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I first became aware of Sara Deck’s artwork via her arresting and unsettling cover art imagery for Rue Morgue magazine’s Shirley Jackson tribute, and since then, I’ll admit, I haven’t been able to get her out of my head (please pardon the pun).
The more I pore through her work, heavily featuring iconic dark genre sirens and scream queens galore, the more I am cursing my lack of wall space and frantically scrabbling through my grimoires in an attempt to conjure forth extra rooms through the use of black arts. Are her depictions of your favorite spooky ladies worth selling your soul for, in order to have their haunting visages hanging in that shadowed parlour corner that appeared in a mysterious puff of smoke two minutes ago? I’d wager for fans of powerfully female-centric horror-related art, the answer is an unequivocal “OMG WHAT YES”.
Sara Deck is a visual artist residing in Ontario, Canada and who describes herself as a “Landscape aficionado, portraitist, Illustrator, dollmaker and painter of meats*” She also sculpts the most peculiar little dolls, which she notes in her bio on her site, “may or may not come to life at night while you are asleep.”
Delving into the arts was natural for Deck, as her father was a painter, and often would bring her along when he would do watercolor studies for later paintings. As a teen, she began working in acrylic and painting everything that she could get her hands on; when she ran out of canvas, she notes, her backpack, jean jacket and bicycle did not escape her brush! She also shares that she was very solitary and “into finding secluded places to read, sketch and paint,” and that it was around this time that her artistic passions became firmly rooted into her personality. Her art education continued at Sheridan College, where she majored in Editorial Illustration.
Sara Deck has always found dark imagery, literature and films extremely inspiring, and has a huge collection of horror films ranging from some the first ever made to many current creepy movies and television shows. “I think that the horror genre offers so much room for creativity,” Deck suggests, “I mean it’s not just ghosts and slasher films. Pretty much anything goes, from evil fairies to the cold stark abyss of space. It’s really a wide open platform of expression with only your imagination as its limit.”
It is within this expansive, imaginative genre where powerful female characters truly resonated with her. A huge fan of all of the ladies featured in classic horror films, Deck shares that she loves the glamour of the time mixed with the heart wrenching horror of their stories. A few of her all-time favorites? “…Val Lewton’s pictures,” Deck enthuses. “If you have not seen his work, and are interested in checking out some stellar leading ladies, I would highly recommend Cat People with Simone Simon and I Walked With a Zombie, featuring Francis Dee. I loved Candace Hilligoss in Carnival of Souls–her character’s vacant, numb demeanor while trying to re-assimilate into society after having survived a horrifying car crash that killed all of her friends–I won’t spoil the ending on that one! Also, The Legend of Hell House, with Pamela Franklin staring as the physical medium battling the dominant evil spirit of the Belasco House. This film has a scene where during a seance she manifests ectoplasm out of her fingers, much like you would see in a vintage Victorian spiritualist photo. There is also a particularly hilarious scene with a possessed cat (badly stuffed I’m afraid) that will make you laugh.”
Deck adds, as an afterthought, “I am also a big nerd for some of the more modern ladies in the genre. In the last few years I’ve been in love with Penny Dreadful‘s Vanessa Ives. I have forced so many friends to watch that show with me!”
Also a sculptor who draws sinister inspiration from the likes of Edgar Allan Poe to Spike and Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Deck notes that she loves making dolls and coming up with new characters to create. Though, she reflects, “I think I am more of a painter at heart. I’m always doing sketches and filling books with ideas for new pieces.”
*With regard to painting, and hearkening back to the bit in her bio where Deck mentions she is a “painter of meats”–if you were curious about that, and whether that is “meat” in the sense of humans, in their fleshly meat-suits? Or maybe still lifes with t-bones and lamb chops and fat-marbled filets? According to Deck, the answer “Both actually! I once did a whole series of still life paintings featuring raw bloody meat. I have since focused on painting people, which is another form of painting meat – so, it’s a bit of a cheeky bio description!”
And, OK, let’s say that your mystical wall-space petition to the dark ones didn’t quite pan out, but you are still longing for a piece of Sara Deck’s fantastical, haunting art. What to do? She must be part witch or part seer herself, and foresaw this dilemma, for she has created tiny, wearable pieces in the form of beautifully macabre lapel pins for which to adorn yourself! Surely you can make space for a Nevermore or Mystifying Oracle pin on your jacket? Miniature art magics! Problem solved.