Pretty things from Faiint‘s Capsule Collection.
Please welcome S. Elizabeth to our growing team of staff writers! Sarah is no stranger to Haute Macabre, having contributed as a guest blogger many times over the years. She was a contributing writer for our friends at CoilHouse Magazine, on the BloodMilk Blog, Death and the Maiden, and was the creative force behind Skeletor Is Love. View her previous contributions to Haute Macabre here, and visit her personal blog at UnquietThings.com.
The discovery of Darla Teagarden’s mixed media photography and conceptual self-portraiture was a thoroughly unexpected pleasure and a bit of a revelation to me when I initially became introduced to her work a few years back.
First, I suppose, because the image I chanced upon was a portrait of a friend, Angeliska Polachek–small world!–and secondly, although I knew my friend to be quite beautiful, Darla had transformed her into an otherworldly enchantress, a shimmering, splendid, utterly sublime creature. I’m not even the slightest bit embarrassed to admit that this was the very same way I pictured her, when I conjured the lovely Angeliska’s reflection in the mirror of my imagination!
As a fantasist who doesn’t quite always see things as they are, I view our world through a splinter of glass in my eye, a feverish vision of of circumstances and scenarios, slightly distorted and different. Darla Teagarden’s surreal photographic narratives, which walk that delicate line between fable and reality, resonated very deeply with this dreamer in me.
For the richly detailed imagery that comprises the highly atmospheric vignettes that she photographs, Darla draws on an intriguingly varied background consisting of experiences as a stylist, model, production designer, vintage clothes buyer and cabaret dancer. Through these myriad lenses, her projects are deeply imbued with fragile secrets and intense emotion, and I’ll confess, I have been following her subsequent work quite closely since the beauty of that first tremulous photo captured my heart.
Read further for this extraordinary artist’s insights and inspirations regarding her creations, as shared with Haute Macabre.
Haute Macabre: You provide the viewer with a narrative through photography; it shares a story, tells a tale. While I understand that you don’t wish to convey utter reality, I would also hesitate to call your work fiction or fable. Would you say that your photos then inhabit the space in between? And why do you think that space is such fertile ground for your work?
We all sort of live between fable and reality, anyway. There’s that side of us which walks into a misty forest, let’s say, and in an instant we make the moment richer in relation to our own experience. Connecting our inner lives to day-to-day situations is a way we can better understand ourselves. Cinema has allowed us new emotional access, and photography is related. I guess what I’m saying is, photography helps me understand myself and my issues.
…and as a visual story-teller, what are the kinds of stories you like best to share?
I love sharing symbolic insight and abstraction. I’ve always maintained that when I go into a concept it has to be succinct, like a poem. I love the challenge of being succinct while conveying something that could, if given the opportunity, fill a an entire film. I guess I like stories about survival most. We are all going to die, yet we still have to make choices.
I have enjoyed reading about your perspective on failure. Fail big and often, you seem to say–don’t be a giant, fragile weenie, just go out there and do the thing! I’d love to hear about your inspirations and influences in terms of Doers of Things and Fabulous Failures.
I have always surrounded myself with people who seemed to care less about the perceived consequences of failure and more about the need ‘to do’. The need to do should outweigh fear or else you’re going to be paralyzed. Of course, this is a goal and not always the case, but I try to accept possibility either way before I try something new. When I first began doing my photo projects, I knew I would suck. I did, and the proof is floating forever in the ethers of the web. However, I knew I had something to say. I knew I had to do something that made me less miserable, something that could alleviate injury… and, If i get better at it along the way, great. My inspirations have always been friends who need, not want, to express themselves because, I need it too. I guess it’s a tribe.
“Altars” was a collection of self portraits about living with mental illness, inspired both by your own life as well as the lives of friends and family members. Was your intent to educate or advocate, or perhaps to confront and work through some of your own struggles?
I would like to say my intention was to educate and advocate, but in the end, it was really just therapy for me. Yet, by coming from a singular place, it becomes broad and easily shared. It feels good when someone says, oh! I know this ! It’s a feeling of unity.
Mr. Goff, Guru of Grief, is a series that appears to be dealing with themes of mourning and loss. Can you speak to how this series came about, and who Mr. Goff is to you?
That series was in two parts, Mr. Goff and The Lamentation of Mrs. Fly. ( one of him alone and one with both of us).Mr. Goff is among the very few people I’d known in my youth, which is a big deal for me because I’ve lost so many friends to drugs, suicide, AIDS, mental illness, and the pure need to distance myself for survival. Anyway, he and I share the love and experience of one person named Nick Bohn- a visionary young man who died from a drug overdose after years of severe, poorly treated schizophrenia. He got me to move to New York were he was working with Kembra Pfahler, Little Annie and other like New York artists as a filmmaker. His life was frightening and chaotic but amazing, and inspired me to grab my own piece of New York. Mr. Goff and I reconnected recently and I felt to need to be with him in a piece of art to mourn Nick, but to also celebrate our survival in a simple visual poem. It’s in the shape of a fable but it’s all about mourning people who are gone , people who shaped you. Friendship.
And most recently, your Noble Creatures series, can you tell about that?
Noble creatures is about being misunderstood. For whatever reason I find it difficult to express what I’m about and what I need from people in real life. I just suck at it, but I keep trying nevertheless. These creatures are saying, “give me a chance or leave me alone.” It’s just a simple nod to people doing their best to be who they are without beating themselves up to fit somebody else’s ideas. I don’t mean to be precious–I am saying with a certain amount of humor, I’m pretty OK with myself these days, “Here’s my wings, here’s my many eyes, here’s my shell, my burdens, my dangerous bits… deal.”
Much of your work, though certainly abstract and surreal, is considered self portraiture. I’m curious as to where you see such your art as it relates to the “selfie society” that we’re thought of as living in today?
It’s the same in that the ‘selfie generation” is merely looking back at themselves to see themselves and hope others see them too. I am here! See me! But, there are rather significant differences in self portraiture, generally. Conceptual self portraitures are deliberate stories in relation to space that may or may not require the focus to be on the performer. My body and those of my collaborators are catalysts for story telling. I don’t require my ‘image’ to be the story but that of the environment created around the body. Selfies say, ”see me, I’m REAL !” Conceptual portraiture says, ”Feel this ghost”.
Any fantastical ideas percolating that may manifest soon? Any future projects on the horizon?
I want to explore the idea of being saved. We’ve all been saved and maybe even saved somebody. I like the idea that we have the capacity to save someone, from death, from despair, from going down the wrong path, from being blind, loneliness, obscurity, from illness, others, from ourselves. I like how vulnerable we really are. I love that, even with all the casual cynicism, we are still unreasonable romantics.
Earlier this summer, I had the immense pleasure of meeting one of Haute Macabre’s favorite designers, Hogan McLaughlin. Standing in the corner of a godawful bar in Boston, we started talking about music, specifically Black Metal, and Hogan’s own love for it. I confessed to him that I had always been a fan of the music, but knew very little about it. I had always been intimidated by the immense catalogue, and had no idea where to start. In a perfect reply, he promised me a playlist, which has evolved into this beautiful essay about Hogan’s own first experiences exploring the genre. – Samantha
It’s difficult to say exactly how and when I began my relationship with metal music, particularly black metal. And I do have to state that the prompt of this essay is purely about my personal relationship with it, so I am not, and would never dream of claiming to be an expert on the genre. There are many, many more individuals that are more qualified than I to give a history lesson, and even essential recommendations for anyone interested in exploring this music.
Growing up, I had pretty diverse music preferences but mostly listened to classic rock, with a smattering of the occasional Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden track. In high school I knew of classic black metal bands like Darkthrone, Mayhem, Burzum, but mostly listened to punk, some bad screamo bands, and noise music. The first metal album I bought was Mayhem’s Dawn of the Black Hearts, purely because of my morbid fascination with the story behind the album photo, which depicts former vocalist Dead’s bloody suicide scene, taken by fellow band member Euronymous upon discovery. I got heavily into Bathory when I purchased their self-titled album, partly because its lo-fi sounds were reminiscent of the punk and garage rock bands I listened to, and partly because of the history behind the name Bathory and its namesake’s bloody countess.
It wasn’t until I was touring in a small city in Germany with the ballet company I was dancing for that I was properly introduced to the kind of black metal I seek out now. I wandered off on my own and came across a small record store (which the name escapes me) and decided to ask the guy behind the desk for any suggestions on what was good. As luck would have it, it was a record store geared towards metal music, which I was unaware of before entering. Even luckier, it was only a few months after The Ruins of Beverast released their album, Rain Upon the Impure, which was exactly what he recommended.
Over the years, especially during the height of Tumblr, I engaged with people through the music and learned a huge deal from individuals I now consider some of my greatest friends, going to festivals around the world to see them play, spend time, and continue learning. There is something about the intensity, coupled with these beautifully atmospheric interludes, that inspires me so much while I am working. I am a lover of all things fantasy and folklore and I think, especially with the bands I am drawn to, that those themes are rooted in the very core of the music and the ritualistic nature of the live performances. When I design clothing, I mostly think with a photographer’s eye. I think about how the pieces can be used to create imagery, particularly the imagery I see when I lay down and listen to an album. There is a starkness and loneliness but, at least for me, it isn’t depressing.
One of my favorite albums to work to is Burzum’s Filosofem because I enter sort of a trance-like state due to the extreme repetitiveness of the tracks. It almost feels like a meditation. Always in rotation are albums by Paysage d’Hiver, Grift, Vemod, and Sortilegia, which I think perfectly blend a certain bleakness with definite power and elegance. I’ll admit that I do listen to much more neofolk than black metal when I’m in the studio or working at home, but I think that neofolk has had a definite hand in guiding me to the metal bands I find myself drawn to.
Regardless of what genre it is, the music I am drawn to while creating anything from a simpler drawing to a 100-hour dress is the type of music that transports you to different times and triggers a feeling that takes you out of your everyday.
10 Black Metal Albums I listen to while working, and will never get tired of:
Das Tor, Paysage D’Hiver
Minas Morgul, Summoning
Arcane Death Ritual, Sortilegia
In the Nightside Eclipse, Emperor
Throne of the Thirteenth Witch, Mare
Venter på stormene, Vemod
Exercises in Futility, Mg?a
Rain Upon the Impure, Ruins of Beverast
Jessica Haze of Mirrors and Haze, one of my absolute favorite YouTube channels to follow, is closing in on the final days of an epic endeavor: she hopes to raise $100K in 100 Days for donation to The Cancer Research Institute.
Sadly, she is far from her goal mark, but even the smallest donation is greatly appreciated. As an added incentive, each donation of $25 or more will be entered into a drawing for an enormous prize package sponsored by more than a dozen cosmetic brands.
For all the details, watch her video above, and to donate visit CrowdRise.com/100kin100Days.
Do you ever discover something really basic but amazing and need to share it immediately with everyone? That’s how I feel about Sharpie’s Rub-A-Dub Laundry marker. Best $3 I’ve spent in ages. Marketed for putting kids’ names in the tags of their T-shirts for camp, the Rub-A-Dub is basically a Sharpie that doesn’t wash out.
SHARPIE. THAT. DOESN’T. WASH. OUT.
You know those little bleach spots on clothing that come from cleaning and doing laundry while wearing all black? The ones you tried to color in with a Sharpie that one time but they just turned blue and then went back to being bleached? Fixed. Boom. Just like that.
And while you’re at it, get rid of the unexplained pink contrast stitching on that one thing you like otherwise.
Ossuaria: A place to house the bones of the dead.
Born from a marriage of two great loves of dissection and high fashion, Ossuaria creates wearable art from rearticulated specimens.
I was continually captivated by the structures that support the body, and believed they were alluring enough to hold a place outside the skin as well.
Why put in a jar what you can wear around your neck?
With a penchant for the macabre fueling his endeavors, Nathan Graves is the curator and merchant behind The Cemetery Gates. Specializing in afterlife based vintage, oddities, occult, and the things that perhaps might raise an eyebrow for some, but in our circles, collectable wares likely to wind up on our mantels.
It is hard for me to objectively speak about anything that Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab produces or releases. I run on a personal bias for the company and its founder, Elizabeth Barrial, having nothing but the warmest and fondest feelings towards her and BPAL as a whole. We’ve worked together for many years now, and have developed a long lasting friendship from that business relationship. Given the vast array of scents in their olfactory library, I of course have selections that I prefer other others, but as a whole, the brand has continued to outdo themselves with each release. With that in mind, I recently received a package from them (two, actually, but more on that another time), containing the summer collection, entitled Art of the Unicorn, and although I am not one typically for the ultra femme associations of the mythological beasts, this collection is full of the hope and wonder that it means to convey, and has introduced me to some new additions to my ever growing collection of BPAL favorites.
From Elizabeth’s introduction:
The world is wading through a dark, violent, confusing time, and sometimes it feels like we have no recourse other than to slip into despair. I believe, though, with all my heart, that hope springs eternal. In keeping with that, we present BPAL’s first unicorn series as a symbolic representation of our kinder, brighter selves, the return to wild innocence, and of the possibility of true compassion winning the day.
Settling somewhere between earthy scents and an innocent, sweet aroma, Unicorns is comprised of three separate collections within itself: Art of the Unicorn, Unicorns pt II, and Bitches Love Unicorns, the latter being a BPAL Forum exclusive, totaling 20 scents in all, with an accompanying Black Phoenix Trading Post set of atmosphere sprays and hair gloss.
My personal favorites include the earthy “A King Pursued by a Unicorn”, the subtle but poignant “Orpheus Charming Animals”, and darkly sweet “Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn”.
A King Pursued by a Unicorn is comprised of white oak, pine pitch, and a shattered shard of golden amber.
Orpheus Charming Animals is dark myrrh, teakwood, olive blossom, a scattering of crushed asphodel petals, and a drop of green cognac.
Abduction of Proserpine on a Unicorn is white sandalwood, black currant, and pomegranate.
This limited edition collection is currently available at BlackPhoenixAlchemyLab.com.
Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything.
We can’t wait to get APATICO’s latest line of harnesses, headpieces, and collars on our bones. Available for purchase on September 5th, The Crypt is a fall/winter capsule collection inspired by the bejeweled skeletons of Rome. Each piece comes in black, oxblood, and tan leather, as well as both clear and gloss-black PVC, and is designed and crafted by hand in Megan Bishop’s Seattle studio.
The jewel-encrusted skeletons of Rome were corpses exhumed during the iconoclasm of the 16th and 17th centuries and sent abroad to, the story goes, replace religious relics destroyed during the Reformation. Adorned with precious stones, lush brocade, gold, and resplendent headdresses, these “catacomb saints” are now on display in many churches throughout Germany, Austria, and Switzerland — though whether any of them were actually saints to begin with is somewhat questionable. Consisting of nine harnesses, 11 headpieces, and three collars, The Crypt fuses this decadent iconography with elements of fetish fashion and dark fantasy, creating something truly unique.
APATICO was initially a millinery label, and through its expansion to harnesses and accessories has retained a striking attention to fit, detail, and fanciness. The fall/winter collection is filled with spikes, studs, tassels, and stiffened gauze and adorned with hearts and inverted crosses — some of our favorite pieces include the Tenebre Harness, equipped with a cape that also functions with a veil, and the Strega Crown Harness Headpiece.