Laugh, Clown, Laugh: The story behind "Clown With Bleeding Eyes"
Chances are most of us have looked at a piece of art that affected us on a deep emotional level, making us laugh, or cry, or become aroused, or pissed off. That’s what art is supposed to do, connect us with our own humanity. But what if a painting, for example, filled you with so much existential dread that it altered your life’s course for the worse? What if you dared to look at a painting that everyone says is “cursed”? What would happen to you really? Does the curse only work if you believe what everyone says? Or is there real dark magic at work in the blending of colors and the arrangement of shapes?
“Clown With Bleeding Eyes,” the first stand-alone story in my new collection Death’s Dreams (which you can pre-order right now), examines the phenomenon of “cursed art.” (Read the article at your own risk.) Of course, as a Night Gallery fan, that’s a subject near and dear to me, and a bangin’ horror trope. Here’s a little background on how the sausage was made:
First of all, as far as I know, the painting described in the title and story does not exist, at least not in popular form. A Google Images search led me down an interesting, though unfulfilling, path. Perhaps it’s best left to the imagination.
I chose the image of a clown because it seems to strike a nerve in a lot of people. As I alluded to in a previous post, I personally harbor no ill feelings toward clowns. Perhaps growing up with Bozo and Hobo Kelly as TV babysitters had something to do with my nonchalance towards these painted performers. But clowns, for varying reasons, scare people shitless, so of course I took advantage of that. I took something that already makes many of us shudder with fear and put it on a canvas, resulting in an artwork that is more than just an unsettling conversation piece, but actually becomes infected with demonic forces.
For me the story is about marriage, how the spiritual bond designed to hold two people together can be much more tenuous than we think. I am not, have never been, and have no desire to be married. Nothing against it, mind you. I just find the patriarchal, Christian definition of marriage as being more about ownership than anything else, and I’m not down with that. But enough about me. “CWBE” is about an outside force coming between two people and subconsciously eroding the trust between them.
Parker and Danielle are two creatives: a graphic novel artist and a punk rock musician, respectively. They’re based on the wide circle of creatives that I know personally who juggle their calling to tell stories in their chosen medium with the necessity of a day job. That alone can cause conflicts, but when they are introduced to an outside force—in this case, an ugly painting--the trust between them begins to erode. Based on what I observe of the married people I know, this is a fairly common problem. Family, friends, material possessions, etc., can dig huge, sometimes irreparable chasms. For Parker and Danielle, this outside force does more than just weaken their relationship; it weakens their grip on their sanity.
How can a painting drive people insane? Well, according to legend, it’s happened before. How it happens in this story is something you’ll have to discover for yourself.