The Dark Side of Art

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year and Halloween, one of my favorite holidays. I attend parties and exhibitions throughout October and at month’s end, I host a party for friends and fellow artists. It is a time for stretching the imagination and trying new techniques without concern for results; a time for throwing off whatever chains I have accumulated over the year and diving into projects for the shear, raw joy of it. I make costumes and props ranging from ghostly monkeys to carved sarcophagus lids. The only requirement I make of myself is that I try something new – a new medium, a new technique – that takes me out of my comfort zone.

halloween projects

This year, the first event on my docket was Theatre Bizarre at the Masonic Temple in Detroit. It is one of the best parties of its kind. It is true as some say, that the event is extremely crowded and guests are not always certain where to go since performances are happening at a dozen locations simultaneously and there is little to guide attendees to the shows in which they may be most interested.


Once you are in and have accepted the general chaos however, it is a magical place and if you give up trying to control your course and choose instead to simply wander from experience to experience, you will find yourself in interesting places. Burlesque dancers, fire acts, bands, sideshow performers and rooms better experienced than described (like the ghost train and fistotorium) – all exist to tantalize the senses and celebrate the darker side of our imaginations. And then there are the costumes … as an artist, the endless parade of costumes is alone worth the cost of admission and I often found my fellow guests as entertaining as the acts on the stages. I made myself a “dark circus master” personae for this year’s event and had an absolute blast.

Aric-dark circus master copy

The second event I attended was Damned VI: An Exhibition of Enlightened Darkness (also in Detroit). It was a small affair and it barely took me an hour to work my way around its main hall and absorb all the art on display. I was  disappointed at its limited scope but there was some very interesting artwork to be seen along with a couple performers that made the night worthwhile. The one stand out for me was Satori Circus, a thoroughly engaging clown/mime whose silent performances captivated the crowd.


Halloween is among other things about letting your imagination out to play without constraint. To those who have outgrown Halloween or lost their fear of things that go bump in the night, I remind you of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote, “Where there is no imagination, there is no horror.”

All in all a satisfying Halloween season and a much needed unraveling of self-imposed constraints and the ghostly specters of imagined limits.

~Aric Jorn

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