This time last year, I had huge amounts of fun producing a series of self-portraits that lent heavily into the tricking and treating of Halloween. Entitled The Children Of The Night, they emulated old horror movies and the paperback covers of my youth and originally produced for The Kick-About No.39. I’m much too old to actually do Halloween in any meaningful way, but I couldn’t let the occasion pass on here without some acknowledgment of a creative kind, so I do have a creepy little something for you in advance of the 31st. Last seen here, I just happened to have a hand-sewn mask hanging around the house, so spent some fruitful time yesterday hanging out in a clothes cupboard, and the words followed swiftly after. Happy Halloween!
You can thank John Stezaker’s hybrid portraits for the recent outbreak of severed sightless heads popping up on my blog over recent days, but another bit of the Kick-About #47 prompt was the specific title of Stezaker’s photographic collages – Marriage.
I happen to be married to someone who is willing to share his home with a disembodied head, and the guy who made it. These last photographs are for my husband, Paul, by way of reassurance: however weird things get, I’m still right here and very likely laughing my arse off.
Another day, another collection of disembodied heads arranged just-so on my living room sofa, all for the purposes of producing some John Stezaker-inspired photographs for the Kick-About No. 47, and all in the name in art. Our small front room (where these pictures were taken) is dominated by a large bay window – a veritable goldfish bowl for any passersby – so quite what the neighbours thought is anyone’s guess.
Muses come in all shapes and sizes – even, it seems in the shape of a poorly-sewn head and an ox-blood coloured sofa.
As I went about my merry way, leaving my Stezaker-inspired fizzog about our narrow terraced house, certain set-ups offered up much more than others. There was something agreeably visceral about the rich, chuck-steak reds of our old leather sofa that really did the trick, with some of the resulting photographs channelling the likes of Ed Gein and the images of Joel-Peter Witkin.
A second set of photographs produced in response to the photographic collages of John Stezaker, the prompt for our most recent Kick-About together. In some of these images, the titular head-piece has been given eyes, fashioned from two pickled onion-sized balls of tights-stuffed-with-fluff, which I decided against using again in other compositions. The eyes, such as they were, had the effect of undoing some of the deconstruction of the face, pushing the head towards something hokier. As it is, I couldn’t help thinking about this scene from Friday The 13th Part 2 (viewer discretion advised), my husband reacting similarly each time he turned a corner to find my disembodied muse looking back at him from the corner of the bathroom floor.
All of this began simply enough: in response to the Kick-About No. 47, try and construct a new face from fragments in a John Stezaker-style, and in so doing, seek to produce something as unsettling as some of the photographer’s sepia chimeras.
Reaching for the remainders of some nylon tights and toy-stuffing left-over from the very first Kick-About, I set about sewing together a new face around the shell of a white balaclava. I wanted to produce a fine-art object, as opposed to anything too illusionist, something a bit deconstructed, with its seams showing and the fact of its construction left conspicuous. In this, I looked to Stezaker’s own collages, which likewise make no secret of their provenance of different parts.
The head-thing fabricated, I then left it about the house, like a thing left behind or dropped, and photographed it in situ. At times creepy, and at other times rather sad-seeming, this quickly-produced face-of-bits kept accruing personality and the uncanny ability to seem life-like, even in spite of its obvious anatomical imprecisions and sticky-out bits of thread. That’s the thing about faces, I suppose – even the ones fashioned badly out of tights and Kapok; we can’t help relating to them.