Monday, April 4, 2011

The Art of Edward Gorey

He seemed to have such a fitting last name.  Then again, he really didn't.
About a month ago, The New York Times printed an appreciation for artist Edward Gorey entitled, "Nightshade Is Growing Like Weeds."  Gorey's illustrations are best known to fans of the PBS program, Mystery! as they make up the show's introduction.  Black and white animated bits are strung together, including a cloaked villain and a fainting damsel, running at fast intercuts against a gothic tableau.  His drawings were always creepy, mysterious, but also funny and understated.  They were dark, but very seldom sanguine.  Once you saw them, you never forgot them.  This was doubly true if you were any sort of anglophile.
The article in the Times that I linked to is mostly an examination of Gorey's influence.  And there was a great deal of it.  Tim Burton's artistic style owes Gorey a great debt, as does Rob Reger, the creator of Emily Strange, and of course Neil Gaiman, one of the favorite authors around here at Strange Horizons.  Among the tidbits I learned from the article is that Neil Gaiman actually wanted Gorey to illustrate his multi-award-winning children's book, Coraline.  But Gorey died the very day that Gaiman finished the book.  Talk about bad timing.
Do yourself a favor and click here.  It will take you to a slideshow of Gorey's art.  You will no doubt find it darkly brilliant and quite hilarious in spots.  Think of it as a cartoon from The New Yorker only set in the 19th Century and with a strong injection of macabre.  I understand that Gorey himself eschewed those who attempted to find any true meanings in his work.  The article even points out that a deconstructionist such as Derrida might say it is that very elusiveness of language that gives the art its meaning.  That's a deeper academic subject for perhaps another time.  I simply know that until Mystery!, I never saw an artist with the style that Gorey had.  Now all I see are imitators.
I hear there's an exhibit of Edward Gorey art in Boston.  One more reason to visit that fine city.

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