvette.  So she’s also French.  And in the picture she’s also riding a Vespa, arm raised and waving.  At this distance, she also looks topless.

She skirts the line of acceptability: is this a reanimated corpse?  Who decapitated her and how can she still be alive?  Why do the signs emphasize that she’s human (what else would she be?)?  Did the bald figure in white lab coat cut off her head in the name of side-show science?

This is where the pursuit of knowledge and tasteless curiosity intersect.  The more I think about her, the more disturbed and intrigued I become.  Would I actually pay to see her?  When I would see that she is most likely bad special effects, a trick of light and mirrors, would I then feel angry and cheated rather than relieved?

Whatever else it is, this is definitely something to inspire creativity.

How do you prefer your Virgin Mary?

The reinterpretation of icons, any icons, is a greatly creative act.  When done with respect, as these are, I feel, they make much more profound statements about culture, cults, worship, and personal power than perhaps the original form did.

A writing prompt, or journal prompt: what is your personal deity and how would this deity embody your life and philosophies  For example, the Jedi Virgin Mary couples her representation with those of the Jedi, a oneness with nature and the universe, a profound personal code, and a righteous dedication to freedom.

For me, mine would be something to do with My Little Pony and Wonder Woman, because I believe deeply in the strength of friendship and personal power.

Company on Your Wedding Night



This one can be fun as a writing prompt.

What kind of husband brings home company on his wedding night?  How does he really feel about his wife?

Why would he do that?

Who is the wife who will, it seems, put up with this intrusion?  Or will she?  Perhaps the intrusion is just what she needs.

The Potential in Paint



The conventional work of art has the paint on canvas, arranged in a skilled, schooled organization which will depict life in some sort of mirror image.

But the paint itself sitting in slick globs on a pallet, the brushes leisurely stretched out with their tips resting in the vibrant colors: that is a work of art in itself.

I can’t get away from the ideas that this is a beach scene of sorts, the brushes with their feet in the sparkling waters of color.  The colors do seem to be part of something grander, something as enormous as an ocean.  And the brushes the mechanisms designed to transform the colors into something that even nature could not have fathomed.