FIVE CLIVE BARKER ART MILESTONES
Clive Barker once told me he was a great admirer of Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau. Cocteau was a French writer, designer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. Barker is a writer, playwright, artist and filmmaker. He is the closest we will ever get to Cocteau in our lifetime. He said that the problem is with time. There is never enough time to accomplish what you want to do. So many things to complete before life gets in the way. I have never known him to stop or slow down unless forced to by schedules, health, or demands that throw his priorities all out of skew. He opens our eyes to visions we never had nightmares of and has allowed us to look at things through a different viewfinder. Below I've mentioned some of my personal highlights concerning Clive's art. It's incomplete. I could write 20 of these columns on Clive.
Novel - I'll always love The Damnation Game. After the hoopla that The Books of Blood created in the horror world, and a great blurb by Stephen King, Clive needed a follow-up with power behind it. So many times the sophomore effort of the creator is a let-down. Not with Clive. There is no gentle fantasy here but a gamble for life. This may be his most frightening book.
Art - I had already read The Books of Blood and The Damnation Game at this point, so I was privy to some of the permeations of his thoughts and emotions into his works. I believe there were two pieces of art by Clive that really opened me up to his visions. The Arsonist, which is a piece that was displayed in his original Bess Cutler exhibit in 1993, and I was lucky enough to see it at the Laguna Art Exhibit in 1995. It explodes with flame and color, obscuring the background and threatening to engulf the lone figure holding the tool of his tragedy. Like Clive, his work consumes him, as he gives his all just to express himself. The viewer has no idea whether or not the man will survive. If he doesn't, he will go down in flames. The other piece is a black & white that Clive created for a Horror Writer Charity Calendar that Dark Delicacies put out in its early years. It shows a muse (a nondescript being or animal) having peeled back the layers of skin and bone to expose the mind of the writer, who is buried up to his chin, picking at the brain. For me it says that we don't know where the ideas and ability of the artist come from. But they come.
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Short Stories - If we are to include his novellas in this category, there is no denying the power of Hellbound Heart or the influence of Cabal. But as a lover of the short story form, I love his yarn Haeckel's Tale. The short story is a format that lends itself to less involved plots and simple telling. Evidently, nobody informed Clive of this. Haeckel's Tale is told in the narrative style and language of times when people like Nathaniel Hawthorne were touching upon the evil in our souls. Lovingly presented and wrapped in a bookend tale that offers the modern reader a glimpse into the times in which the story is set.
Films - Clive's love of film has been evident since his days of doing theater in Great Britain. While directing stage plays he also filmed some experimental shorts. They proved a great training ground for Hellraiser, Nightbreed, and Lord of Illusions. Including Hellraiser (which was run into the ground with unending sequels), never has a film artist been more maligned by the very people trying to make money off of his name. Clive Barker's original cuts of almost everything carry the vision he saw and carried the wrath of the censors.
Fans - His most enduring artistic act may be his love and caring for his fans. He embraces their love and take-off pieces of fan art with an enthusiasm that is infectious. I remember numerous signings at Dark Delicacies where he drew in everybody's book. One such signing at the store went on for seven hours. Nobody left disappointed and when Clive left, he was completely exhausted but smiling. He has this special gift at the signings of making the person standing in front of him feel like the only person in the room. He focused on them and cared about what they had to say. He remembered previous conversations with them from earlier signing events. As a fan, when Clive Barker signed your book, you were important and you never forgot it. That's a rare gift indeed.
Clive Barker once said, "All I've ever wanted to do is darken the day and brighten the night." I believe he has accomplished that.
Del Howison is the Bram Stoker Award winning co-editor of the book Midian Unmade: Tales of Clive Barker's Nightbreed. He is also a writer and owner of America's Home of Horror Dark Delicacies in Burbank, CA. HorrorTalk.com would like to thank him for taking the time to write this guest editorial.
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