Monday, March 31, 2008

Kathleen and the Anti-Mapplethorpe

Until The Swans' Burning World came out in 1989, I only associated Robert Mapplethorpe with gay and sadomasochistic imagery, not with the astonishing floral still-life portraits featuring orchids and bird-of-paradise flowers. When Kathleen Edwards' Asking for Flowers was released a few weeks ago, I discovered the dying-flower Flora series of Angelina McCormick, several examples of which graced the liner notes. Learning more about McCormick, I became fixated on the idea she was the anti-Mapplethorpe. Her work also fit Kathleen's third album perfectly.

Kathleen Edwards often gets lumped in with her Canadian singer-songwriter cohort Sarah Harmer, due to a similarity of styles - but Sarah is more like the maritime provinces, while Kathleen seems more at home in an Alberta-Saskatchewan frame of mind, even if she is an easterner. The dead flowers capture the mood of the album perfectly - Kathleen adopts a near-Victorian pose in the pictures, but songs like "Sure as Shit" and "I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory," delivered with a touch of Neil Young/Crazy Horse electric style, seem as bitter a depiction of Victorian sensibility as Leonard Cohen's "Queen Victoria" - hence the dead flowers.
McCormick may not be my absolute favorite photographer, and Edwards may not have produced the best album of 2008 so far, but the mood of bitter dying beauty fits the year perfectly.


Ruth said...

I love what she says about the medium format camera making you "bow down" before the subject. What a beautiful though, and image. Makes me want a medium format camera.

Ruth said...

Should be: "beautiful "thought . . ."