Here she comes, blocking the sun -
Blood runnin’ down the inside of her legs….
Unbeknownst to just about everyone, I recently entered this piece of art into VICE’s contest to win Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds concert tickets. The contest winners were announced today, and I was unfortunately not among them. Naturally, I’m disappointed, but only because I’m rather proud of this piece and its significance to me.
Anybody who knows me in real life knows that I’ve been listening to Nick Cave pretty much since my hearing developed in utero. This seems like an exaggeration, but I really have been living with his music since then - my father’s a big fan. My first drawing, at the age of not-quite-two, was a portrait of Nick from the cover of the album Henry’s Dream.
My father left and my parents divorced when I was very young, and Nick left my life for about six years. Upon a visit from my father, I was given all of his old cassettes. Among them were a few Bad Seeds albums. It took some time before I was ready to immerse myself in them again, and when I did I found that I remembered the songs better than I anticipated. Most of all, I latched on to Let Love In.
The contest for VICE was to recreate a Bad Seeds album cover, and I immediately knew what I had to do. A couple years ago, I had come up with this drawing of a woman backlit by the sun, her head thrown back as though she was screaming. It was an illustration to the song “Do You Love Me? Pt. 1,” and it felt very personal and very cathartic to draw. It was intimate and scary and raw, and it felt like my feelings when I listened to that song.
I decided to revamp that concept for this particular drawing - adding the “Let Love In” writing across the woman’s chest, making the woman curvier, less frantic, and having her making significant hand gestures. The gesture she’s making with her left hand, on the viewer’s right, is pretty obviously a profanity. The gesture of her right hand is more esoteric; it is a gesture I remember seeing frequently in my Catholic upbringing, the peace gesture that Christ of the Sacred Heart makes as he stares balefully out of his painting. The sacred and the profane.
Nick Cave’s music and lyrics are touted for being hyper-masculine, but he still has an immense female following. He writes about women as concepts and ideals, perhaps, but the woman he describes in “Do You Love Me? Pt. 1” has always felt familiar to me - tempestuous, lost, angry, sad, and contradictory. I can relate to her in ways that I can’t relate to the singer, but I understand the singer through her as well.
I wondered, vaguely, if a nude woman with a very clearly bleeding vagina would be difficult to relate with Nick’s work. Upon reflection, I remembered how many times he drew crude self-caricatures of himself with an unabashedly erect penis - a statement of distaste for norms as well as a kind of vulnerability. So this woman who is me and who is not me is the same, then - she is atypical of my usual drawings in that she is somewhat crude, but she is also rooted very deeply in my beliefs about myself, about womanhood, and about my connection with this album and this song in particular.
This drawing will very clearly not be to everyone’s taste, and I don’t expect that. It was a risk to submit it to the contest without greater context, probably, but making art is about taking risks. I don’t regret this piece, and I feel that I want to share it with others.