Feature: A Terrifying Beauty – Discussing the Work of Artist Rebekah Joy Plett

One could say virtually anything about a piece of art. The expression of emotion, exploitation of the senses through visual stimuli, the evocation of memory and, more importantly in this situation – fear, have been tinkered with through visual arts since the dawn of time – for lack of a better cliché. People of all standings have opined about it ad nausea:

“A picture is worth a thousand words” – Napoleon Bonaparte

“A picture is a poem without words” – Horace

“All art is but imitation of nature” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“A work of art is the unique result of a unique temperament” – Oscar Wilde

And on and on.

But sometimes art is something more.

Vastly more.

In the case of Rebekah Joy Plett, it might be best for all involved if we *don’t* know what words lay behind these sometimes unsettling images. We can already see the darkness that influences the nature of Plett’s pieces, but to know what influences *the artist* in her pursuit of her creations may be too much for the casual viewer to handle. Her artwork is, in itself, a disturbingly unnatural experience that creeps in just under the skin, but ultimately leaves the viewer thoroughly satisfied.

A beautiful brutality

And as for Wilde’s opinion that unique results are borne of unique temperaments… well… I challenge you to find another artist in this genre with quite the same vision as Plett. There are a few pieces in Plett’s portfolio that don’t demand dissection. The artist’s motivation is readily evidenced, and yet the images retain a mysterious and vague element begging the viewer to delve that little bit deeper into *their own* mind in order to figure out exactly what is going on.

To make a point, we’ll just wait to see how long it takes you to finally see “the whale”.

The Bather

Plett’s output is intricate, harrowing, and oftentimes hits close to home for those of us who remember the innocence of a childhood tinted with the shadow of fearsome fiends.

The mind of a child is one of those places where untold wonders exist completely unhindered by the jaded experience of growing up. It’s there that Plett finds her place, drawing upon the little things that we may not deign to consider as adults.

I envy this artist’s youthful exuberance and appreciation for the finer (and grimier) things in life.

Marjorie Merle and Tex

As was the case in yesterday’s post with Bree Ogden, I came across Plett’s output as a direct result of my love of Crow Toes Quarterly, though it wasn’t until the advent of Underneath The Juniper Tree that I had a chance to fully experience the scope of which Plett’s talent spans.

The first release of UTJT introduced Marjorie Merle and Tex to a readership that combined a healthy mix of middle grade, YA, and grown up readers alike. The stories and art showcased in UTJT speak to all generations of kids on a different level, leaving each person who cracks (or clicks) open an issue, the opportunity to experience it in a different way.

Plett’s involvement as artistic director in the publication brings a different perspective to the process. Her sinister visions drive the eye from one story to the next, and are richly accompanied by the artwork of other talented spirits in the genre, ranging from ghoulish and grotesque to stark and creepy.

Getting back to Plett’s personal portfolio, it’s common to find an commingling of innocent and monstrous images splayed upon the canvas, wood, board, or screen of the artist’s choosing. If you were to take a look at any of Plett’s “works in progress” posts, you’d find that a fair amount of the images go from quietly serene and beautiful to morbid and gruesome, almost as of the natural transition demanded it. In fact, the initial drafts and their finished counterparts are often so close in appearance that any small modification can easily be dismissed. Upon closer inspection, though, the finer details pop up and give credence to the chills the viewer may have experienced but just couldn’t explain away.

My Monster

Plett is a perfect example of the immense grip with which women hold this genre up. Her ability to captivate the viewer and tell an entire story with images is a powerful tool that this genre could not do without. Joining Plett’s pieces with the stories found in UTJT is a sort of wish fulfillment for me. Growing up reading things like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and similar books dedicated to kids like me who dug things darker in fiction, it was disappointing to reach teenage and adulthood and find that feeling drained from horror fiction. Plett and UTJT have resurrected that feeling for me, and will most assuredly bring about the resurgence good quality dark literature to the youth of the genre.

Creative Monster

Plett is a valuable player in the horror genre, in my opinion. It’s her artistic vision that drives UTJT to be the voice of children’s horror fiction, and will ultimately lead the publication towards a bigger audience and the notice it deserves.

You can check out more of Plett’s work at her blog, and at Underneath The Juniper Tree. She’s also on Facebook and Twitter, and can be found haunting other places on the web as well.


All Hallow’s Read (Day 24) A scary book for…

…art lovers

We’ve got a couple of books here that you should check out, and two artists you really need to acquaint yourself with right now. And a contest to win some custom art. Keep reading. You won’t regret it.

Gothic Art Now, by Jasmine Becket-Griffith, features some of the most stunning art we’ve come across in this genre. From Kyri KoniotisSacrifice, a digital painting that will blow you away, to Erlend Mark‘s photo and digital manipulation piece, Narrentraum, you’ll be hard pressed to find anything to complain about here. The images range from beautiful to barbaric, and the overall sense is deliciously dark.

Hell Bound: New Gothic Art, by Francesca Gavin, is jam packed with amazing photography, digital images, classical art, and a slew of mixed media that will send shivers up your spine, and really define the marriage of beauty and brutality found within this genre. Hell Bound is a masterpiece that focuses not only on the imagery, but also on the background of the artists as well. It’s very well put together, and displays everything we love about the genre.

Russell Dickerson is a powerhouse of an artist with a heaping ton of credits to his name.. He’s worked a great deal with Cemetery Dance, the Maelstrom imprint of Thunderstorm books, and various other outlets. The above image, The Lost Nightmare (mixed media – scratchboard, ink, acrylic) encapsulates exactly what horror art is, for Colum, and redefines the very vision of nightmares. More of Dickerson’s art can be found at rhdickerson.com and www.darkstormcreative.com (the above image is property of Russell Dickerson)

Colum and family were there when Chris Zenga knocked this piece out. The idea that anyone would zombify Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters is a hilarious, phenomenal, and ambitious venture – to say the least. In fact, his whole operation is grand. For an indie artist in the horror community, Zenga is taking a ton of risks that push his creativity skyward. In fact, Zenga has agree to run a little contest with us here at Dreadful Tales.

For the remainder of October (the next 7 days), any new followers that @DreadfulTales receives on Twitter will be eligible to win one of his custom zombie portraits. That’s right, folks! Follow Dreadful Tales, and Chris Zenga will draw a custom picture of your undead self! You can take a look at Zenga’s custom work at his website: The Day After – Art For Those Left At The End.

All Hallow’s Read is a book-giving tradition thought up by author Neil Gaiman. We’ll be making book suggestions all month long in case you need ideas!