What lurks behind those locked doors?

Russian ‘Dressed Up Mummified Corpses as Dolls’

A police photo shows one of the mummified corpses found in the suspect's apartment.

A police photo shows one of the mummified corpses found in the suspect’s apartment, AP/Russian Interior Ministry, Der Spiegel, 11-8-11

Over the course of my life people have said that I am strange.  However, in the last 15 years since my divorce and my return to living alone, people have been saying that more often.  Once for example, when I was trying to understand the changes in my life and to understand what others saw or thought about those changes I asked my mother.  She had a simple answer, “you just get stranger and stranger.”

It is not an objective of mine to be strange, but it is often a by- product of my thinking about philosophy, history and art. Art in particular can really create the illusion of strangeness, and in my case because I live with my art it does have its implications about my stability and sanity.  Today, however, I found the story of a man in Russia who has beaten me at my own game hands down – no not beaten, whipped, humiliated and destroyed;  I feel like a junior high school basketball player who had been playing Lebron James or Michael Jordan one-on-one; I am not in his league.

For years I have been trying to recreate images of people and things – not exact replicas, inferences of beings; by the use of a wide variety of materials and lighting, I hope to suggest the actual thing.  I want you to see what is in your imagination with my subtle help; mostly the images are people and until recently people I know personally.  It is true occasionally, I have used the remnants of living things, birds, snakes, frogs, bugs and such, but not human body parts.  Now I discover a 45-year old man in Russia – an historian, linguist and author – who sees my wager and raises me.  His objective is to create life-like Russian dolls in the house where he lives with his parents; he already has 29 full life figures of young girls, Russian dolls, and he is only 45 – what a body of work!  He uses only the best materials, straight from the graves of the Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod.  The city has lots of cemeteries and therefore a very large selection for him.  The article in Der Spiegel does not explain how he preserved the bodies, but by the way he has the faces and hands wrapped, maybe he has not yet perfected the process. A shame, I could use some pointers; even this giant of an artist, this Russian doll maker, needs some guidance; there were manuals on doll making in the house, but none on how to make a mummy.

When arrested he did what all true artists do, he talked about his art – there is no crime, only art.

“By my calculations, I have visited 752 cemeteries in the past two and a half years.” He had been wandering through cemeteries since he was in the seventh grade, he added, and claimed: “I don’t think anyone in the city knows them better than I do.” Just last month, he wrote a piece for a publication on necrology to explain his interest in the dead. He said that when he was 12, he came across a funeral procession whose participants forced him to kiss the face of a dead 11-year-old girl.  “An adult pushed my face down to the waxy forehead of the girl in an embroidered cap, and there was nothing I could do but kiss her as ordered,” M. wrote in Nekrolog. He said he later also grew interested in the occult.Der Spiegel, 11-8-11

And my mother thought I was strange.  Doesn’t it make you wonder what the truly strange people who live all  around us (or rather around you) are thinking and doing and what bizarre things lurk behind closed doors?


2 Responses to “What lurks behind those locked doors?”

  1. 1 Rex Stock November 8, 2011 at 6:56 pm


    While I first thought I should send you a private reply, I decided to share my “reaction” with others who read your thoughtful, provocative (the provocation of hope) posts.

    Ken, this is a triumphant piece. It talks of the human condition; and, you offer us your view by exposing. or, more appropriately, revealing the human condition of its author. That’s an act of honor and integrity. Courageous too.

    No writer, I believe, can achieve any higher distinction.

    When you write like this–and you and I have talked about this for years: the aspect of trusting ones voice–it helps me have a reasonably civilized discussion with the stranger that lurks inside of me…the stranger we all share space with but whose existence we fight so hard to deny…

    And then there’s our mothers…

    Thanks! Congrats.

  2. 2 Ken Adams November 9, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Rex – thanks; you are right about wanting to tap into the basic similarities that link us all – all writers want that and sometimes by telling a simple tale that seemingly has nothing to do with anyone other than the characters we stumble into something universal, not often but occasionally – if we are lucky. ken

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