There's a house on Haunted Hill
Where ev'rything's lonely and still
Lonely and still
And the ghost of a sigh
When we whispered good-bye
– House on Haunted Hill, lyrics by Richard Kayne
This year marks the 50th anniversary of William Castles classic B-horror flick House on Haunted Hill, a movie in which five guests are invited to spend the night with a man and his wife in the house they share; a house full of secrets, deception and murder. If they survive, they will each receive $10,000. Artist Andrew Wodzianski has survived more than a night with the haunted house, producing the exhibition House, and will treat five guests to his own form of reward as part of this months gallery show, costume party and fundraiser at Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, D.C.
I want to mimic the complexity of guest manipulation that is depicted in the film, said Wodzianski. Art lovers being pulled through the city looking for riches. It is going to be a deathly fun party, said Wodzianski, an associate professor at the College of Southern Marylands Prince Frederick Campus since 2005. He believes art should encourage a conversation with its audience, and often incorporates interactivity into his exhibits.
For his current exhibit, Wodzianski spent months during the films anniversary year exploring its underlying tones portrayed through the films interior sets and props. His efforts have resulted in 13 pieces of artwork, 11 of which are paintings which depict the movies sets and props and which will be on exhibit at Flashpoint Gallery in Washington, D.C. Oct. 8- Nov. 7.
I had wanted to do some work based on old film stock but I didnt know how I wanted to handle it. The film is humble but its themes of decadence, greed, turncoats and depravity resonate and remain relevant today and even though it is a B-flick there is a moral lesson underlying the story, he said.
Nothing over the top, no moments of obviousness, Wodzianski said of the paintings, just closing doors, a set of gates, the chandelier and its spider web of shadows. I wanted to grace these paintings with a sense of macabre, something subtle and eerie; that quality of dread you feel in a dark hall or an empty street.
Since the movie is public domain, Wodzianski could play with the images as much as he wanted. Viewing the movie projected on a wall, he would pause it whenever a sequence caught his eye and take a picture, which he would make into drawings and then back into photos. All of the images were blown up, manipulated, cropped, elongated and tightened multiple times in the process. I was interested in the distortion that takes place, when you take an object and show it in a new context. When you manipulate an image over and over again, it becomes something singular, he said.
While the film is in black and white, Wodzianski applied white paint onto pastel tinted canvases. The pastel was applied so minimally and specifically that the result is that the paintings look like an overexposed world where horrific little flowers disappear depending on the angle and distance at which you stand. There is something truly ethereal about the paintings and it seems fitting since the movie is about a haunted house and all the little secrets we leave buried, he said.
According to John Cozzoli at Zombos Closet of Horrors, Castle was the ultimate gimmickmister who tookfilm distribution seriously: his melodramatic send-ups of spook show horror clichés, done in remarkable shadings of darkness and light, accompanied by shrill screams and throaty groans, were family friendly terrors Joey and Janey could enjoy while their older siblings smooched in the back rows with their boyfriends and girlfriends. The film's haunted-house-ride styled opening, with the screen staying dark as a piercing scream rips through the theater, followed by moaning and chains clanking, was astutely tailored for those smoochers.
As a tribute, Wodzianski will engage in some gimmickery of his own. As part of the opening reception for his Flashpoint Gallery solo House, on Oct. 8 in Washington, D.C., he will mirror the actions of the films star Vincent Price and invite the public to spend the evening in the gallery and participate in their hosts possibly sinister scavenger hunt. Clues will be made available on opening night through the reception stewards, (several nurses and a funeral director) with additional clues given to guests that register for their hosts (Wodzianski) Twitter feed http://twitter.com/househuntDC.
Clues will come in the form of five riddles over three weeks. Solved clues will lead the scavengers to five secret physical locations; the first person to arrive at each location will receive an invitation for them and a guest to attend Flashpoint Gallerys fund-raising costume party and a special Halloween After-Party Oct. 30. The after-party will include a private screening of House on Haunted Hill and the five attendees will receive a painting from the exhibit.
Wodzianskis House exhibition runs at Flashpoint Gallery Oct. 8 Nov. 7. For information on Wodzianskis show and other Flashpoint Gallery events, visit http://www.flashpointdc.org/. For information on Wodzianski's third solo exhibit at the Fraser Gallery, “Abra Cadaver,” Oct. 9 to Nov. 14, visit www.thefrasergallery.com. To view Wodzianskis other paintings, visit http://www.wodzianski.com/. For information on CSM, visit www.csmd.edu.