Friday, December 18, 2009

Case Study 39: "Untitled (The Nightmare Before Christmas)"

"The moon that hung over the new-fallen snow
Cast an eerie pall over the city below,
And Santa Claus's laughter now sounded like groans,
And the jingling bells like chattering bones..."

Every year, around this time, I go into production. My house becomes a veritable mess, filled with sugars, yarns, glitter and flannels, serving as a sort of secret fortress of kitsch in which I am driven bring the ideas that enter my mind to life.  Tim Burton once said "one person's craziness is another person's reality," a mere afterthought for a sort of mad scientist who makes doodled imagination-gone-wild come to life.  A daydreaming boy of tragic toys turned dissatisfied Disney animator, Burton took to the pen, the brush, and the camera to make his inspired and satirical views a reality.  Extramarital affairs with machines and crustaceans spawned Robot and Oyster boys; a Voodoo girl was fated for loneliness less each heartbreak puncture her core deeper.  And a forelorn skeleton, seeing the light on the other side, haphazardly tried to bring a little Christmas heart to spooks of Halloweentown.    

"Untitled (The Nightmare Before Christmas)" is a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese buttercream and twisted black buttercream swirls.  Dreamed up, sketched out, and Burtonesque at its best, it's jagged, imperfect, and topped with madness.

It's Christmas Eve, 1994. After hours of "seven fish"-feasting , fireside tumbling, and spritzer cookie sneaking, my cousins returned home to their own sleepy little Connecticut town.  We'd creep into our rooms and turn down our beds to reveal mysterious new flannel sheets.  Tucking in, the candles in our windows still sparkled behind the blinds, blinking a sort of morse code to the North Pole that this house was indeed a worthy stop. 

But sleeping never lasted long. I would spring awake, at 2 or 3 am, engulfed by darkness, to noises on the rooftop.  I was instantly scared, certain that amidst the snow drifts were Santa's reindeer parallel parking above my head, yet intrigued by a potential sighting of the man in red himself. But weary in my 10-year old bones, I faded back to sleep before giving it an afterthought.  

Though I'll never know who it really was caught in those icy swirls above, I can only trust that as the mysticism of Christmas whirled around me, my imagination around the holiday ran savage.  With craziness as my reality, the season will always inspire me to pull from my twisted dreams and create.  After all, a Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good fright...

To be inspired yourself, check out Tim Burton's retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art until April 26, 2009 in New York City.

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