Every midnight in October: a great work of horror and a conversation with an artist. All works are on display in The Last Bookstore.
The short story, Max Hensig by Algernon Blackwood, is a perfect short to read whenever you want a case of the willies. The antagonist, Dr. Max Hensig, is exactly everything we as human beings fear. The evil and the fear he instills within us are timeless. Williams, the reporter, first meets Dr. Max Hensig in prison. He (the doctor) supposedly poisoned his wife and is being tried for her murder. The description alone is almost all we need to know about the doctor. “He had flaxen hair and very bright blue eyes; his skin was white, and his face wore so open and innocent an expression that one would have said he could not twist a kitten’s tail without wincing.” There is something very cool and smooth in the way Blackwood writes, exposing the characters for exactly who they are, leaving little room for delusion. This man is evil. Also: he’s pale white with blue eyes. He is, for all intents and purposes a ghost. Suddenly, he’s not only a possible killer, now he’s supernatural. After being tried and acquitted, the doctor is set free and for the next few weeks Williams is constantly looking over his shoulder, certain that he sees Hensig in the crowd. This stalking is better than gore, better than an outright killer. The stalker is something everyone is afraid of because we know that whoever is being stalked is prey.
We know what happens to prey. We’ve seen enough Discovery Channel. But, it also represents the idea that Death is always following us. Always peering around that corner, always lurking in those shadows. You never know how or when you’ll meet him.
ANDREA BOGDAN with Mackenzie Cox
Ms. Bogdan is part of the Spring Arts Collective, with a studio/gallery looking down into The Last Bookstore.
Mackenzie Cox – With horror as the main theme here, I would love to hear about your spookiest experience?
Andrea Bogdan – One night in August I was working late in the studio well past the time that the other artists had gone home. The hall was dark and a thin man with a long-sleeved white t-shirt and white painter pants walked by – I saw his figure reflecting in the glass next to my door and his clothes were bathed in a pink light. I called out to him “Hey, do you WORK here? Can I HELP you?” But when I ran out to the hall nobody was there. So I ran back into my studio, closed my windows and left – I was afraid that some nutcase was locked in the building with me. Then I realized….I didn’t see a solid figure, only a reflection. But I was on the second floor, so there was no way somebody could walk past my windows outside and cast a reflection onto the glass by my door. So I locked up and scampered downstairs to tell the security guard. And he told me an even scarier story about something that happened on the 8th floor.
[Editor’s note: …and? AND?!]
MC – What is your favorite Halloween costume ever?
AB – It’s a toss up between these two:
MC – At what point during the book did you feel inspired?
AB – Near the end of the story the journalist comes up with a wild scheme to outwit the evil doctor Max Hensig, and Algernon Blackwood describes the idea as it’s unfolding so you don’t know what his plan is until he executes it. I liked the way the author brings you inside the journalist’s head at that time because you know that on the surface it’s a really stupid plan, but at the same time you convince yourself that it could work.
MC – I feel like this book concentrates on a basic, primitive human fear: being stalked like prey. What about the book really gave you the creeps, though? Was there a specific scene?
AB – There’s a scene where the journalist went to meet a boat from Europe for a mundane story and he scanned the rope ladder for his subject and he “felt his eyes drawn away” – he thinks he sees Hensig and that the doctor has come back to America. “The eyes were bright blue, and the skin, in that row of bronzed passengers shown, remarkably white.” That was creepy.
The way Dr. Hensig speaks is pretty creepy, too.
MC – Why did you choose this piece of literature to read/be inspired by?
AB – Blackwood was my fifth choice! My first three choices were taken, and my fourth choice was an author known for erotic imagery and visceral violence – YUK! So I asked Eric to recommended an author and he suggested Algernon Blackwood who is known as one of the first English authors of supernatural fiction. I bought his book of short stories and picked “Max Hensig” because the publisher said it was not “typical” Blackwood but it was “such a good story that it should not be lost.” I figured it must be pretty good if the publisher put it in anyway.
MC – Did it grow on you? This book was actually not my first pick either, but I really did fall in love with the writing and the scenes. Can you tell me about your reading experience?
AB – Before I read the story, I read Blackwood’s bio at the front of the book and I fell in love with him. He was the English son of a high official and a Duchess. He was a rebel and his parents shipped him off to Canada. That went poorly and he ran off to New York City where he was penniless and sick most of the time, and regularly ridiculed in the New York newspapers. It was hard for me to read the story without thinking about Blackwood and without thinking about today’s media. For example, when Blackwood has the evil doctor stalking the journalists from the New York Vulture because he thought their coverage was too one-sided…and the idea of killing people with bacteria and diseases…I wondered if these ideas were new in 1907 when it was written.
I read the story twice to make sure it sunk in, and I ended up having a nightmare from it – that four fingers on my left hand fell off and what was left of my hand turned black from the plague, leaving just pink fleshy buttons where my fingers were. So I put those into the painting.
MC – For those of us who are artistically impaired, could you explain your technique?
AB – Oh, no, I think if you are a writer, you are not at all artistically impaired! For the authors in the room I would compare my style of painting to stream of consciousness writing. I don’t know what I’m going to paint before I paint it. Instead, I put colors onto the canvas that I like, and I test different colors next to each other and make new shapes and try different combinations, then I start painting over areas which I don’t particularly care for, which I guess for a writer would be like going back and deleting sentences or words.
The challenge in painting Max Hensig is that I had to hold onto an emotion from the book that I could revisit while I was painting – so the yellow is fear, the grey is brain fog, the red is danger, and the black is the unknown fear. The pink is the healthy flesh and hope of survival and life.
MC – What are you generally inspired by?
AB – People – their funny uniqueness and beautiful imperfection.
MC – Where can we see more of your work?
I have works in three Los Angeles galleries at this moment:
Cactus Gallery, 3001 N. Coolidge, Los Angeles, 90039
La Luz de Jesus Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, 90027
SugarMynt Gallery, 810 Meridian Ave., South Pasadena
I’ll have works in:
Gabba Gallery, 3126 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, 90057
For their Wish List Show (I need to get you the dates for that!)
Spring Arts Collective Gallery, November 14-December 28, 2015
453 S. Spring Street, Los Angeles, CA 90013