Edgar Allan Poe on deviantART
A few years ago, the professorial ego being what it is, I decided to amuse myself by doing a Google search with “Brett Zimmerman and Poe” to see what would turn up. I found the usual atrociously written high school essays citing me and other scholars (with the usual misspelling of “Allan”); one cocky adolescent even attempted to refute my thesis on the narrator as paranoid schizophrenic in “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Then I came across an essay quoting extensively from one of my articles on “The Masque of the Red Death.” It was written by “Artemis Aesthetic,” who had a thumbnail photo of herself on the page, so I followed the link and eventually found her on a website called deviantART. The name surprised me; it sounded as if it were a website for perverts. Naturally, therefore, I was intrigued.
I discovered that deviantART (DA) is an online community for artists to upload, share, and discuss their work. Considering myself a serious amateur photographer, I paid a small fee and joined. Once uploaded, a photo (called a “deviation” on the site) can be “faved” by other “deviants” (the name for members), who can write personal or public notes commenting on the deviation. I have often been inspired by the work of other artists and sought information on their techniques and equipment. Other DA artists have sought guidance from me regarding my work in other photographic genres.
One can get more exposure by joining various groups; once a member, the deviations of other members of the group appear on one’s personal site in batches for our perusal. Many groups are general and will accept photographs (or poetry or prose) on any theme. Others are theme-related; for example, we can find entire groups devoted to a single color, or flowers, or waterfalls, or nocturnal photos. DA features thousands of groups with new ones being created every day. My wife and I founded “Cemetery-Love,” devoted to cemetery photography, a phase we went through briefly in 2013. One of my crypt photos I have labelled “Annabel Lee.” Elsewhere, I got a shot of a raven—probably a crow; I don’t know the difference—sitting atop a tombstone, which seemed very Poesque. We even started a contest for the best astrophotograph taken in a cemetery. As one needs to enter the graveyard at night, no one entered the contest. One married couple in the UK did get up the courage to try some nocturnal photographs in some hoary British necropolis; however, the husband got spooked and that was the end of that experiment. Last year my wife and I took some pictures of stars beyond tall tombstones—“It was night in the lonesome October”—but she nearly lost her nerve when she thought she caught a ghost on her Canon 60D. I was at the far end of the cemetery and I heard her shaking voice calling through the darkness: “Baby! Baby! We gotta go, now!” (But “I pacified Psyche and kissed her,/ And tempted her out of her gloom—/ And conquered her scruples and gloom . . .”). That is, I laughed at her.
It may not surprise readers to know that deviantART features several groups devoted to Poe. The largest group is “Edgar-Allan-Poe,” with 181 members as of this writing, and 201 watchers. These galleries feature paintings, drawings, photography, poetry, crafts, cosplay, modelling, digital art, graphic novels, and short pieces of prose presumably in the Poe mode. We can also find scans of pages—portraits, letters—from various collections of Poe’s works or scholarly studies. Certain fans have pictures of themselves beside the tombstone at his original burial place; others have favored us with photos of the Poe statue in Baltimore or the EAP Museum in Richmond. Portraits of the man tend to dominate, however, as does raven-based art, ranging from the crude to the impressive.
It seems that every artistic medium has paid tribute. The deviant “nshumate” contributed to “Edgar-Allan-Poe” three photos of an interesting piece of craftsmanship based on “The Masque of the Red Death” for what he says was a Poe-inspired auction at a local restaurant. “KanTookasBeast” has done a framed cross stitch based on “The Raven.” The deviant “sew4fun114” sports a pair of what she calls “Poe raven arm warmers.” We can find an impressive wheel-thrown, hand-sculpted Edgar Allan Poe jug on the site of “thebigduluth,” while “vcallanta” has a pair of canvas shoes with a portrait of Poe on the right shoe and his raven on the left. The sculptor Mark Newman features a caricature mini-bust of Poe.
Poe dolls and other three-dimensional figures are not unknown on DeviantART. “ExactaCrafts” sewed together a little Poe figure dressed in black complete with a bowtie of the same hue. I have submitted a photograph of an Annabel Lee aside a Poe doll in a black coffin-box, part of the series Living Dead Dolls made by Mezco Toyz. (Please don’t tell anyone I own dolls; they were given to me by my daughter during her Goth phase.) I also sent a photograph of a beanie Poe doll with an identical finger puppet. The smaller sits in the lap of the larger doll; I call the picture “Poe as Ventriloquist,” recalling perhaps the climactic finale of “Thou Art the Man.” An Australian friend owns the same figure (the larger one) and featured him in photos of various New Zealand locations while on a Lord of the Rings tour. I named the series “Poe meets Tolkien.” The ingenious deviant “LucifersLego” features nothing but Lego figures on his DA site. He has only two galleries, one devoted exclusively to Poe, the other to everything else. He has a Poe Lego figure; the other photographs in his gallery feature recreations of scenes from “The Raven,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” and “The Pit and the Pendulum.” The diorama for this latter is especially clever, featuring as it does a Lego pendulum hovering over the prostrate prisoner. A deviant calling herself “bionomi” contributed three photographs of creepy dolls—a husband and his ill-fated wife—for an animated film based on “The Black Cat.” The most “realistic” doll was made out of polymer clay by a Russian woman: “Gogolle” has several photos of this miniature Poe in various emotive poses.
Tattoo artists have also been inspired. “MusArtem” has contributed to “Edgar-Allan-Poe” two photographs of a raven skull over her right shoulder blade. She writes, “The flowers around my little raven skull are sweet peas! They mean ‘Thank you for a lovely time’, which is how I feel about Mr. Poe. I’ve had such a lovely time with him.” A deviant calling herself “DarthPoe” displays a sprawling tattoo: “My first tattoo. It’s Edgar Allan Poe’s signature. Right arm. I am right handed and a writer. Poe went through Hell and back, but went down in history. If I can handle the shit my own life throws at me, I can too.” That’s the spirit, Chelsea! My wife, who is no stranger to body art, has encouraged me to get a tattoo of Poe’s portrait on one of my lower arms—but, while I am a fan of Poe, I am no fan of pain. Speaking of which, my Australian friend sent me a photograph of a raven tattoo with the word Nevermore written beneath; this large and elegant piece of art is on her back between her shoulder blades. She said the pain was so intense that she had to defer completion of the tattoo until a second sitting. (She also told me she has other tattoos on various parts of her anatomy but I was too much of a gentleman to demand photographic proof.) Not all the Poe fans have tattoos in modest parts of their anatomy, though: “Von-Gore-AltModel” displays a large portrait of Poe on her left thigh at the hip; “candie9753” sports the line “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream” running in a large arc from her pelvis over the top of her left hip down to the top of her buttocks; “PortraitPerfect” has the same line running down her rib cage on the right side in large and fancy lettering. Not all the DA artists involved with tattoos wear them: the tat artist “inksling” features a photo of the ubiquitous “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream” on yet another woman’s hip and side; “Xenija88” is a tattoo artist whose site features a massive piece of Poe-inspired artwork across a man’s back.
The world of modelling has also contributed. The first thing I discovered on deviantART was that Artemis Aesthetic is a professional model, performer, stylist, and actress. DA makes available prints of the artwork featured on the site, so I purchased two of her prints featuring her with a raven mask and the word Nevermore on her arm. More recently, having some fun with cosplay, she dressed up as a Steampunk Roderick Usher. Her Roderick appears on the October 2013 cover of the magazine Ladies of Steampunk: “ArtemisAesthetic: An Ode to the House of Usher.” Artemis is available for photo shoots and she and I corresponded briefly two years ago about a shoot inspired by the color imagery in “The Masque of the Red Death.”
Some of the models are less than modest. “Lady-of-Slaughter”—who truly puts the deviant in DevaintART—has posted a picture of herself mostly nude (but with a lot of black latex), sporting a raven under her left breast. She calls the photo “Poe’s Girl.” In some cases, the photographer rather than the model has been inspired by Poe: “Seraphina-Song” has the image of a nude woman stacked against biographical pages written in French; she calls the piece “Life of Poe”; “alecdawsonphoto” displays a nude woman against a wall-sized script of “The Raven.” An artist with the telling handle “legalizeeverything” features a naked, tattooed woman sidling up to the Poe bust at the Richmond museum.
We can also discover photographs of jewelry displaying pictures of Poe, often miniature daguerreotypes. The deviant who goes by the handle “Metal-Demon” has included in a gallery a portrait of a hyacinthine-haired model wearing a pendant featuring Poe and his raven. “Pinkabsinthe” features a magnificent “Edgar Poe steampunk choker.” The deviant “dustfae” writes on her site, “I am back to obsessively creating Poe jewelry!” She has sold, for instance, a necklace with a pendent miniature daguerreotype. A woman calling herself “wickedgems” is selling a four-piece set inspired by “The Raven”: a centerpiece, a reversible pendant setting, a filigree ring setting, and a filigree brooch setting. For sale by “foowahu-etsy” is a necklace with a raven and a small watch behind glass; she calls it “Poe’s pocket-watch necklace.” An Italian named “Blingstopaythebills” sells several handmade cameo rings featuring Poe or Virginia Clemm.
Even the architectural medium is brought to mind with Poe fans on DA, particularly the House of Usher. More than one spooky house or façade has been photographed with accompanying quotations from the tale. I combined a greyscale photo of Casa Loma (the nearest thing Toronto has to a castle) with another image I took of a moon in full, red eclipse; accompanying the picture are lines from the end of the story: “Suddenly there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued; for the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood-red moon. . . .” Perhaps a better likeness to the mansion is the Chateau de Trecession, posted by “digitalminded” in HDR. The chateau is surrounded by a tarn.
It is impossible to do justice to all the artists who have paid tribute to Poe on deviantART. My favorite deviations tend to be the paintings. Most notable is the work of two artists, David Garcia Forés and Abigail Larson; both have painted numerous high-quality pictures inspired by Poe’s oeuvre. David’s “The Black Cat” features a painting by Edmund Dulac (“Annabel Lee”) behind the seated husband; beside that, we can just get a glimpse of Dulac’s “Lenore.” If we look closely, we can spot a photo of Poe in the husband’s newspaper, sportively titled The Baltimore American. David has anthologized his work in Ravings of love and death, available after September. Abigail is also an admirer of Dulac but her “Berenice” shows the influence of Arthur Rackham. Most of the deviations celebrating Poe are not even associated with the groups devoted to him. A search will call up well over 15,000 deviations! I dutifully attempted to go through each one for this article but before I reached 2,000 the strain caused me to blow a blood vessel in my left eye!