“Life is full of pricks” reads the tagline from Pulling Weeds from a Cactus Garden, a surreal collection of illustrated fairy tales for adults from author and artist Nathalie Tierce. The book, inspired by Aesop’s Fables, includes short prose paired with Nathalie’s mixed-media work. “The luridly rendered artwork and writing reflects the dark side of human interaction and alienation,” reads the book’s synopsis. “Just like the act of pulling weeds from a cactus garden, it’s tricky, and you can’t do it without getting hurt. Yet, these tales of hazard evoke a sense of beauty and humor from otherwise threatening situations.”
Nathalie creates the cartoonish imagery first, which stems from intentional journeys into her subconscious, then writes the prose. She starts the process without any plans so she can see what surprising creatures emerge from the dark. Sometimes it’s Popeye; sometimes it’s Donald Duck. “I start each piece by making random marks,” Nathalie says. “After some time, building marks, smudges, spills, and splatters, a leg, breast, or a face appears, and I develop the form. There is a constant process of editing, searching in the depth of the texture of the random mark-making, asking myself, ‘Who is this? What are they doing?’”
She textures her work with coffee grains, sand, and crushed walnut shells, resulting in a distinct style reminiscent of an artist she admires—Edward Gorey, whose work is also steeped in healthy doses of weird. In Pulling Weeds, Nathalie’s sketchy, seedy characters “represent threats in a dystopian world” as they are rendered in moments of confrontation and conflict. “[The] characters’ interactions in these scenes reflect the dark side of human interaction,” Nathalie writes in her artist statement. “Much like Aesop's Fables, these scenes depict the nature of vices rather than teach a moral.”
Though Nathalie’s unnerving fairy tales focus on the thorns in the rose garden, her fictional “pricks” pale in comparison to the real thing. “These visual allegories are more nourishing than the circus of contemporary life around us, and more easily digested,” she says. “I want to give form to the ridiculous unspoken tensions in society and make them more manageable, even laughable for the viewer.”
Read a recent review of Pulling Weeds From a Cactus Garden in the Los Angeles Review of Books.
“Just like the act of pulling weeds from a cactus garden, it’s tricky, and you can’t do it without getting hurt.” — Pulling Weeds from a Cactus Garden
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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