Last night’s meeting of The Artist’s Bookshelf brought us once again to unexpected places. After an all too brief but insightful guided tour of the current Arbus show (sprawling in scope and massive in exhibition), we hunkered down in the Art Lab, armed not with garlands of garlic and wooden stakes, but only with iced cappucinos, for a provocative examination of one of that artist’s favorite books: Dracula.
Nearly all in attendance agreed they’d enjoyed the read, though some were slowed by the period’s ornate literary stylings and incredible verbosity. Yet, we found it to be a surprisingly contemporary novel in terms of construction (the use of journals, letters and newspaper clippings) as well as its lurid obsessiveness with sexuality.
We discovered a number of thematic links between Dracula and Arbus, some of them obvious: both display an almost voyeuristic fascination with the grotesque, and some of them more obscure: both reveal hidden worlds while seemingly declaring “all is not what it seems.”
Finally, we came across a quote from the critic George Stade:
“In Dracula, for all its occasional clumsiness and systematic naivete, Stoker transformed what was merely personal or only of his own time into images of something more: of something at once monstrous, and definitively human…”
that might very well apply to the photographs of Ms. Arbus as well.