Books of Blood by Clive Barker & the art of Liz Huston
Featured on Dwarf & Giant, October 1, 2015
Written by Sue Molenda
Every midnight in October: a great work of horror and a conversation with an artist. All works are on display in The Last Bookstore.
In “The Book of Blood”* Clive Barker introduces a haunted house, a highway traversed by the dead, and an aging paranormal expert, recently widowed, who believes she has found her ticket to fame in a winsome lad who writhes, bellows, and scrawls on walls with leads he’s hidden under his tongue. The twenty-year-old presents himself as a medium through whom deceased celebrities and noteless nobodies scribble messages from the beyond, all over the walls of an upstairs room in the haunted house.
Dr. Mary Florescu has made a grave error: the McNeal boy is a fraud, and the dead will not be mocked. The enraged spirits of heinous murderers and their victims converge upon the house via an unseen highway, and carve, in miniscule script, the stories of their torment upon the milky flesh of young McNeal. They leave him, bloody and scarred, for Mary to comfort. Every inch of the lad has been transformed into a macabre book—a book of the dead. Certain that the object of her desire will recover, Dr. Florescu vows to read all the tales from McNeal’s marred body.
While aspects of the story would be distasteful to any prude, and although it details violence from which sensitive movie viewers would shield their eyes, Clive Barker’s vividly crafted tale renders the reader loath to discontinue the adventure; rather, one is impelled to devour the subsequent stories in The Books of Blood, to ride along on “The Midnight Meat Train”, or to wonder at the inexplicable patience of Jack, a man embattled by “The Yattering.”
*Editor’s note: Books of Blood is the 6 volume collection, while The Book of Blood is both the first book and the first story in the series.
LIZ HUSTON with Sue Molenda
Ms. Huston is part of the Spring Arts Collective, with a studio/gallery looking down into The Last Bookstore.
When Liz Huston greeted me in her shop above The Last Bookstore, I connected with electrifying joy. Her energy, her aura, is pure joy. Liz’s entire being is a work of art, and her skin a radiant “canvas” of tattoos. I could not resist buying a limited edition print, once she began quoting the poem that inspired it. “My Sweet, Crushed Angel” evoked thoughts of those I love whose dreams are dashed or out of reach. Liz and I shared a brief, delightful conversation and promised to complete our interview via email, as art admirers crowded into her Belle de Lune Gallery. Below is that interview.
Sue Molenda – Since you posted the 2010 video about how you create art, how has your process changed?
Liz Huston – I have learned to paint with acrylics, watercolors as well as learned digital painting, all of which I use in tandem with digital compositing. Switching between digital and tactile techniques makes the process much lengthier, but the results are so much richer!
SM – How does it feel to be earning a living doing something you love?
LH – I started my business, Photomonium, in 2006. It started as a combination of photography and my traveling curiosity shop, but as I started to do photomontage, I did less of the photography and curiosity shop – eventually leading to where I am now, in a fixed location with just the art.
It feels right. I feel a certainty as an artist that I didn’t have in any job prior. It feels amazing to make art, yet terrifying at times. Being a self employed artist has a feast or famine quality. Those famine times are terrifying, but somehow it works out, and has for nearly a decade.
SM – When did you decide to become an artist?
LH – I’ve always wanted to be an artist. However, when I was young (lacking faith and encouragement), I held the dream close to my heart and rarely spoke it. I fancied myself a writer in my teens, and in my twenties I wanted to be a photographer, filmmaker (made 2 short films), and a curiosity/antique shop owner. Being an artist was my silent, secret dream. It constantly beckoned me. 10 years ago I finally admitted the dream aloud.
SM – What influenced you to become a full time artist?
LH – I had a wonderful day job in the music industry, and was a photographer on the side, with a passion for traveling to New Orleans several times a year. In those travels I took hundreds (maybe thousands) of photos of New Orleans cemeteries with film, usually infrared film.
It was June 2005 when a friend told me people were using this new website (Lulu.com) to publish their own photo books. I suddenly knew I had to make a book of my New Orleans cemetery photographs, and it HAD to be on the shelves by Halloween of 2005. I worked furiously on the book. We even traveled to New Orleans in hot hot hot July, to get some last shots. I was driven by something I could not quantify. I felt something greater than myself pulling the book into existence at the same time I was pushing it.
As fate would have it, I uploaded that book to the printer the night before Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana. After seeing the awful devastation, I rewrote the introduction, vowing to use the book as a fundraiser, benefiting Habitat for Humanity and New Orleans-based Save Our Cemeteries. That book changed my life. I started doing events with my photography and book, a couple times a month. I started making jewelry and curiosities, and my traveling curiosity shop was born. Seven months after the book came out, I quit the job I loved in the music industry to do my traveling curiosity shop full time. From there I just kept following the path. That path led me to photomontage and eventually to where I am now!
SM – What resources did you use to learn about art and about the digital skills you use in creating art?
LH – I am a self taught artist. I’ve assisted photographic workshops, but was only a student in one weekend fashion lighting course. I learned photography through a passion for the medium, my local library, a homemade darkroom, and lots of artist & musician friends willing to experiment.
I learned entirely by doing. My first creation was a wedding portrait. I had eloped to New Orleans, and had no proper portraits. So, I made one, which I still sometimes exhibit, entitled “The Lovers”. After that, I wanted to create my own Tarot deck. The cards had taught me about symbolism. I subscribed to Photoshop magazine to learn new techniques, since in 2007-08, there weren’t many YouTube tutorials. It was an arduous process of trial and error, but in 16 months I had created 68 of the 72 cards. Unfortunately, my computer crashed, had to be rebuilt and I lost it all. The only piece I managed to recreate (because it was also on a disc) was “The Lovers”.
That loss, which destroyed me at the time, was a blessing in disguise. Those early pieces were my teachers. The work was rough, but the process taught me everything I needed to know to make the work I make now!
SM – Do you feel that art was within you all along, just waiting to be released?
LH – I have no doubt that the art has always been with me, and I’m excited about the pieces I am yet to create. It’s as if, for my entire life, present Me was leaving a bread crumb trail for little, past Me to follow.
SM – Is most of your art inspired by literary works?
LH – My work is inspired in equal parts by my life, mythology (Ovid’s Metamorphoses is dear to me), music and poetry. The lush poetry of Hafiz, Rumi always stir something deep in me.
SM – As your art evolves and your techniques become more advanced, do you feel a greater or lesser emotional/spiritual connection to the work?
LH – My work went from impersonal (the Tarot) to deeply personal, as I worked through the crushing pain and confusion of divorce.
I now tackle themes less rooted in current predicaments. Lately I’m more interested in telling stories and in retelling myths far removed from my personal story. It’s liberating. While the work still reflects who and where I am, I and my life are no longer the subject, simply the point of reference. I prefer it this way; the work is not entangled with personal pain or struggle.
SM – Have you ever found, in your art, a catharsis for emotions that might not otherwise have found expression?
LH – I never would have survived the deep loss of my divorce without making art. Art lifted the pain out of me so I could view it in all its facets and eventually move forward. Art was my lifeboat and lifeline. It rescued me, and as the years have gone by, the art has taken me to brighter, calmer shores.
SM – Has the process of creating beautiful art has brought more peace, more love, more of anything into your life?
LH – Creating art has brought more of all good things into my life. Parallel to my art path has been a deep spiritual path, and the two are entwined in my being. When I finally admitted my desire to paint, I connected with the deepest part of me. Art has given me myself.
SM – Is your art the legacy you hope to leave, or have other aspirations tugged as mightily at your soul?
LH – Art is absolutely the legacy I wish to leave the world. I want to leave this place more beautiful than I found it, and I do that through my art.
SM – Is there anything else you would like to say — any nugget of wisdom you’d like to share?
LH – Please listen to the yearnings in your soul. Don’t follow another’s path, follow yours. The path may not be easy, but it will be worth it. Even if you have to do it in secret – follow your own breadcrumb trail. Making art is always challenging, and not always fun. But for me, it’s always right. Find your path, and follow it.