Text & artwork Betty Black
Betty Black started off as a name, just a made up name. An alter-ego that I created for myself in an attempt to perfect one distinctive style of work, rather than end up with a variety of mediocre crap, after having just coasted through a pointless Illustration degree back in 2008.
Only four short years ago on paper, but in reality all of the dimensional shifts and time travel that I’ve experienced since make it seem like another lifetime completely. I can vaguely remember some things. A full time job? My own studio apartment? My Independence? Yes, back then Betty Black was just a made up name. But then my life slowly descended into Hell. And I got to meet her in person. First of all I lost the job and then of course the apartment had to go. I was forced to move back home into the terrible purple bedroom of my teenage self-loathing and, not content with imprisoning me inside a vile indigo box, the fates apparently thought I needed to be taught a much greater lesson in humility, inflicting upon me an impressively revolting medical anomaly which involved a number of degrading surgeries and agonisingly dull stints in beige waiting rooms.
I could neither believe nor understand what was happening to my body and so I fled. I absconded deep into my delirious imagination and firmly locked the door behind me. All I wanted to do was hide behind my new name. I took comfort in sadistically drowning paper in the blackest of black ink, leaving minimal white space for the strange scenarios and characters that seemed to mysteriously well up inside of me. I read stacks of Japanese Ero-guru comics and erotic novels by Von- Sacher Masoch, Anais Nin and the Marquis de Sade to name but a few. I buried myself beneath tomes of folklore, mythology and black magic and I gorged my eyes upon the tangible darkness of Film Noir, Pulpy sexy 50’s B-movies and grotesque eastern horror films.
But try as I might there was something missing from my work, some kind of key transcendental factor was lacking. I couldn’t seem to expand my ideas fully. I was fenced in, blocked – but by what? What was holding me back? “It’s really not good enough to just start writing new initials on your pictures and think that that’s all there is to it, you know?” I heard my own voice whisper in my ear. “I’m afraid that it all goes much, much deeper than that.” My heart stopped and my eyes bulged. I reeled around in total shock only to come face to face with myself, my exact double. Only this version of me was sharply dressed in a black Chanel suit with her hair perfectly coiffed and lips the color of dried blood.
“You can’t just call yourself Betty Black. You have to understand how to be Betty Black.” She tried to smile at me but all she was capable of was an evil grin. “What’s wrong? Isn’t this how you pictured yourself as me?!” “You know it is…” I managed to gasp. She laughed. “Of course I do. I’ve been around for a lot longer than some silly nickname has! I am the darkest part of your heart and The Monster in your mind. I’ve always been here darling, and tonight I’m going to show you a few things to get you on the right track.”
‘I took comfort in sadistically drowning paper in the blackest of black ink.’
She took me by the hand and pulled me straight into another state of being. She showed me things that I had only ever caught glimpses of in dreams – there was Lucifer’s harem, with its jet black Onyx walls and opulent lacquered torture devices. Giant women with planet sized heads made of marble skewered human souls with meter-long stiletto heels, while Opera music played softly in the background. We traveled to London in 1856 and stole inside the house of an infamous coven. We peered into violently chintzy rooms whilst witches that looked like porcelain dolls – coldly perfect with long, silken hair – fondly degraded initiates with blindfolds and birch whips upon layers of velvet, silk and lace.
She led me into a Japanese summer garden with sweet, overwhelming fragrances and flurries of peach blossom spiraling into the air. Courtesans of the Sun Emperor sat in giant peach halves, partially dressed in heavy, gorgeous Kimonos which were embroidered with intricate patterns and flowers. They made love to each other lazily, licking the dewy peach juice from each other’s golden skin in the dappled light. Then we spied on a rich American heiress in 1925 as she lounged by her pool wearing nothing but a mink coat and blowing rings of opium smoke at a staunch looking Butler. We giggled as she ordered two maids to simultaneously fellate him because “He looked as goddamn bored as she felt.”
Finally, after exhausting ourselves in the black forest with a bunch of insatiable, orgiastic tree nymphs she took me to a place called ‘The house at the end of the world’, a raunchy bar which transcended time and space and that I would be able to get back home from easily, or so she said. We ordered whiskey sours and watched an incredibly oily and voluptuous burlesque dancer twirl two silver octopuses from her breasts. “So even though you’ve really only had a tiny peep into the infinite void of creation tonight, do you see how important it was even just to visit?” She knocked back her drink and lit a cigarette. “It’s the boiling carnal soup of madness where all real ideas come from and you can’t really expect to create any kind of decent, honest art without coming here and seeing it for yourself.
You can’t just guess at this stuff. It’s like I said, you can’t just call yourself Betty Black, you have to be Betty Black and now you know how to get here, you know how to do that. “ “Thank you for showing me…” I began to gush. “I wouldn’t thank me until you look this good”, she interrupted, looking at my clothes with a mix of disgust and confusion. “You need to get a suit like this one, bitch.” And with that she vanished into thin air! I felt like a well of perfect knowledge and infinite vision. I had shed my dead skin and finally, truly become Betty Black in the flesh. A new force of creative will bubbled up inside of me like a freshly opened bottle of champagne and I was giddy with inspiration. But, although on some level I had achieved inner contentment, deep in the back of my mind – I was indeed still thinking about that bitches amazing Chanel suit.
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