A list explaining the origins and inspirations for Pia Palladino
1. British mentalist and illusionist, Derren Brown.
Brown is in a different category of magician than David Copperfield, Chris Angel and Penn and Teller. This is how Wikipedia describes him:
Brown does not claim to possess any super-natural powers, indeed his acts are often designed to expose the methods of those who do, such as faith healers and mediums. He makes clear in his performances that all of his apparent abilities, which manifest on stage/screen as feats of memory, intuition, mind-reading and control of other objects/people, are achieved through a variety of psychological means, such as hypnosis, suggestion, cold reading, misdirection, and showmanship, and in many cases he will often give detailed explanations of his specific methods during or after the performance. In some performances he also uses his techniques to explore issues of personality such as fears and motivation.
Brown's psychological focus is infinitely interesting to me. I've watched almost all his shows and what finally struck me was when I finally grasped the concept of vision. We see the world in a specific, narrow way. And it is on the outreaches of this vision is where magicians work. This caused me to question my own vision, and my own desires to want to believe certain things.
2. Harry Houdini.
3. The Circus.
And the carnival. I have a background in theater, with a particular emphasis in theater history. I have discovered that the most prevalent form of theater through thousands of years has been travelling players. Because this kind of theater never made much money, nor performed with scripts and in large buildings such as "respectable" theater, details have been lost. But the form remains, strong and vigorous and full of life. This is where Pia comes from, this background of struggle and spectacle. It is a place where the marginalized, or the freaks, find a home and career. It would be the perfect place for an individual whose sexuality is also on the margins of society could thrive. Above all, this is where a lesbian could exist with a healthy self-image. I want Pia to celebrate her sexuality and open women up to pleasure.
4. Gypsies. This wasn't a necessary detail, and perhaps it is redundant to have Pia be both a fortune teller and a gypsy. This is a personal choice, because, well, gypsies and belly dancers are really sexy to me.
Breasts, bellies, jewels, chains, charms and colorful materials. It is a pyrotechnical costume which reveals intimate areas and yet reveals nothing at all. It is a disarming costume, one Pia uses to gain status in conversations and confrontations. It's the belly that really gets me going.
5. Palm Reading.
A German businessman documents his affair with his secretary: the art of anxiety.
The photographs and notes came from a suitcase that was purchased at an estate auction. The identity of those involved are unknown. All we know about the woman photographed was that her name was Margret, she was married and 24. The businessman was 39 and also married. This happened between 1969 and 1970.
The person who purchased the suitcase put together all of this material and created an art exhibit which was shown about a year ago.
The businessman made notes of their encounters, took many photographs of Margret (none of which are pornographic), and even saved a sample of her hair. I think it's fair to say that the businessman was quite smitten with her.
As for what she possibly thought of him, her expressions are revealing. Sometimes she seems annoyed, challenging, playful, formal, even bewildered as to why he was interested in taking her photograph. Sometimes she seems to be holding a pose simply because he told her to.
He took pictures of her dresses, before or after sex, hanging up unwrinkled, or on the bed in disarray. He focuses on sexual impressions and suggestions. Explicitness is for those uninterested in the imagination. He was fucking her mentally with these notes and photos. He was fucking her memory. Considering that this material has lasted until the present shows that he could not throw the affair away.
There is anxiety in collecting. Once you have one thing you want more, and then more, and then you worry that you'll miss something and you must make sure that doesn't happen. As he photographs and makes notes, he is clutching at Margret, collecting her and their time together. He is controlling it as best he can and saving it for the future, when he (possibly) knows he won't have her anymore. Their affair did last a year.
I get this. I really get this. Having been in this position, anxiety is built into the affair. Time together is precious and intense. The other person almost seems superhuman, a rock star or a demigod. The affair becomes pure joy when together, and when apart you feel a kind of emptiness that is torture and the worst kind of existential angst. You cannot have enough time together. And you cannot realize this relationship in something socially acceptable because, though you talk about leaving your spouses all the time, it will never happen. Because you prefer it this way. You prefer the anxiety, which is as addictive as orgasms.
Or, maybe there's something wrong with me.
I've been watching Dita Von Teese for a while. That sounds creepy, as if I'm a peeping Tom. But don't her photos make us peeping Toms? We catch her in intimate moments, getting undressed or splashing around in a glass of champagne or tied up for unseemly purposes.
It is easy to get caught up in someone like Dita, being as beautiful and naturally erotic as she is. Her come-hither eyes and red lips that have a taunting twist are provocative. I felt provoked. I felt like she was teasing me, telling me to follow her through the internet, through Twitter and Tumblr and find as many images of her as I could. To what end? Well, where I have ended up isn't where I thought I was going: I think there's something wrong with Dita Von Teese.
I first encountered her years ago at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood. I found her book for sale at the theater. I was there to see Across the Universe with a male friend who was like Dita: gorgeous and ethereal and a provoker of covetousness. A person one wants to collect and sit on a shelf like a priceless work of art. Like a fetish object. Someone to be worshiped.
The book was Fetish Goddess Dita, and it was an outrageous, extraordinary romp through fetishes. It reflects an imagination, passion and genius for sexuality that made me nearly cry. I have yet to see any artist, male or female, who has the courage and openness of Dita.
I've become a hoarder of images in the past few years. In six months I've managed to collect more than five thousand on my Ipod. Not many are of Dita, though. I don't collect her as often as you'd expect. Especially since lately I've discovered something wrong with her.
Here are a few that show what I'm talking about.
It may be difficult to see. After all, Dita is so ridiculously sexy. No matter how her body is posed, she's fantastic.
I suppose I started to see it when I'd seen enough poses that they became commonplace. I'm talking about the standard poses: in a corset, in lingerie, tied up, naked, in a sumptuous gown in public, in a champagne glass, etc.
I started looking in her eyes. That sounds like an incredibly humanizing change for me and simultaneously something completely improper. After all, this isn't about Dita as a person, is it? This is about Dita as fetish and retro sex goddess.
I started noticing her eyes. What leaped forward was loneliness. Then emptiness. It's easy to miss the emptiness when Dita is covered in gorgeous clothes---an especially when she's naked. But the loneliness is there. There's also disgust. Whenever she is to show emotions, it reads false. But she doesn't need to be an actor.
Photos of her in public are particularly uncomfortable. Her eyes are full of resentment, fatigue, annoyance. Which is, of course, understandable. She seems to have a camera in her face whenever she goes anywhere. When she's out she's fully costumed, her hair perfectly coiffed, her outfit perfectly retro.
Dita does not have a resting bitch face. It would be easier if she did. A resting bitch face would work well with someone who has dressed as a dominatrix.
Dita very rarely shows vulnerability, and if she does it's by accident. Most of the time, she's numb, with practiced closed lipped straight lined smiles.
But there is hope. There is the photo below. Dita with a real smile. Dita with less make up and a real smile in her eyes. Her dress is simple, comfortable, real. Her hair is slightly askew. She's holding a red drink in what looks like a plastic cup and at a private party. The camera taking the photo is probably someone's cell phone and the lighting is bad.
And Dita looks happy. Really happy. And she's happy with who she's with. This has become the only picture of her I like.
It is possible something is wrong with me. Perhaps this reflects an inability to see happiness in women. Perhaps sexuality is something that has become tired, irritable, annoyed, and numb to me. It is very possible I'm projecting all over Dita. I hope so. I wouldn't want anyone to experience what I feel I'm seeing Dita experience now.
Benjamin Lacombe deals mostly in fairy tales: Snow White, Alice in Wonderland, Madame Butterfly, the Tales of Edgar Allen Poe, Medusa, Ondine, even Marie Antoinette. I classify all these as fairy tales because he has no interest in history, reality, or even, at times, accurate anatomy.
but then there are those pieces which don't find easy classification. Oh, I'm sure with the internet it's possible to figure out in a couple minutes the source of every piece. But I approach these pieces like a scavenger. Things found by chance. For I actually did find them by chance in the glorious landfill that is Pinterest.
I approach the the pieces as if I have nothing except my contemporary understanding of culture, history and literature. These days we are more apt to encounter art this way, out of the superimposed context of a museum.
And there is is a valid and important argument in favor of rejecting titles, authors names, in fact all context so that we may approach a piece of work freshly and freely. It makes the piece more ours because our interpretation personal and unmolested.
Approaching Lacombe's works relatively unfettered has been a horrifying journey into my childhood and has caused me to reevaluate melancholy and my relationships with animals. It has not been pleasant.
The figures uncomfortably fit within their scenes. The animation is obvious: the heads are larger than normal, the eyes extraordinarily large and round: the bodies have the dimensions of what would be defined as "cute". The colors are vibrant, there are adorable cats, the women are dressed lavishly and enviously, and the figures may or may not be dead.
These pieces are quite horrifying, but lack the traditional dread which would accompany it. Rather, the characters in these works have resigned themselves to their story. They have complete hopelessness. They look at us with the last expression a suicide would have.
I've said too much. So much for my quest to create a fresh, free art experience. Enjoy. Or, as at least, try to.
Princesses are a relatively new phenomena. Devised in the 90s, the group was a gimmick designed to bolster falling sales and puff up Disney appeal. It worked to a staggering degree. One cannot go into a Disney store, or any building that has children, without being inundated by pastel tulle, glitter and bejeweled crowns. Being a Princess is an ideal that all girls (and secretly, I'm sure, some boys and transchildren) don't just aspire to be. They already are princesses. They can wear the crowns and tulle and glitter because they are special and magical and one day their prince will come.
Without a moment's hesitation, feminist were all over this like maggots on a dead caribou. They have many great points about the diminishment of a girl's abilities and talents, the hope to be saved by a man, the inability to be in a story that doesn't involve romance and a platonic relationship with a man. Not to mention the emphasis on appearance, the implied sexualizing of young girls, the heavy make up and skinny bodies that provoke speculation that Barbie is a princess herself.
None of that matters at all. If anything, I think adult women are much more obsessed with these attributes than little girls.
All one has to do is search on "Disney Princess" on Pinterest and one's computer nearly has a melt down. Women have taken this Princess obsession to quite complex levels which are intellectually dizzying and culturally amazing.
Artists have created the "What if" Princess. What if the Princesses all had blue eyes (for example)? What if the Princesses were all dogs? What if the Princesses were jewelry?
These are only a few of the examples I found, and it's a long list. I wanted to include as many as possible to illustrate my point. By the way, almost all of these images I found on BuzzFeed. I think BuzzFeed has fertilized this wonderful madness. And I also think this is entirely illegal and the Disney Corporation would react poorly to these manipulations of their copyrighted material.
1. What if the Disney princesses were burlesque showgirls?
2. What if the Disney princesses wore 'glamorous fashion'?
3. What if Disney princesses were ruthless avenging warriors?
4. What if Disney Princesses wore lots and lots of jewelry?
5. What if Disney Princesses had normal bodies?
6. What if Disney Princesses lived in the modern day?
7. What if Disney Princesses lived in a steampunk universe?
10. What if Disney Princesses were sexy pin-ups?
11. What if the Disney Princesses a different kind of sexy pin-up (that really isn't sexy because it's really immature and little-girlish)?
12. What if (a specific) Disney Princess (in this case Ariel) lived in every decade of the 20th century?
15. What if the Disney Princesses were a little bit of everything?
16. What if the Disney Princesses dressed up as other female characters (or other 'princesses') for Halloween ?
17. What if the Disney Princesses were a non-descript horrifying evil?
18. What if Disney Princesses were in a nondescript fantasy world, with bad ass attitudes?
19. What if Disney Princesses were "bad" (ie. tattooed)?
20. What if Disney Princesses were more specifically modern, and with big tits?
21. What if Disney Princesses were on the cover of various women's magazines?
22. What if Disney Princesses were on the cover of Vogue?
23. What if the Disney Princesses were, yet again, another kind of pin-up?
24. What if Disney Princesses were in high school, steam punked, stylized punk, and gothic?
25. What if the Disney Princesses were real?
26. What if Disney Princesses were Marvel superheros?
27. What if Disney Princesses were in Fifty Shades of Grey?
28. What if Disney Princesses were the victims of domestic violence?
29. What if the Disney Princesses were lesbians?
30. What if the Disney Princesses gender swapped?
31. What if the Disney Princesses swapped clothes with their princes?
32. What if the Disney Princesses were in a variety of independent art pieces designed to make deeper statements about women, femininity, suffering and sexuality?
Okay, that last category wasn't fair. All of the Disney Princess art is making statements about women, femininity, humanity and sexuality. It's simply difficult to find these statements in which it comes packaged in corporate wrapping paper. We aren't as willing to look for them.
I have thirty-two examples of Princess art. These, by no means, cover all that is out there. There are dozens of examples. I've been working on this blog post for a few weeks. Putting this together was, at times, overwhelming and obsessive.
I found I developed favorite categories for the Princesses: pin-ups and lesbians. There is something seductive in bending the Princesses out of their original corporate shape and into something that appeals to me in a very specific, intimate ways. There is a thrill knowing that they're doing naughty things, wearing sexy lingerie, kissing each other when they "aren't supposed to".
Of course, there's no such thing The Princesses can be anything we want. People make them anything they want. Fuck copyright. What we create is more important than artists making a profit.
The many action figure faces of Marie Curie
Without meaning to, I have made Marie Curie my ultimate erotic superhero. The subject of one book, the upcoming Marie Curie Saves the Titanic, I have already begun a second book, Marie Curie Raises Atlantis. No doubt there will be a third and fourth.
All of this has been unintentional. Marie Curie is not by any means a glamorous, exciting figure in the history of science. She wasn't eccentric and mysterious like Tesla. She didn't have a gold nose like Tycho Brahe. She wasn't lusted after by Marilyn Monroe like Albert Einstein. And she wasn't a massive brain in a wheelchair who had an affair with his nurse like Stephen Hawking.
Marie won two Nobel prizes in physics and chemistry. She pioneered research in radiation and radioactivity. She was married to Pierre Curie, who also won a Nobel prize in physics. They had a daughter. Both died from the complications from radiation poisoning. Her notebooks and equipment are too radioactive to touch for the next 1500 years. She had held radium in her bare hands.
If Marie had glamorous charisma, eccentricity and an erotic nature, I haven't found any photographic evidence showing it.
She was a scientist, a scholar, a teacher and a researcher. Superhero glamor wasn't her thing. Nor should it be.
I relate to this. Anyone who was an intellectual throughout their academic life can understand the divide between the socially fluent and the socially isolated.
Her radioactive journals touched me he'd me when I was in high school. They are dangerous to us. She lived with them for years. How can this not seem like a superpower.
She died from complications of radiation. Thus she becomes a martyr, even a saint of science.
And two Nobel prizes, one more than her husband. Growing up believing women were incapable of being better than men at anything, much less science, this was extraordinary.
So who is my Marie?
Obviously, I had a Hollywood approach to illustrating the character. I picked highly attractive women in sophisticated, artistic poses. Marie is physically beautiful. She would be beautiful to others. Her physical image is a symbol for her deeper power.
For me Marie is the polished, confident, exotic academic I romanticize about. As much as I try to deny it, I am a romantic.
Marie has also become the depository for all of my erotic problems, sexual orientation, adventures, and anxieties. She has had my relationships, expressed my worries and makes choices which aren't wise, but sexy.
All the the while, her radioactivity has manifested itself in startling ways. As a hero in a 1950s sci fi epic, the radiation in her body has given her special powers. She can emit and control heat, move objects and fly. In the sequel, her powers grow.
I feel I must conclude with an awkward apology. I abhor the stereotypical sexiness, the common hotness of female characters. Yet when I write, I do no differently. My only reason for doing this is to tap into the universal sexiness that is common today. I wish to speak to as many people as possible.
I wish to to give a fantasy to as many people as possible: that we are as erotic as we hope we are.
We live through Marie, and as we do we are so much more exciting and sexy than we think we are.
Because, in actuality, we are.
Bernie Sanders was the easy choice: I discovered someone is attempting to Crowd Source an action figure. You can see it above. Action figure erotica requires its main characters to have been made into action figures. It felt like happy fate.
Anne Frank? Seriously, Anne Frank?
There are two obvious, immediate problems: taste and lack of sexual interest.
Vision satisfies both problems. My vision for the story.
The story became sensitive to me. Not because of the romantic elements, but because of Anne Frank.
I had to imagine what the aftermath of being in a concentration camp would feel like. I imagined what could happen to Anne in the camp which would make her distrust and dislike intimacy with men.
From what I've seen of Bernie Sanders, he would be a gentle, patient friend.
When I imagined Bernie, Anne popped into my head as his love interest. Once she was there, I couldn't shake it. I still don't know why the two go together so well for me.
When I found she had been made into a waxed figure and multiple dolls, I considered that close enough to an action figure.
The sex in it is graphic. There isn't an overwhelming amount of it, but it is all logical. Nothing is gratuitous.
What Anne goes through haunts me. And it's what makes the story strong. I believe in it. It's good work. Trust me. Give it a chance.
I'm quite medicated. I don't have the massive, supernova bursts of creativity that I had had in high school and college. I get normal sleep so I can't stay up all night working. What I used to call "inspiration" which got me through 200 pages a month doesn't exist anymore. Yet I struggle still to focus.
Coffee is a wonderful help, but it does only a fraction of what it used to do. My psychiatrist told me what I thought used to be good work done at the height of mania wasn't really. I couldn't do my best in that state of mind.
My psychiatrist also told me not to tell people I'm bipolar. Because people assume that women with bipolar disorder drown their children.
I'm bipolar 2, by the way. More depression than mania. Only I used my depression as a form of energy. So my quality must have been really poor. I don't know.
It's difficult to know what's good and not. What is real energy and what isn't. I worry that I'm too lethargic and can't write anymore. Yet I do, though it's difficult. I feel like I've lost my superpower.
There's no need for continuity or historical accuracy. In fact, the less the better. AFE is about breaking from tradition and the ties that bind conventional narratives.
Traditional narrative is the structure of BDSM. The characters and author and audience are chained together and given only bits of pleasure at a time, caught up in the ritual of time.
There is a need for sex. Lots of it. And everything legal goes. The stranger the sex, the better. The more surreal, magical, mythic, impossible the sex the better. This isn't just about getting off or enjoying a romance. It's about stretching your mind and imagination and being wowed while you're orgasming.
Think Robot Chicken. Or what we all probably did as kids with our dolls. This is play. It's funny. It's irony. Why shouldn't we laugh as we come? Why can't we have fun while we're being aroused? Does everything have to be so serious?
Yet, there is seriousness. Medusa is struggling with issues of identity, even as Kali has dangerous sexual escapades. Lincoln has deep conflict over the civil war. And Marie Curie is trying to make sense of her abusive marriage. (Those last two are upcoming novels.) Life is not just a farce. It's not just tragedy and it's not just an encyclopedia of facts. It is all those things and many more.
Books shall be forthcoming. At the end of November, Abraham Lincoln Eats Pie at the Kali Cafe. But for now. a free sample, a novel in progress, awaits you:
I'm Lady Ristretto, writing under a pseudonym. My pseudonym has a pseudonym.