Phantasmagorgeous

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Photograph by Valentina Sadiul; Headpiece by Tora Engle at Black Iris Creations

Halloween is just a few weeks away and I am planning to follow through with my commitment to the phantasmagorgeous. While I don’t yet have a costume put together, I do have some concepts predicated on the intersection of allure and fear. I also have plans to attend gatherings in San Francisco that offer a platform for expressing the conflation of the beautiful and the spooky. The Vau de Vire Society will present Phantasm, which offers “a midway of careening colors and karni oddities”, while on the same evening the intrepid folks who create the Edwardian Ball will host their own version of pretty terror, The Haunted Hourglass. I’ll most likely attend Paul Nathan’s event at the creepy and mysterious Great Star Theater. And, on November 2nd, I will once again build my fireplace mantel offrenda, then haunt the streets of The Mission bedecked in calavera make up.

For more than a decade I’ve been disturbed by the increasingly gruesome imagery that has overtaken celebrations on October 31st. I’m a mirror-touch synaesthete, and I feel pain in my own body when I see wounds on another person’s body. It doesn’t matter if this blood and carnage and ruptured flesh is real or imagined; I experience painful sensations the nanosecond my brain perceives “hurt”. My mirror-sensory synaesthesias are so flagrant, I consider myself to be “built for hurt”.  But, the lovely underbelly of this reactivity is my sensitivity to sumptuous fabrics and aquarelle colors. The sight of burgundy silk chiffon makes my fingers warm; the orange petals of a late autumn chrysanthemum are as threatening as teeth. Put them together in a strange and fascinating headpiece and I’m captivated.

I’m building my All Hallows Eve ensemble on a framework of texture, color, and transparency, a formula that’s hardly novel to fear mongers. Guillermo del Toro combines these elements masterfully in “Crimson Peak”, a haunting, ethereal ghost story. Similar images are evoked in Edgar Allen Poe’s poem Annabel Lee and the haute couture of Thierry Mugler. I’ve plenty of experts to consider as I build my own bewitching disguise. And as always, I’ll let go of the gory and elevate the eerily pretty.

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Photograph by Valentina Sadiul

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