SLIDESHOW: Drawings by Mieke Marple
Last year, I took a Facebook quiz called, “What Abomination from the Garden of Earthly Delights Are You?” After six strange questions, I got my answer: “Butt Gardner” with the following description:
When life hands you ass, grab some flowers! That’s your motto, Butt Gardener!
No fucks are given, and not just because you don’t have genitals. People come to you because you know how to make anything fancy, and no one is better at dealing with assholes.
Whether you’re planting ASSter or ChrysantheBUMs, you make everything a little less shitty.
I sent the quiz to everyone I knew and delighted in hearing which abominable title friends fell under. Some were “King Snackbird, Trashlord of Hell” or “Lonely Soggy Fruit-Man Whose Only Friend is a Rat.” A couple, including my partner, were “Ass Lobster.” Each result was funnier than the next. How could Hieronymus Bosch still be so entertaining five hundred years after The Garden of Earthly Delights was painted? How could it be that people were still engaged by this work of art?
Soon I found myself binge researching Hieronymus Bosch, renting one book after another from the Internet Archive. During this period, I learned about the Surrealists’ fascination with Bosch, whose elaborate and inventive depictions of hell were believed to have sprung directly from the subconscious. There also existed a printmaker contemporary with Bosch who went by the pseudonym “Hieronymus Cock.” Shortly after Bosch’s death, “Hieronymus Cock” made lithographs of the hellish figures in Bosch’s paintings and disseminated them amongst lay people living in the Netherlands, the country from which my matriarchal line hails. Thus, at roughly the same time noblemen and women were commissioning Bosch to paint religious motifs, common men and women were delighting in his work as well.
Bosch’s five centuries of high-low appeal to the Western world inspired me to make my own The Garden of Earthly Delights. My garden, however, would be a more literal interpretation of the title–comprised of drawings that were part erotica and part flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Using old world erotic illustrations from Europe as my source material, I created my own abominations, which hover between sweet and sexy, funny and disturbing. Ultimately, this project is an exploration of my own subconscious, a subconscious heavily influenced by Northern Europe’s (as well as by our contemporary internet culture’s) relationship to sex and hell, and one that can be as monstrous as it can be delectable.