Anna Dorfman over at Door Sixteen has an interesting post today for those of the digital magpie Pinterest generation. Dorfman, a top flight book cover designer hired by Simon and Schuster straight out of art school some 15 years ago, is one of the most stylish DIY reno bloggers and a punk ethicist — vegetarian, upcycling, city-loving.

She is often asked what serves her for inspiration. Her response is everything. And then she addresses advice to Generation Y:

….[Because of the visual stimulation of the city] inspirational stimulation can easily become overwhelming for me. I’ve never had an inspiration board/mood board/whatever board—I find them oppressive. Aside from the pressure of influence, I dislike the act of stripping context from another person’s work. And yes, I do do that here on this blog sometimes—but I cannot have it around me when I’m in “design mode.” I show up, and I get to work. OK, most of the time. Sometimes I’m an amateur.

So here are my lessons for artist/designer types, as inspired (oops) by Chuck Close:

Not every decision you make has to be crowdsourced beforehand. Trust your gut and keep it to yourself while you follow through.

It’s OK to strive to accomplish things that may never lead to financial reward. More than OK, actually.

Try to put a limit on the amount of time you spend searching for and cataloging images for the sake of inspiration. Think more about appreciating these things for what they are, and not just how you can apply them to your own work.

Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us just show up and get to work.
— Chuck Close

I read this after twenty-four hours of idly thinking about Karen Santorum and the power she accrues wielding the dead body of a baby, as others wield pictures of the bodies of their dead babies.

Dead babies are a very powerful symbol, as I have written extensively in my work on children as the icons of genocide. I’m not well versed on what they symbolize to Catholics, or pro-lifers, or to their mothers, but I can tell you what they represent to genocidaires and to artists who are the first to try to wrap their heads around the numeracy and finality of genocide. War trophies. Big medicine. The Khmer Rouge strung dried fetuses up around the eaves of one jungle headquarters. There’s more and worse; it’s all about magic.

A lot of it is to be seen in Save the Children ads. I once had a murderous discussion about the unapologetic exploitation by doers of good of images of children in extremity in their fundraising literature. The art historian Anne Higonnet was among the first to note the particularly ruthless exploitation of children’s images by women beginning in the 20th century.

Anne Geddes does Celine.

I want to ask you to think about pictures of dead babies as the Karen Santorum mood board. As inspiration. As precedent what do they command of your today and your future? As guideline for moral action, female empowerment, spiritual elevation, the narcissistic need for endless sympathy, pro-life politics or goddess shamanism?

Saturn devouring his son, by Goya, who helped define the age of revolution, and modernity itself, with this image.

What, explicitly, is the grief transaction that goes on when you publicize pictures or written images of your baby’s body? The usual psychological suspects are:

  • If I take my eyes off the photograph or narrative of your dead body, forget you, you really will die. Your soul is immortal only as long as mortal memory, a photograph, a tombstone, the curiously numinous void that is the Internet, enshrine it.
  • As your mother/goddess I can a.) pre-empt God and karma who have authorized or permitted your death and b.) keep you and your immortal soul alive only by mourning you forever.
  • My sins have caused your death, the death of an innocent, or failed to prevent it. I must work off my guilt by etc. etc. etc.

Giotto's Massacre of the Innocents, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua. Massed and disarrayed bodies are an early and persisting symbol of the numeracy and contempt of genocide.

At what point, not to put too fine a point on it, does God say You are powerless over the life and death of innocents and, Innocence has nothing to do with it, and, This whole motherhood/madonna/goddess power trip is not what you think it is and Your guilt is blasphemous and This is one of my mysteries and If you actually believe in me, you need to suck it the fuck up?

At what point does God say to Karen Santorum, the mood board is oppressive? Proscriptive? It accrues to yourself powers of life and death that are not yours to take? Yesterday I pointed out the mood board of the dead babies is iconic, the worship of which is something God explicitly forbids straight off the bat. Isn’t it possible that the handling of the dead baby might be the accrual to one’s self of the shamanistic power of a blood thirsty pagan God to bring you to your knees in fear?

Molech-Leviticus 18:21
And thou shalt not let any of thy seed pass through the fire to Molech, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.

William James, the father of American pragmatism, took note of such a God and his uses to the citizens of a democracy as the 20th century dawned in The Varieties of Religious Experience. James, the subject of a magisterial new biography which sets him at the center of American philosophy and one of the inventors of modernity, writes:

Today a deity who should require bleeding sacrifices to placate him would be too sanguinary to be taken seriously. Even if powerful historical credentials were put forward in his favor, we would not look at them. Once, on the contrary, his cruel appetites were of themselves credentials. They positively recommended him to men’s imaginations in ages when such coarse signs of power were respected and no others could be understood. Such deities then were worshiped because such fruits were relished.

I haven’t checked the latest Biblical scholarship on what Leviticus’ fairly direct edict against the idea that sacrificing your children, your Isaacs, your Astyanaxes, your Jesuses, to God earns you Brownie points — oh, do let’s go there — means to the 21st century.

I think it still means something like, don’t throw your babies into the fire of propitiation and self-regard. I could be wrong.

Once again, as with the first commandment we discussed yesterday, either God means what he says, or he doesn’t, and he’s just kidding when he says the sacrifice of children is abomination. You choose.

Pyrrhus beats Priam to death with his own grandson, Astyanax.

(c) Jeannette Smyth, 2012-2017, all rights reserved.