1948 to 1974
May Ombledroom rest in
9 Sept 2012 Special to Goreyography
When asked how Ombledroom, that remarkable black-on-white caricature of a cat, and official Edward Gorey House resident, was getting along, Rick Jones (a.k.a. Frederick of Cummaquid) gave me the sad news: the rather portly feline guardian of Mr. Gorey’s old house had passed away about a month previous. I looked down on the old wood floor, exhaled deeply, and accepted this sad news with equanimity. For a moment, I thought the Gorey House wouldn’t be the same, that it had lost a little of its personality, be a little less Gorey-ish.
Somewhat deflated and distracted with the news, I wandered The House in a different mood than when I arrived. This was turning into a reflective tour, not straight to the new things on display, but taking time to reconnect with the old things, objects and artwork that had been sitting in the halls and cabinets from years previous. To Ombledroom’s time. Gorey’s old typewriter, the same my father used to use. The kitchen, with all its inedible mementos borne of Gorey’s haunts to curio (antique stores to the tourists) shops along Route 6A, the Mystery! room with Gorey’s very large stuffed bear, the animation cels and the PBS Mystery! Theatre stage props, to the actual last waffle made in the 20th Century at Jack’s Outback, made and lovingly preserved and presented by Mr. Jones, who relays that this was the very last piece of artwork that Gorey had completed. The illustration, not the waffle, was still in the middle of Gorey’s studio desk when he died.
Our visit begins at the back of the Edward Gorey House
The House’s charm was beginning to work its magic, and I, uplifted, moved into the performing arts portion of the museum. Happily, the exhibit continues to feature the puppets of Le Théâtricule Stoïque, preserved from last year’s show. This is a very grand exhibit, well designed and executed, and represents a truly 3-D experience of Gorey’s work. His theatrical plays reflect upon a true love of acting and the spontenaeity of stage work. His hand puppets, with their bold and striking costumes, handcrafted of found material bolts and papier-mâché heads molded by Gorey’s fingers, comprised his artistic laboratory. He is described as exercising his artistic license with glee, as Carol Verburg recalls in her latest book on Gorey’s theatre works, Edward Gorey on Stage. Gorey’s puppets are fantastic, a stroke of creative genius.
The puppet heads tended to roll off their bodies during performances,
hence 'Heads Will Roll'
After reveling in the world of Gorey theatre for a long while, it was time to address the envelopes. Many of us who attended the Elegant Enigmas, the Art of Edward Gorey road exhibition, or own the companion catalog, came away with a lasting taste of Gorey’s talent for envelope artwork. Many singled these seven pieces out as true sparks of inspiration from the Enigmas exhibition. They charmed us with their tongue-in-cheek humor and wide color gamut, playfully rendered on simple letter-sized envelopes, transient postal mail pieces. Roughly sorted, machine-routed and gracelessly cancelled, it’s a marvel that many of these treasures made it through the chain of machinery and manpower, to travel hundreds of miles in large bins, only to be unceremoniously pushed into a mail slot, torn open and thankfully, not discarded at their final destination. Up close, these pieces engage and fascinate. We can only hope many a mail carrier enjoyed their charges.
Peter Neumeyer's letters from Floating Worlds are well represented in this exhibit, as are Helen Gorey’s and Consuelo Joern’s envelopes, nearly sixty all totaled. But what truly makes this exhibit stand out are the twenty-six of the fifty envelopes created for one ‘Hart Sifmoritz’, a pseudonym given to an individual who received these fifty art pieces throughout 1974, during the peak of the Art Mail movement taking place in American, European and Japanese art circles. These envelopes showcase some of Gorey’s finest examples of artistry, rivaling any of his book illustrations.
The 'Sifmoritz' envelopes are as engaging as any Gorey has produced. Their sheer entertainment - the character development and lightness of delivery are very appealing. Here, Mr. Gorey's draftsmanship seems especially precise and crisp, unlabored and free. Many feature the masked-dogs found in Gorey’s L’Heure Bleue (1975). Each contained a single card, with a hand-lettered literary quotation drawn upon one side, of significance known only to the sender and its recipient. This particular series of envelopes is impressive, and must be worthy of republication, either in book form or even better, as decorated envelopes, as Gorey once enjoyed. And, as these particular 'Sifmoritz' envelopes can only be viewed at this exhibit; future shows are not planned, with a prohibition against photography adding to the fleeting experience. Interestingly, a 2002 issue of The New Yorker magazine reprints six of the fifty envelopes, tickling the fancy, but then only teases the senses as the originals are so much more vibrant.
Moving along, we find The House's giftshop offers it's own unique relief - The Doubtful Guest holiday tree ornament. Faithfully recreated by craftswoman Gladys Boalt, this figurine hangs 6 and 1/2 inches, each slightly unique and is exclusive to the EGH Gift Shop. They are wonderfully charming. This is one guest which may remain welcome in any home, for many years to come. Today, the Edward Gorey House delivered an unparalled, immersive experience into Gorey's world, in the artwork he produced - some old, but many more new ones.
-- Glen Emil, Sept 9, 2012
The official poster for this exhibition, measures 11 3/4" by 15 1/8", and is available from the EGH gift shop, or from Goreystore.com
Many thanks to Rick Jones, Director and Curator of the Edward Gorey House and Sarah Morris, Gorey House intern for their kind assistance.