It was great to finally read _Harry O. Morris - Artist Portfolio_ from Centipede Press. Flipping through the lush images that take up most of the 320 pages, you can journey through the strangeness that has characterized the long career of this remarkable artist. I am really lucky to have known Harry from way back when. We first met in Albuquerque in the mid-1970s. At that time, Harry’s friend and fellow artist, Leslie Hall, was working in the same office as my father. Leslie was a frequent visitor to our house and noticed that I was a rabid reader of science fiction. He recommended J.G. Ballard and loaned me a copy of the anthology,_ Terminal Beach_. This was a cool discovery for me, around the age of 13, when I suddenly became aware of the difference between New Wave science fiction writers and the various space opera and Campbellian authors that I had been reading. Pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fell into place, and I had a whole new appreciation of books by Spinrad, Moorcock, M. John Harrison, and Samuel R. Delany. Not only did I re-read Driftglass, with a whole new kind of poetic awareness, but I shortly devoured all of Ballard’s books, and soon found that Van Vogt no longer satisfied in the way that R. A. Lafferty, Roger Zelazny, and Stanislaw Lem did. So in this friendly context, I took more interest in the peculiar artwork of Leslie Hall, and his friend and collaborator, Harry O. Morris, who had both been working with the techniques of Max Ernst and Wilfried Sätty, pushing the surrealistic and horror aspects of those methods as far as they could go. At that time, I enjoyed being peripherally involved in Leslie’s art projects: cutting out old engraved plates from books with X-acto knives and moving the pieces of unrelated images around to create surrealist collages. Some of the images that Leslie came up with were published in limited edition portfolios by Harry O. Morris, including a set from 1982 called, Inclement Weather. Hanging around with Leslie Hall, soon resulted in meeting Harry O. Morris, who had been working on similar art projects. That is when I first found out about his Lovecraftian zine, Nyctalops, which is now considered a classic. I admired Harry from the start. Here was a fellow who clearly didn’t really “fit in” with the rest of society, and yet he had his own print shop and typesetting operation, and was creating some really astonishing and interesting art. Here was someone who I could talk to about the Franju film, _Yeux sans Visage_ [Eyes Without a Face], and who not only knew the film, but knew the horror of it, on a deeply personal level.
A nice surprise at the Davis Square Goodwill! An ex-library copy of Adventures With the Heroes (1954), illustrated by Steele Savage. This is the companion volume to Adventures With the Giants (1950) that you can find nicely scanned over at Ragged Claws Network. In both volumes, you will find Steele Savage’s crisp rendering in pen and ink, with a beautiful depth and texture provided by two-color separations. For example, the illustration for the chapter, Sigurd’s Horse (p45), shows a wonderful use of a single color — darkened with black hachure lines for the foreground figures, loosely rendered for the curving river, and lightly washed across the background for mountains. The painted cover (presumably done in watercolor) is a lovely composite of the major scenes found in the book, with a mild looking dragon lying slain at the feet of a diminutive hero, and with its tail wrapped across the pale green landscape. This altogether dreamlike image reveals the mastery of an artist who deserves our attention all the more. The complete set is posted at yunchtime.tumblr.com
At Boskone 48, not only were there great works of Greg Manchess, Omar Rayyan, and Bob Eggleton, among others, taking up several rows of panels, but there was also an entire wall dedicated to an exhibit of original SF and Fantasy paintings! Curated by Joe Siclari and Edie Stern, the exhibit featured dozens of works from their collection, as well as many more loaned by other major collectors. Now that I have a decent mini voice recorder, I decided to do a long walk through the exhibit and comment on the paintings. Fortunately, I remembered to mention most of the dates and the sources where the paintings were published, so now I can reconstruct a major part of the exhibit from the recording for this post. In fact, it would probably make the most sense to just listen to the MP3 (below) as you browse down the images of the works being discussed. Hope you enjoy the virtual exhibit!
The first paintings by Milton Luros that I remember seeing featured beautiful women, rendered with a soft, almost flat touch. For some reason the image of a green-skinned Amazon, struggling in bondage as two human spacemen try to drag her into a cage always sticks in my mind. With a light touch, the artist shaped her glamorous lipstick into a snarl of defiance that would make Betty & Veronica proud, and he framed her pointed ears and antennae with a wild mane of red hair. Plus, you’ve got to give those wild alien women credit for their fashion sense - who wouldn’t kill for that strapless red shag mini-dress! Then there was the cracking good composition of a woman fainting in the embrace of a blue-skinned alien man, framed against a vivid red planet. Unlike the previous image, this is very much a loving embrace, the woman’s hand is delicately twined around our blue-skinned superman’s bicep, while his figure is framed by a simple white backlight for dramatic effect. This image is iconic, like some sort of Gone With the Wind in outer space. Years later, when I read Earl Kemp’s article, Cherry Pink and Uncle Milty Time, I was amazed by the number of covers Luros had painted during the 40s and 50s, before his career as a porno publisher took off.
Another artist who appeared briefly then disappeared into the woodwork of the illustration world was Lloyd Birmingham, who created one of my favorite covers from the early 1960s. His illustration for Mark Clifton’s story Hang Head, Vandal! (April 1962) has always fascinated me. It’s an image of a spacesuit being used as a scarecrow, propped up on a post so that it floats above a flat plane by a few inches. Tufts of straw are poking out of ragged holes in the suit,which is missing it’s left hand and right foot, and more straw is brimming out of the open visor of the helmet.
The cool illustrations of Yuri Makarov [Юрий Георгиевич Макаров], featur
It was pure luck for me to pick up the classic first appearance of Arthur C. Clarke’s Against the Fall of Night before attending my first SF Con. That con was a very early one-off Star Trek show (which seems to have vanished from this dimension without a trace) and was held in Albuquerque around 1974 or 1975. The con featured a recreation of the Enterprise bridge, made of crude plywood and painted black, and George Takei was there, along with some other cast members whom I’ve forgotten. The reason I attended was to see A. E. Van Vogt, and to have him sign the paperbacks I’d been reading and collecting. He signed my copies of War Against the Rull and The Battle of Forever. In the first, he wrote: “Good luck, good wishes, good future!” all over the title page. I still have that on my shelf. I’m not sure what happened to Battle of Forever, but I recall that he inscribed it as: “My farthest out story!” Recently I was poking around the bookshelf looking for good alien images (to be shown at an Arisia panel in January), and I starting leafing through this copy of Startling Stories from Nov 1948. One thing I discovered was that Van Vogt also signed his story Domain, which appeared in this issue. Another thing I found out, on the editorial page, was that this was Van Vogt’s first appearance in Startling. But what most attracted my attention were the incredible black and white illustrations for Against the Fall of Night. Since I couldn’t seem to find existing scans of these images anywhere on the internet, I decided to scan them for everyone to enjoy.
The amazing works of Charles Ashford Binger will be shown in the first major exhibition of his works in 45 years! “Charles Binger: A Pulp Life“ will open at the La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Hollywood, CA on January 7th and run through the end of the month. Binger’s interesting career spanned from movie posters and portraits, to ground-breaking science fiction covers in the 1950s, and hard-boiled detective pulps. His style has been characterized as utilizing “impeccable composition, rendered in a painterly style over roughened textures.” I would hasten to add that Binger was able to incorporate elements of cubism, realism, impressionism, and abstract expressionism into his works…often as not by combining them into a single canvas!