Every midnight in October: a great work of horror and a conversation with an artist. All works are on display in The Last Bookstore. Don’t forget to pick up a map when you get to the store, so you don’t miss anything, or take a peek here.
When asked to contribute to the Last Spookstore’s book reviews, I researched the suggested titles, so as to find a brief synopsis that would tickle my fancy. I learned that upon its release in 1894, Arthur Machen’s The Great God Pan was “widely denounced by the press as degenerate and horrific because of its decadent style and sexual content.”
Sold. I’ll review that one.
I excitedly picked up the book and licked my lips in delicious anticipation of the ghastly perversions that awaited me in its pages. To my dismay, the content was hardly depraved. I barely raised an eyebrow. Though the book did not cause my heart to race or cheeks to flush, I realized that the true terror of this story is found not in what is written, but in what is implied. Much is left to the imagination. The reader can only guess what horrible events transpired inside the walls of the house with the flowers in the window on Ashley Street. We can only imagine the awful sights that caused people to shriek and collapse, muscles to convulse, faces to contort, and minds to be utterly lost forever.
Machen weaves together pieces of the puzzle, often told secondhand—from newspaper articles, diary entries, recounts of an old friend. Rather than see the whole gruesome truth, we are provided only shadows, traces of its existence. By this, Machen keeps us in suspense, intrigued, wanting answers. When all is revealed and the last piece of the puzzle put into place, I find myself both satisfied and desiring more. What happened in that mysterious woman’s house? Who was that man in the wood? What did the young girl see when she gazed upon the Great God Pan? I can only imagine. And therein lies the true horror.
CHAMPOY with Adrienne Johnson
Adrienne Johnson – What’s your favorite thing about Halloween?
Champoy – The freedom to dress up and let loose. Halloween is a spectacle. It is the one time of year when darkness is accepted and celebrated. It’s very childlike and fun. You can put on a crazy costume and cover things in skulls and no one thinks it’s weird.
AJ – What made you choose The Great God Pan for your art piece?
C – Pan is a striking character. I am drawn to what Pan represents—the celebration of our primal nature and the dark side of our psyche. Sensual psychological books like The Great God Pan have always fascinated me. I used to collect books that were banned or considered obscene, such as Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and works by the Marquis de Sade.
AJ – What inspired you about the book to make this piece?
C – I created this piece by imagining what I would make if I could create the cover of the book. I wanted to make a graphic cover with different components from the story—the brain, sensuality, releasing Pan—without giving away too much.
AJ – Bold images and thick line work seem to be common in many of your pieces, including this piece. Can you tell us more about your process, either in general or with this specific work?
C – I have always been drawn to comics and cartoons. I like to doodle, mixing abstract organic forms with recognizable cartoon images. I prefer not to have a plan, to just doodle and see what happens. I call it visual vomit. Whenever I try to plan and be intentional, I don’t always like what I create. The more I try, the worse it is. My work is better when I am in the flow, when I am free to play. The Buddhists call it “Leela”—our divine playful nature. That is when I am most present. It brings me to my higher self; it is the closest thing I have to a religion. I feel grateful and fortunate that I can always go back to my pen and paper. It is like free therapy for me. But it is also a curse. I will always have to create.
AJ – How would you describe your subject matter or the content of your work?
C – I’m sort of a trickster. There is always humor in my art. I like to make commentary, but I don’t take anything too seriously. At the end of the day, if you can’t laugh about it, it’s not worth stressing out over.
AJ – I see that you also do tattoos. What mediums do you enjoy working with?
C – I used to want to do everything—sculpture, fabrication, tattoos. I appreciate when people are crafty in their art—materializing something into reality. I used to do textile design, which is reflected in my bold, graphic style. Every time I saw someone do something I liked, I wanted to try it. I always want to learn. I learned from people older than me with more experience. And now I teach people younger than me. Teaching has helped me to grow. Now that I work with kids, showing them how to build things and make art, I have learned more as a teacher than I ever learned as a stubborn student. I have learned that nothing really matters. But because I do it, it matters.
AJ – What influences outside the visual arts inspire and impact your approach to making work?
C – I was often alone as a child, surrounded by wide, open pineapple fields in the Philippines. I would find refuge in my own mind, through drawing. I think images and culture—from the Philippines and just the history of art—became ingrained in my psyche. I am influenced by historical tribal images, which come out in my work. I think that through technology, we all subconsciously influence each other. Some people don’t like posting their artwork online, because they fear it will be stolen. But that doesn’t bother me. I post my artwork online anyway. I am curating my own creative life by documenting what I’m doing. I feel it is a conversation; it’s entertainment.
AJ – Where can we see more of your work?
C – You can often find me working at Side Street Projects: a nonprofit organization that encourages self-reliance and creative problem solving for adults and children in a contemporary art context. I am also putting together the fourth installment of our annual Comix Jam with JT Steiny. It is a live, collaborative event that brings together comic book enthusiasts, artists, and people from all walks of life. Multiple panels are hung on the wall. Someone starts drawing, then someone else adds, and so on. Creating can sometimes be a solitary activity. The Comix Jam is a fun, freeform collaboration that is open to anyone and everyone.
AJ – What is the best Halloween costume you have ever seen?
C – A friend of mine once wore a suit and covered it with Barbie’s. He was a “chick magnet.” I thought that was clever. Plus, I like it when people get crafty with their costumes, instead of just buying something from the store.
You can see more of Champoy’s work at www.champchampchampoy.com
Steal a glance at our full slate of October events: masquerade, magic and more Halloween mayhem.