No discussion of work from local artists and writers can possibly be considered complete without including the Craws, and Asher’s Take a Picture is a lovely and thoughtful addition to Portland’s creative body. The first story included, “Unknown: Life & Death; Paris & Portland; 19th & 21st Centuries,” is a reflection on the enduringly mysterious and alluring L’Inconnue de la Seine. One version of the story says that in the late 1880’s, a young woman, a suicide, washed up on the shores of the Seine. Somehow, miraculously, her lips were curved into a smile. Her visage was so lovely, so placid and beatific, that a pathologist at the morgue was inspired to make a plaster cast of her face — a death mask. People were so taken with her face that reproductions of her death mask became incredibly popular: politicians, artists, writers, and the bourgeois all had her death mask on their walls. Young women even fashioned their hair and makeup after her. Asher discusses the story and ponders the meaning of this poignant, macabre fascination with an unknown dead girl while utilizing his signature detailed cross-hatching and skillful variation of line weights to draw the reader in visually.
The second story contained in this little book is called “The Ladder Is Always There”. This is an adaptation of Adrienne Rich’s “Diving Into the Wreck,” a incredible poem about self-discovery, the power of myth and stories, gender roles, journey and transformation. Asher’s illustrations wonderfully bring the poem to life, faithfully reproducing and playing with photographs from Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s The Silent World.
Take a Picture is a dreamy rumination on death, the creative process, and identity, and it is sure to inspire and provoke you.