In the late 1980s the Pixies reminded us that “Your bones got a little machine.” That machine is, of course, encased in flesh. Together, flesh and bone, we create meaning through our senses. We reach out. Touch. Caress. Love. Together, flesh and bone, we are procreant, fecund. We express our desire for others and for ourselves in the same act, using the same flesh, using the same bones. We connect, fluids exchange, life is affirmed as life is created.
This affirmation is fundamental. In fact, it has been designated a basic human need. We are driven to conjoin and sexuality surrounds this. For the artist Julia Gfrörer, though, this drive is also tinged with horror and mysticism. Gfrörer's books are full of the intersection between desire and repulsion, bliss and woe, and in this intersection Gfrörer sees a ripe darkness that exists in the world that bears a strange fruit.
Gfrörer's 2010 book Flesh and Bone from Sparkplug Comics takes this fruit and makes from it a delicious pie. It is a comic that is as ejaculatory as it is desperate. There is a hunger that drives it and it is rhythmic in its telling. The story revolves around a young man who craves death in order to be reunited with his dead lover, but he fears eternal damnation if he were to take his own life. So he turns to a witch to help him (as we all do at one point or another in our lives). But as this is a Gfrörer book, the impulses here are all layered through a carnality bred from desire. Love in Flesh and Bone is a sexual act, death is orgasmic in execution. The devil is serviced through our desires, yet this evil is euphoric and fervent, fructiferous and fertile. A man's seed is planted. What grows from there is the stuff of Gfrörer's art.
There is a lightness to Gfrörer's line work that stands almost in juxtaposition to the darkness she fills her panels with. This chiaroscuro adds thematic density as it contributes emotionally to the tone. Gfrörer is a comic artist whose craft and ideas work conjointly. Her books offer her understanding of our desires, taking, as Lou Reed said, the blue mask down from our face and looking us in the eye. As much as we like to think of our acts of love as tender, they are inexorably savage, our desires unleashed in our reptile brains, the primacy of the primal. Though it is often portrayed as men's work, true sexuality is ultimately the woman's province. As men slap and flail with their cocks, women unleash and create. Gfrörer uses Flesh and Bone as a platform to remind us of this. The rudimentary spark that the man ejaculates becomes, through the magic of the female, something full, rich, and prophetic.
In a way, Julia Gfrörer's Flesh and Bone is, once again using the vernacular of The Pixies, “talking to preachy-preach about kissy-kiss” – it also has something to say about what it is that defines our sexuality, our desires, and, in a way, the futility of love.
It's also a graceful and elegant work of art.
You can purchase Flesh and Bone from Sparkplug Books here.