Monday, August 07, 2017


"Pillar" by Troy's Work Table.

Sidewalk chalk and charcoal on 12" x 24" concrete board.


There are three "divine" beings who are "nightmare" "characters" from my childhood. The three of them "haunt" me. It is likely that I have conflated them in my imagination. Or, alternately, they have converged, in some sense, in my inner world.

(The many quotation marks set off beings that are not necessarily equal, but perhaps have provided me equal amounts of terror throughout my life, for various reasons.)


The first being is the God of the Old Testament. And it is this being that provides the chalk "painting" with its title. I think of the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night, which was leading the Israelites throughout the desert. But the relationship was holy and tense and tentative, the latter mostly because the people lacked the proper faith to trust in this God and his manifestations.

Additionally, I think of the fourth figure in the furnace fire with Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego. Christians like to get a bit sloppy with the story and insist that it is Jesus made known to the the three men. I like to think that this figure is a manifestation of God, but I don't need this person to be the Word, the Son, the Christ.


The second being is Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos of H. P. Lovecraft's weird fiction, who has "risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries." I think of his thousand manifestations of madness and how he pursued me when I was an impressionable young reader of horror. I see him as the "swarthy, slender, and sinister" man who "looked like a Pharaoh" so that I don't have to imagine his otherworldly, non-Euclidean, extradimensional forms.

But the "human" avatar is plenty nightmarish on its own.


The third being is Randall Flagg, the dark man of Stephen King's The Stand. I don't watch film or television series versions of Flagg because he is both very concrete in my mind and very fleeting. I see him as King described him: walking the freeway in his "sharp-toed cowboy boots" and "faded, pegged jeans and a denim jacket," the latter adorned with the many buttons he has placed there. I see him as a man of no age, as well as a man with no face. I see him as silhouette, as shadow, as darkness, as void, as abyss.


There is a piece of me that wonders if Lovecraft was drawing upon Yahweh and other gods of the ancient Middle East for Nyarlathotep. There is a piece of me that wonders if King was drawing upon Nyarlathotep for Flagg.

Even if neither Lovecraft nor King is searching back and echoing what has come before, those echoes and juxtapositions still resonate for me, right or wrong as they may be.


Which is all a long way of saying that the dark charcoal figure in the pillar of flame above is a mixture-manifestation of those three. I see one as good, one as "neutral-indifferent," and one as evil. Yet they are gathered together and presented as one in some deep place in my dreamscape. They are nightmarish because they are so other, so supernatural, so different.

And each of them has appeared in my life again for different reasons. The first because of a death and having to turn to one of my favorite stories from the Old Testament: (the same) God appearing before the prophet Elijah and giving him his mission. The second because of a couple of stories and poems I'm working on, and the weird fiction that inspires them. The third because of the film version of The Dark Tower being released, which includes Matthew McConaughey as a manifestation of Flagg.


Then, for whatever reason, I saw the forms of "Fungal Forest" underlying this figure and the chalk piece emerged. It was quick and raw in its creation. And, fortunately, it is now out on concrete and out of my head.

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