FROM NORWAY WITH LOVE Holm’s take on “Pickman’s Model.”
"All right, our next one we have is called 'Nyarlathotep,'" Janis Cimerol says. It is Sunday night, October 7, and Cimerol's broodingly psychedelic band, Hemlok, is playing a special gig before heading on a European tour.
On an impromptu stage in a storefront between a beauty parlor and a tuxedo rental shop in North Providence, the band is christening the art exhibition, "Lovecraft Comes Home," at Gallerie Nomad. On the walls hang portraits of sea monsters and artist statements that praise Rhode Island's most famous horror writer — H.P. Lovecraft — for crafting characters who fall into "anxiety, depression, and despair" over "their insignificance" in the universe.
Because "Nyarlathotep" (homage to a shape-shifting Lovecraftian demon also known as the "crawling chaos") is an instrumental tune, Cimerol steps aside. And as she does, a belly dancer named Jamie Lee Fury struts out slowly to take her place. Bass thrums, cymbals crash, and a distorted electric violin wails as Fury's body undulates slowly. She stomps. She sways her hips. And her eyes — rimmed with exaggerated Cleopatra makeup — widen in rapture. Then, for the song's finale, she drops to her knees and shakes her hands violently. The dance, too, is called "Nyarlathotep."
Among those applauding are Joshua Robinson and Danny Bryant — tattoo artists and co-curators of a show launched over drinks in Bryant's backyard. "It was one of those things that was drunken banter, but we didn't want it to [just] be drunken banter," Bryant says. And so the two friends sent out messages via Craiglist asking Lovecraft-o-philes to submit their "weird art." Responses came in from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, but also from Indiana, California, and beyond.
"A lot of my friends pretended to read a lot of Lovecraft, but there are limits to the language skills of Norwegian teenagers," says Kim Holm, a graphic artist in Bergen, Norway who contributed panels from his graphic adaptation of the story, "Pickman's Model." "I kept on reading and reading until I finally got it. And when I got it I didn't stop." Holm first learned about Lovecraft through role playing games and Metallica lyrics, he says. Now his artwork represents an effort to "undertake the challenge of drawing the unnamed and the unnamable."
Dennis Anderson, a graphic designer in southwest Michigan heard about the show from a friend and submitted an illustration of the scene from "The Shunned House," where a young narrator on an ill-fated expedition into a putrid basement on College Hill sees what Anderson describes as "his uncle dissolving before his eyes into a black puddly mess." His painting of a gnarled hand reaching up out of a floor with a fluorescent green, multi-eyed creature floating in the background hangs in "Lovecraft Comes Home" near a spinning pinwheel of wooden tentacles.
Those tentacles — slimy green appendages — are by far the exhibition's most pronounced theme. In the paintings and prints and sculptures, they protrude out of mouths and dangle along cheeks and wrap around animal skulls and lurch toward naked women and lovingly frame a portrait of the exhibition's patron saint: Lovecraft, himself.