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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.