By Jake Cordero
The writer Zora Neale Hurston looks straight forward but distant, a jaunty trilby hat askance on her head. She extends her hands before her as if working alchemist’s magic. A dark potion spills across a table from a grey bottle, and the liquid forms a pool around a white skull. But a mysterious tiny house floats in the liquid too, and around the writer’s neck is a fur stole made from a black cat. Above Zora Neale Hurston floats a ghost, a rabbit and a little devil — all in silhouette.
This simple yet stunning image by the talented Austin artist Katy Horan is among dozens she created for the 2017 book Literary Witches. With words by Taisia Kitaiskaia, the hardback profiles 30 important women writers with poetic descriptions from Kitaiskaia and archetypal art by Horan.
“At night, no matter what she does, Mary’s laboratory becomes a cemetery,” writes Kitaiskaia in the section about Mary Shelley, the Frankenstein author. “Lantern becomes moon, instruments become shovels, tables turn to coffins. Mary sighs. She places her hand into the enormous, awkward paw of the waiting Creature, and they walk together among the graves.”
And on the adjacent page appears Horan’s unsettling image of Shelley, in Victorian attire. Like others in the book, Horan’s art here draws more from dream symbols than waking life. Shelley stairs straight ahead, her face crowned in lightning and cadaver hands. Below her are grey tombstones. Hinting at both the mortality of her subject and that of all of us, Horan has muted the colors. “Mary is a terrible baby, her very arrival a murder,” writes Kitaiskaia.
Literary Witches is a fantastic collection of art and words, but at $10.98 on Amazon also one that’s reasonably priced. Among other “literary witches” featured in the 128-page book are Emily Dickinson, Flannery O’Conner, Sandra Cisneros, Gertrude Stein and Sylvia Plath. Together Horan and Kitaiskaia tell us something about the nature of their art, the power of their symbols and magic.
You can find Literary Witches online, here.