baba yaga’s house

baba yaga's house

when patrick and i were out visiting the upper peninsula we took a walk through the woods in marquette.  we lost the path and ended up bushwhacking off the path for the majority of the walk.  but the early part of the walk was through a forest of pines, i am not sure entirely as to what type of pine they were, as my tree i.d. especially with coniferous trees is not so great.   i kept expecting to see baba yaga’s house over the next ridge.  there was something otherworldly and magical about the forest.  as of late i have been reading a lot of folktales, as i have been playing around with creating a larger body of work that revolves around the visual retelling of old folktales.  i tend to be drawn to the eastern european tales most of all, and i contribute this to my lithuanian heritage.  granted if you set me down in lithuania i would be as much of an outsider as anyone else, having grown up purely american.  baba yaga is an interesting character, she is typically the evil witch or hag.  she flies around in a mortar and uses a pestle to steer while sweeping up her tracks with a silver birch broom.  her house rests upon dancing chicken legs and the front door will not reveal itself unless you ask.  if you do ask the keyhole is a mouth filled with sharp teeth.  the entire house is surrounded by a fence of human bones, as fence posts, and each bone is topped with a human skull.  baba yaga also kidnaps small children to eat.  the nice things about folktales is that there are always more than one version, so you are able to pick out the details you would prefer and use those.  some tales portray baba yaga as a wise old woman who helps lost souls find their way, or offers advice to heros.  women almost always seem to fall into several predetermined roles in fairy tales and folk tales.  there is of course the virgin, or the maiden if you prefer, who is beautiful,  innocent, and usually victimized in some way.  she is either clever and does the saving, or she is helpless and needs to be saved by some privileged  dude on a horse.  another role would be the benevolent mother, nurturing, kind and helpful.  but the third is the crone, witch or hag, who is nasty.  she may be an old witch in the woods or a scheming stepmother, but there are no doubts to her nastiness and malevolence.  baba yaga is definitely malevolent.  so when i returned home i started working on a papercut of babyaga’s house in the woods.  this particular one is for sale at the detroit artists market.

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