An Interview with Miss Macabre - Macabre Noir
by Wednesday Black
The moment I first saw Miss Macabre's artwork I was a fan. This Pittsburgh bombshell is an extraordinary artist, doll- maker, burlesque dancer, one half of the duo Morose & Macabre, and a walking work of art. I am sure you will find her style and art as intriguing and inspiring as I do.
GTS- Childhood and family? Where did you grow up?
MN- I grew up an only child in a rural farmland area of western Pennsylvania. It was just myself, my mom, and my dad in a house they built by hand from the ground up (that is still an on-going project) in a wooded area, which is sadly now surrounded by a housing plan. Both of my parents worked in their independent, small business, so I spent a lot of my time drawing in a corner of their country shoppe or flitting around talking to the customers....at one point I even tried to peddle my crayon drawings for quarters.
GTS- Did you enjoy school? Why?
MN- Nooooooo. I was a weird, weird child and an even stranger teenager. My style was not widely accepted by my peers. It made it a fairly miserable existence until my senior year. The friends that I DID have were probably not the best influences, but when you are an outsider, you kind of flock towards the only people who are accepting of you. I focused on art classes and got in a lot of trouble for both my mouth and cutting class....and sometimes even my wardrobe. I honestly have to give credit to my art teachers for keeping me on some kind of path.
GTS- What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
MN- I always knew I was going to be an artist, the family knew, my teachers knew, my friends knew. I picked up a pencil and started drawing before I was even speaking proper English. I spent the majority of my time with my nose down and involved in some sort of project.
MN- What traditions have been passed down in your family?
MN- Dolls and small businesses. Both of my immediate grandmothers, on both sides of the family, were doll makers. My grandmother on my mothers' side made porcelain dolls and my grandmother on my fathers' side made rag dolls. My parents were also creative people and featured in magazines for their colonial floor cloths and furniture. They opened their first shoppe, Frog Hollow, in Butler, Pennsylvania when I was about 3 years old.
I have several of Macabre's dolls in my own collection!
GTS-Describe a real-life situation that inspired your art?
MN- Oh gawd, there are soooo many it would be hard to pin point just one. Everything around me inspires me. The people I know, the objects I see, the music I hear, a conversation overheard, a creak in a floor board. I draw inspiration from the strangest things, at the strangest times. However, a dear friend of mine owns a historical and notoriously haunted hotel in mid-state PA, The Grand Midway. He has filled it with some of the most awe-inspiring belongings and artistic people. It's become a haven for artists, poets, musicians....I dare anybody to spend a weekend in this glorious place and not come back with inspiration spilling over, it's impossible. The aesthetic and energy of that place is food for art.
GTS-What is Goth?
MN-In my opinion, it is a state of mind and an appreciation for the darker things in life. The understanding of things that are misunderstood and often feared by society as a whole.
GTS- Why the name Macabre Noir?
MN- The Morose & Macabre names actually stemmed from a conversation with my mother while Aaron (aka Morose) and myself were building the website and collaborative together. We had so many different names we were tossing about and not settling on anything. My mother found an article on Edward Gorey in the newspaper and brought it to me. She said "this reminds me of you and Aaron, your work is also very morose and macabre." It was the light bulb that needed to go off. Attaching "Noir" to the name came later after I started performing because all of my costumes were black....or various shades there of (haha). I'm Miss Macabre for the House of Oddities, and Macabre Noir for the stage and Kabarett Vulgare.
GTS-What makes you angry?
MN-The human race's inability to accept one and other for differences, flaws, beliefs, and lifestyles. If we were all born the same, it would be a hella boring world, and I don't understand why you would want to hurt someone for not being the same as you are. It's ridiculous.
Also, animal cruelty....I go insanely, blindly, tear filled, angry when I see those awful abuse pictures that get passed around on Facebook. I can not fathom why anyone would want to torture, abuse, or brutally kill an innocent creature with no understanding of why it is happening to them. I can't imagine the fear and confusion. Those images and thoughts stay with me and eat at me.
GTS- What never fails to make you smile?
MN- Antique stores!!!!!! :D
GTS-What do you dislike about your work?
MN- The heavy-handed nature of my paintings. I can't stand it. Aaron's got a light hand and works in incredible detail, which I feel I lack.
GTS- How did the Morose and Macabre partnership come to be?
MN- We were two separate artists trying to reach out for some recognition in a small and low income community. Independent artists and misfits that had been deemed "freaks" all of our lives, the collaboration was never planned, in was born out of frustration and lack of the community's respect for a "darker art form".
People from the area weren't buying art, very much less supporting the kind of creations that we were producing independently. Only able to showcase at "halloween shows", our work was only appreciated once a year and never actually purchased to hang in local homes, aside from friends who shared our love of odd. We started as friends hanging out and having morbid, little painting parties for fun.
After working with each other for a time, it was fairly clear that we were able to motivate each other and that was what we were lacking separately. We call it "one upping". One of us would paint something phenomenal and it would drive the other to want to create something equally amazing, if not better.
We had previously discussed doing a website featuring our designs and illustrations on tee shirts, but we were discovering that there was a whole other spectrum to our creativity. Our paintings eerily collaborated with one and other, although they were crafted with different techniques. Our color schemes and thoughts were meshing together in some sort of creepy harmony and were forming a collection without intention. Our website tumbled from morbidly sarcastic tee shirt designs, into a gallery for neo victorian inspired low brow horror art.
We painted and we planned in the months that followed as we built the site and began networking before our launch. We built our profiles on social networking sites and began teasing people with our dark senses of humor and the promise that "something wicked this way comes".
In February of 2009, The House of Oddities was born. It was inhabited by those dark, little voices in the back of our minds that most people ignore. We named them Dr. Morose and Miss Macabre and instead of keeping them locked up, we built them a house to run rampant.
By the end of February we were producing artworks, post mortem shadow boxes, dolls, and simple jewelry made from pewter stampings and began selling them in our Wicked, Little Shoppe via Etsy.
Although not prepared or planning for any sort of immediate success, to our surprise, our oddities were selling......well.
Shortly after, we hit the road. We built 2 giant, bloody walls with mounts for paintings and strapped them awkwardly a top a Ford Focus hatch back and headed south in the cramped, art-packed car. Morose & Macabre's House of Oddities made our first public appearance as a collaborative in Charlotte, North Carolina in late May and early June of 2009 at Shiprocked! and Kabarett Vulgare. With the help of our dear friend, Deville, it was a flying success.
Since then, we have traveled, shown, and evolved at an amazing rate that neither of us had ever hoped, nor dared dream. Our jewelry has snowballed from simple pewter stampings on chain, to hand crafted wearable art in our Strangulations collection and Arachnophilia collection. Our paintings continue to collaborate all on their own and now incorporate mixed medias of both fibers and dead things.
GTS- Visit the Morose & Macabre website to find out more
GTS- What is the Atrocity Exhibition? How did it begin? Where is it going?
MN- "I would love to get inside your head for one day" is something we hear often. So, we thought to ourselves, "Why the hell not let them in?"
The Atrocity Exhibition is Morose & Macabre's first independent event that houses sideshow, burlesque, and performance art entertainers as well as showcases our fellow dark artists and artisans. It lets folks step into the House Of Oddities and experience it as a 360 degree, living art installation. The first event in 2009 was a raging success and we were not only able to promote our work, but bring all of our misfit friends and comrades together from all over the country for one unforgettable evening and share our success with these talented folks who supported US for so long. We are currently heading into our 5th year and the event has continued to grow to monstrous proportions, as well as become a staple in the underground, bizarre art and performance community.
Where is it going? Well, we don't really know. We're just along for the ride. We never expected it to take off the way that it has, and we work hard to make it as unique as possible each year.
GTS- For information about how to attend the Atrocity Exhibition on May 4th 2013, Click HERE
GTS- What would people be surprised to know about you?
MN-I have social anxiety and a panic attack disorder, that I have been in a battle with since I was a teenager. Performance, galleries, and hosting events has been insane therapy for me and has forced me to be a lot stronger in public situations, as I do not wish for my anxiety to control my life and the things that I want to accomplish. It still grips me every now and then, and I'm notorious for not being able to stand still at events. If I stand still for too long and don't have something to occupy me, while surrounded by people, I start panicking and get the intense urge to leave, like, immediately.
If I go too long without performing, my stage anxiety comes back and I get this weak and buckling knee thing that scares the crap out of me for the first minute or so I'm on stage.
GTS-What would I find in your refrigerator right now?
MN-Tofu, ton of vegetables, green juice of some variety, this amazing blueberry goat cheese that I'm completely addicted to, and a whole lot of condiments.
GTS- What is the last book you read?
MN- The Hangman's Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
GTS- oh! I read that about eight months ago!
GTS- Favorite Tattoo? (of yours)
MN- The Edgar Allan Poe portrait on my forearm.
GTS- What about your Burlesque Troupe? How long have you been performing? How did you start? Do you make your own costumes?
MN- It's actually a sideshow/burlesque troupe called Kabarett Vulgare, and we focus a bit more on the sideshow aspect. It's a bastardization of traditional American sideshow in a Weimar era cabaret formatted variety show.
I started guesting with the Charlotte, NC troupe in 2009 while performing here at home, in Pittsburgh, with The Bridge City Bombshells burlesque troupe. Two of the Charlotte crew members, including the founding member, moved up here in 2011 and we began the Pittsburgh troupe. I am currently one of the group's burlesque performers, glass walker, human pin cushion, and city title holder of Pittsburgh's Freak of The Year 2012.
I indeed make all of my own costuming, although sometimes I like to cruise Etsy to see what I can find by other designers and costume makers. If it's something I don't believe I'm capable of making and I can't seem to find what I'm looking for online, I turn to my friend and fellow performer, Cherri Baum, who can fabricate just about anything that I can conjure up in my head.
GTS- Here is one of Macabre's videos
GTS- Whats next for you?
MN- I'm looking forward to Kabarett Vulgare's spring/summer travels and shows. I have a lot of really interesting gallery shows coming up throughout the course of 2013 and early 2014 that I'm really excited about, as I will be paired with some really killer artists. The possibilities are endless and I'm always learning new skills and collecting new interests to busy myself......so who knows where I'll be popping up next. :)
Treat yourself to a M&M original piece of creepy! Visit their shop HERE
Macabre Noir is on Facebook - HERE