Updated: Jan 15, 2020
This blog is about dark history, folklore, and science, and how they feed my artworks in progress. Welcome to my very first entry!
The name "The Bleeding Encyclopedia" speaks to the content I choose, which is usually violent or romantic. It was also the name of my first solo art show at Hyaena Gallery in Burbank, California. And the idea to start a public discussion of the history used in my art was suggested by Erica Miller, co-owner with Gary Pressman of Copro Gallery in Santa Monica, California. I'd like to thank Bill Shafer of Hyaena for giving my "encyclopedia" its start on gallery walls and to Erica for suggesting I start talking more about my favorite history. Words of appreciation will go out to all gallery owners who are kind enough to show the work that I will discuss here.
Today I'll start with "Blausaure," a painting first shown at Hyaena and now owned by Gary and Erica of Copro.
Ideas for this painting started to emerge after I saw the the 2004 German film Downfall, about Adolf Hitler's last days in his bunker in Berlin, and the 2005 PBS documentary Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State. My interest in Nazi murder and suicide was piqued by both films, and I started reading more.
When reading about Zyklon B (the poison used to exterminate prisoners at Auschwitz, Majdanek, and other Nazi death camps) and the contents of poison capsules used by Nazis who committed mass atrocities to commit suicide at the end of World War II, I discovered that both poisons were cyanide-based, and ran across the German word for hydrogen cyanide: blausaure, meaning "blue acid." The "blue" refers to the derivation of hydrogen cyanide from Prussian blue, a dark-blue pigment.
Two images jumped into my head after reading about blue acid, Nazis, and the 1930s and 40s: Marlene Dietrich in the film The Blue Angel, and the Angel of Death, the name given by death camp prisoners to the Auschwitz doctor Josef Mengele, who selected physically weaker prisoners for death in gas chambers. I imagined blausaure as a woman, "Hitler's Blue Angel of Death." This seemed especially fitting because Hitler was a fan of Dietrich's and Dietrich once plotted to appear to him naked in a hotel room and kill him with a poison hatpin (the only weapon she could have concealed if she had been naked). Like the chemical blausaure, which was used by the Nazis to kill "enemies" and later for their own suicides, Dietrich inspired Hitler, but he did not see that she could also have played a role in his death.
For the Nazis on the right side of my painting, I found names of those who were played a prominent role in Nazi genocide by gassing and also used blausaure for their own suicides.
It is worth noting that Hitler's official cause of death was a gunshot wound. Hitler was advised by his doctor that shooting himself in the head and biting down on a cyanide capsule simultaneously would more likely ensure his death. In contemplating her own suicide, Hitler's wife, Eva Braun, was alleged to have said, "I want to be a beautiful corpse." She thought a gunshot wound would be too messy. However, a messy end was in store for her anyway: Hitler instructed his soldiers to burn his own corpse and Eva's so that their dead bodies would be less recognizable to the Allied soldiers who were closing in on Berlin, and therefore less likely to be publicly mutilated and ridiculed.
Finally, in researching whether the color blue had any other impact on the Germany of that time, I ran across Der Blaue Reiter ("The Blue Rider"), an avant-garde group of artists founded in Munich in 1911 by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Kandinsky felt that blue was an especially powerful color that drew us "toward the infinite." And "blue acid" certainly drew many Germans toward death, which many people view as a kind of infinity.