Vacancy

Art References in The Wayward Deed

The sequel to The Weary Traveler has a few art references, so like I did for book one, I’m going to blather on about them. Not because I don’t think people will know then, but just because I really like the work and want to share.

Lorelei is a failed art student. Well, “failed” is relative, but she certainly sees it that way. In The Wayward Deed, her studies color (haha, see what I did there?) how she perceives things. She refers to Salvador Dali again in this book, but we don’t get a specific art reference, so let’s just look at him for a brief moment.

There was one piece of artwork, an abandoned canoe on a grey shore, hanging behind the woman’s head. Everything about it made her sad, and she thought it looked a bit like it was melting, but not even in that interesting, Dali way.

Dali had a pet ocelot named Babou. Now, let me just be super clear for a minute: wild animals are not pets. I know I have characters that break this point of personal morality, but in the real world nobody should be harboring big cats in their home. That being said, it would be sick as hell to have a pet ocelot. Like, are you fucking kidding me? Who doesn’t want to get kneaded to fucking shreds by those murder mittens?

Though he seems mostly known for paintings, Dali worked in a lot of mediums. He collaborated with Elsa Schiaparelli, a fashion designer, on The Lobster Dress which is, disappointingly, not a dress for a lobster, but a dress with a lobster on it.

Dali thinks lobsters have to do with sex, but he was also grossed out by images of venereal diseases as a kid and sort of hated vaginas, so, ya know, take that as you will. None of that doesn’t make the dress cool as hell though. Dali worked with lobsters a lot, and Moonlit Shores is a New England-esque, seaside town, so thematically it’s on point. The dress isn’t in the book, but I just thought you’d like to see it because it’s pretty neat.

View of Delft, Vermeer, 1659-1661

When Lorelei visits Bexley for the first time, she sees the cityscape over the trees in the park and is reminded of View of Delft by Johannes Vermeer. As with most pieces that show reflection, there’s a dichotomy between the sharpness of the physical objects and the softness of their echoes. Bexley’s spires aren’t reflected in water, but they rise above a park, crooked and weird over treetops that also aren’t quite right because, ya know, magic. The things we build are often harsh because they have to be, but can contain, or reflect, something softer. That lens is how I think Lorelei sees the world, sometimes to her detriment, but more often it’s a boon.

Above the treetops, a city skyline was laid out, the buildings perhaps a bit more crooked than she expected and the colors a bit more flamboyant, but they came to charming peaks and steeples like Vermeer’s View of Delft had been hung up in the sky.

Delft is Vermeer’s hometown, and he spent his whole life there. There’s something quite romantic about that, but sad too. I think people need to get out and experience the world, but not everyone has that opportunity or capability. Sometimes I worry that because I haven’t seen or experienced much of the world, I’ll never be able to capture anything properly in my own work, so I find it inspiring that this person barely ever left this single city yet painted Girl with a Pearl Earring, ya know?

Embarkation of the Pilgrims, Robert Walter Weir, 1844

She wore a stiff top and a striped, ankle-length skirt, and looked as though she’d stepped right out of Weir’s Embarkation of the Pilgrims. Of course, Lorelei realized, the two more likely had stepped into it.

Isn’t the word “embarkation” neat? It just looks wrong, and I love it. Anyway, that’s probably the biggest reason I included this in the book, the second being the word “pilgrim” so the reader would know right away what the woman being described looked like. The thing is, the people in this painting actually look pretty fancy, and Estrid, in the book, does not dress like this–her wardrobe is much simpler, so I’m relying on the reader just pulling out the word “pilgrim” and going “oh, yeah, okay, got it!” It’s like…cheating through lying but in order to help out which is a very Lorelei-vibe thing to do.

I don’t have much to say about this painting though. It’s pretty good, like, look at that fucking shadow in the bottom left. That’s a good fucking shadow.

The blackness seemed to swallow up all of the light instead, and while she knew humans had come up with a paint that did something similar, only one egomaniacal artist had access to that.

This is Vantablack on some tinfoil. The tinfoil painted black is also scrunched up. Get it? Like, it’s a black hole.

Okay, here we go. Vantablack. It’s the blackest black. It swallows up like 99% of light or something. It’s fucking rad. And yes it’s a paint, but it’s also, like, a science experiment, so I’m not sure if it’s exactly considered a pigment. A single artist was given the right to use it, and his name is Anish Kapoor. And we hate him.

How can one person have the rights to a pigment? Doesn’t seem possible. But like I said, Vantablack is also a sciency-thing, so it’s not exactly just a pigment. But Kapoor isn’t a scientist, he’s an artist, and he was already somebody before getting those rights, and those right just made him a bigger somebody. Big sigh, ya know? Also, I’ve read that he’s a big old dickburger. So, again, we hate him.

In response, an artist Stuart Semple made the pinkest pink, available to everybody on earth except Anish Kapoor. To purchase it, you must agree to the following:

By adding this product to your cart you confirm that you are not Anish Kapoor, you are in no way affiliated to Anish Kapoor, you are not purchasing this item on behalf of Anish Kapoor or an associate of Anish Kapoor. To the best of your knowledge, information and belief this paint will not make its way into that hands of Anish Kapoor. #ShareTheBlack

Kapoor did get his hands on the pinkest pink and quite literally, posting a photo of his middle finger covered in it and flipping off the camera. And the thing is, that’s sort of funny, but it’s definitely swinging down not up, so again, we hate Anish Kapoor. Fuck him. Anyway, there’s even more to know about this whole art feud, the stupid fucking bean and the diamond dust, but you gotta google that. It’s worth it, trust me, it’s hilarious.

Lorelei’s mind filled with the settings of every piece of artwork she’d ever loved, Matisse’s colorful interiors, the stained glass in Notre-Dame Cathedral, and she even giggled at the thought of conjuring up something from one of Toulouse-Lautrec’s Moulin Rouge depictions.

Okay, I threw a lot into one sentence there, so here are just some quick fun facts about art and stuff. Ready? Go!

Henri Matisse is wild to me because some of his stuff looks like a little kid’s artwork, and I am way too dense to understand the significance of it, but holy shit do I love the color. He developed this style called Fauvism after a critic, shocked at the use of bright colors, called artists who did this “fauves” or “wild beasts.”

Still Life with Geraniums, Henri Matisse, 1910
Les poissons rouges, Henri Matisse, 1914
Odalisque, Henri Matisse, 1920–21

The Notre-Dame Cathedral burnt down in April of 2019, and, like, that’s tragic, but did you know people donated over one BILLION dollars to rebuild it? People are starving to death. And it’s…a church…just some food for thought. (Also, in the alternate universe that is Vacancy, the cathedral didn’t actually burn down–fun fact! The pandemic also does not occur in that universe which is an even funner fact!)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is one of the cutest names in existence, but I probably think of it that way because of The Aristocats. In fact, most of my current knowledge and slight infatuation with French artists (that I project onto Lorelei) is definitely born from that movie.

What I also like about our second Henri of the post besides his name, is that he was commissioned to make posters for the cabaret at Moulin Rouge which other artists saw as beneath them, but Henri was like “fuck it, it pays,” and he ended up doing a lot of posters over his lifetime and having his work exhibited at Moulin Rouge including work he did of the dancers there. I just like seeing people doing “low” art and elevate it by just doing it normally and proving there was nothing “low” about it to begin with. It’s nice.

Toulouse-Lautrec was super prolific too, proving you can get away with quantity and quality. He died very young but produced a crazy amount of work.

Finally, Lorelei refers to a number of museums in France, the specifics of which aren’t super important, but they might become a plot point in book three, so, ya know, just remember that part! She also sketches and paints, and her work is sort of significant to the plot of The Wayward Deed, so if you want to learn more, you can pick up the book here!

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