Haeckel’s Tears

Phonotrope with gold wedding ring, snakes, hands and weeping eye.

After long last, I have finished the construction and assembly of my Haeckel’s Tears wedding cake phonotrope, complete with all its various paper layers. In the rough, off-the-cuff smartphone video posted above, I give the phonotrope a quick whirl on my turntable.

 The imagery on this phonotrope includes a twirling gold wedding ring, a hand holding this same ring, a snake that twists and turns into a variation on a figure-eight, and a weeping lover’s eye. Lover’s eye jewellery was popular in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when stylish aristocratic men and women often wore the miniature portraits depicting one eye (usually) of their spouse or lover. Typically painted on ivory, the tiny portraits were fashioned as brooches, rings, pendants, and lockets. I added this lover’s eye image to my current phonotrope as it purports to tell the story of the 19th-century marine biologist Ernst Haeckel and his young wife Anna, who died suddenly shortly after the couple were married.* The lover’s eye is surrounded by an ouroburos (a snake devouring its own tail, symbolic of the cycle of life, death, and rebirth), which ties back to the snake loop below (itself a looping infinity symbol) which appears on the first layer of this phonotrope.

I plan on building one more phonotrope, making the total number of phonotropes for my proposed Haeckel’s Tears installation three. I will video these again with decluttered backgrounds once I’ve completed all three. Have also decided to build a silhouette-style animation — telling the story of Ernst & Anna Haeckel — to fit around the videos of the phonotropes. Stay tuned.

Incidentally, below is a video of the first phonotrope in this series — this one prominently features the medusae jellyfish so beloved by Haeckel.

Phonotrope with medusae jellyfish, seahorses and waving seaweed.

*The German biologist Ernst Haeckel was fascinated by medusae, the umbrella-shaped animals commonly called jellyfish. For Haeckel, whose imagination was shaped in the Romantic era, medusae expressed the exuberant yet fragile beauty of Nature. And in their ethereal forms he glimpsed a reflection of his great love Anna Sethe, who died tragically at the age of twenty-nine.

Haeckel had been engaged to Anna for four years when, in 1862, he became associate professor of zoology at the University of Jena. The job gave the adoring pair the economic security they needed to finally marry. In the same year, Haeckel published a book on radiolaria (microscopic plankton) which he furnished with stunning illustrations. In Jena, the newlyweds lived together in bliss for eighteen months. Then, on the day he was supposed to celebrate his thirtieth birthday and receive an award for his radiolaria book, Anna died suddenly, probably of a burst appendix. Haeckel became mad with grief. A partial delirium kept him in bed for eight days. A month later he wrote to a friend, “I am dead on the inside already and dead for everything. Life, nature, science have no appeal for me. How slowly the hours pass.”

Haeckel travelled to the Mediterranean town of Nice to attempt a recovery from his suicidal malaise. One day he took a walk and saw a medusa in a rock pool: “I enjoyed several happy hours watching the play of her tentacles which hang like blond hair-ornaments from the rim of the delicate umbrella-cap and which with the softest movement would roll up into thick short spirals.” He made a sketch and named the species Mitrocoma Annae [Anna’s headband].

The grace and beauty of the medusa soothed Haeckel’s grief and contributed to what would be a lifelong fascination with medusae.

— source.

July update

Hello, gentle readers. Hope everyone is keeping healthy, happy and sane during these strange times. As always, I’ve been busy puttering about in my home studio, making stuff. Recently, I purchased one of those fancy cutting machines, which opens up a whole new realm of creative possibilities. After several days of struggle with both the printer and the cutting machine — because nothing is ever as simple as the manufacturer suggests it will be, ever — I present one of the projects I finally managed to make: a magnetic paper doll.

This is Maude, a Victorian-era spiritualist medium. She uses the gift of her mystic Third Eye to gaze upon the spirit realm to communicate with dearly departed souls. Occasionally during a séance, the contacted spirits will manifest physically in the form of ectoplasm, a whitish, gooey substance.

Maude comes dressed in her Victorian-era undergarments including corset, chemise and bloomers. She has a lovely day dress which she wears during her séances (the white ectoplasm contrasts perfectly against the two-tone green material), an outfit of full Victorian mourning attire, and a hooded blue High Priestess robe to wear during moonlit magick rituals in sacred forest groves.

This magnetic paper doll will adhere readily to your fridge, dishwasher, or any metallic surface suitable for magnets. Magnets have a good, strong hold.

Size of magnetic doll= 7.875″ H x 4.5″ W

Nifty. This magnetic doll was printed on glossy magnetic paper with my inkjet printer, and then cut out with the Silhouette Cameo 4. You can find Maude in my Etsy shop Papercut Puppets.

Further investigations with phonotropes

Testing out the first layer of my vertical paper phonotrope.

In the video posted above, I’m testing out the first layer of my second phonotrope project (you can read about my technical process and first phonotrope here). I decided to play around with varying the number of frames in each animation, resulting in the animation moving horizontally. If you add frames, the animation moves right-to-left; if you subtract, it moves left-to-right. The snake in the centre has the “correct” number of frames (32) so it remains in the same location.

The flattened artwork. It’s shown 2-up, because I always like to print a spare.

Thinking about building an interior framework with balsa wood + dowling to minimize the wobble of the paper at the top. (The taller the paper structure gets, the more prone it is to wobble when rotated).

Now, on to the next layer/s for this phonotrope. Thinking of having one, and maybe two, additional layers on the inside of this phonotrope. Stay tuned.

The universe has sent us to our rooms.

[NOTE: I began crafting this little post on April 1st, but didn’t post it till the 10th].

What fresh Hell is this, gentle readers? As I sit and compose this post it’s April 1st, ordinarily a day of tricks and general tomfoolery. The universe, however, pulled the biggest prank on us humans ever and forced us all into seclusion, lest we contract the COVID-19 virus and overburden our healthcare systems (or worse). Not funny, Universe.

When not scrambling to place curriculum online so that the Winter term can finish, this art professor busies herself with drawing strange little paper puppets. Frivolous, you say? Perhaps. And yet, we all have our coping strategies for stress, and mine has always been drawing and various other creative pursuits. This creativity of mine won’t find a cure for the current pandemic, but it’s a tiny corner of control I can wield in an otherwise rudderless situation. Below are some recent creations, with a focus on the approach of Spring.

2019 Year in Review.

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As we near the end of the year and the decade, we collectively glance back at the recent past and make an assessment. Good and bad, pros and cons. We live in strange and uncertain times, indeed, but we’re not the first — nor will we be the last — to think this. There is always beauty in bleakness, and when we seem to be halted by an impasse, creativity shows us a new path around the blockage. I don’t ordinarily wax poetic like this, dear Internet, but it’s just been that sort of year for me, filled with triumphs and sadness, beginnings and endings. This year, I lost my mother. At almost 90 years old, she led a full life and died in her own place surrounded by family which, when you consider it, is the best that any of us could hope for. I am saddened by this, but this sadness doesn’t paralyze me. On the contrary, it propels me forward. It underscores the brevity of our short lives, and the urgency to leave nothing undone. Things will definitely be left undone, of course, but that doesn’t stop us trying. I’m under no such delusion that my creative output as an artist will last much past my lifetime, but it’s never really been about the end product. It’s always been about the joy of making.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Papercut Puppets, one year after launch

January 2020 will mark exactly one year since I launched my Etsy shop Papercut Puppets. Well, um, technically it was a re-launch of my shop.

The backstory: my Etsy shop proudly displays the text since 2010, and this is certainly the case. I did create a shop on Etsy way back in 2010, shortly after graduating with my MFA in Visual Arts. I made a short-lived and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to sell my original art and lithographic prints online and abandoned the shop a few months after its initial launch. It lay dormant for over eight years, until early this year when I decided to give it another try. This time, I decided to go cheap and crafty with articulated paper puppets and paper dolls. A rather niche product, admittedly, but one which I felt I’d enjoy creating.

Now, if you regularly follow my blog, you’ll know already that my paper puppets are not your run-of-the-mill, rosy-cheeked cutesy toddlers, puppies, or kittens. In short, these aren’t your Grandma’s paper crafts. My Strange Girls series of paper puppets, for instance, includes a pair of conjoined twins, a doll with a parasitic twin named Myrtle (a reference to the 19th-century sideshow performer Myrtle Corbin), and a girl with a condition called hypertrichosis which causes excessive hair growth on portions of the body. Other puppets include butterflies, two octopuses, a mermaid, and toddlers with bird heads. All puppets and dolls have a vintage look, inspired by illustrations from the 19th century (though all are original drawings by me).

My custom, hand-made paper puppets and dolls celebrate the odd and beautifully unusual. Prices range from $6 for DIY downloadable paper crafts, up to $25-50 for pre-assembled puppets (Canadian dollars, eh).

https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/PapercutPuppets

 

Ottawa International Animation Festival 2019

OIAF Jen

Was delighted to have had the opportunity to visit the “biggest animation festival in North America”, the Ottawa International Animation Festival, late last month when they selected my short film Wunderkammer to screen in the Canadian Panorama program block. I was particularly delighted to see a still from my film act as the poster image for the entire program block (see photo above). I asked a random stranger to photograph me sitting under the monitor as we waited for the first screening.

The festival itself is fantastic, and well worth the visit for filmmakers and fans of animation alike. I credit this festival for selecting films that experiment and push the medium farther than most mainstream animation is willing to venture. There were a number of surprise “discoveries” for me at OIAF2019, and I plan to return for future incarnations of the festival.

Many thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts for funding my travel to the festival.

OIAF canadian panorama

Wunderkammer Society’s Taxidermy Showcase in NYC, October 29, 2019.

I’m delighted to announce that my short animated film Wunderkammer will screen at the one-night only Beautiful & Bizarre Taxidermy Showcase happening in Brooklyn on October 29th. I can’t think of a more perfect pairing. Here’s the little blurb the event organizers wrote about my film:

 

What’s in the box? Madelaine’s cabinet of curiosities contained a collection of wonders to both delight and horrify. One day, a mysterious item in her cabinet captures her attention. A darkly-tinged fantasy that explores the erotic-grotesque. Intrigued? Find out more when we show Jennifer Linton’s short film, aptly titled, “Wunderkammer”! An official selection honoured at dozens of films festivals internationally, we are thrilled this independent animation, with richly textured paper cutouts and startling stop-motion, will welcome guests to our showcase! Tickets at https://bit.ly/2MwXwdm