Thursday, July 17, 2008
Among some of my favorite things are vintage books, ephemera, and photos. And because they combine these two things with amazingly creative stories, Nick Bantock and Barbara Hodgson are two of my favorite writers/artists. I recently found a copy of Hodgson's Opium: A Portrait of the Heavenly Demon. It is an amazing look at the fin-de-siecle scourge of Opium and the addicts, euphoria, and accoutrements associated with it. Whether featuring languorous ladies in an opium den or little girls dancing joyously around a bottle of cough syrup (main ingredient: cherry flavored opium), it is obvious that images of the drug were abundant and ubiquitous. Much like Absinthe, advertisements and films promulgated the sexy side of opium. Like today's heroin chic, opium and absinthe were a part of the bohemian set and the term "Hip" is derived from those smokers of opium who lounged on their hips while enjoying their pipes.
Some of the early French pin-up cards feature glamourous ladies enjoying their pipes in various states of undress. Again we are seeing feminine sexuality linked with illicit and addictive substances (here, personified in a cloud of opiate smoke, and with absinthe as the Green Fairy)- as though they are just as addictive as drugs and just as dangerous. It is as though women are analogous with the "shocking ecstasy of the forbidden."