March 14th marks the third solo show for San Francisco based surrealist Leilani Bustamante (covered here) at Modern Eden Gallery, “Haunt”. Her work often voices themes of mortality exploring elements of death, rebirth, and beauty. Inspired by Robert W. Chambers’ supernatural story “The King in the Yellow”, her show offers newly haunting, romanticized scenes that follow an abstract narrative. In the story, characters such as artists and decadents are followed by an ominous entity known as “The Yellow King” which induces fear and slowly leads to the unraveling of their self identity. They are further plagued by the theme, “Have you found the Yellow Sign?”, an eerie symbol of nonhuman origin and purpose that is never fully explained.
The Yellow Sign by Leilani Bustamante
Bustamante offers her own iterations in macabre paintings like “The Yellow Sign” and “Cassilda”, one of Chambers’ leading heroines. The King is portrayed as a shrouded being decorated in bones, playing to her ongoing exploration of surface appearances, versus what lies underneath. Although we see them here in moments in time, Bustamante summarizes the story’s terror in osteological motifs of decay and growth, as well as stylistically. Her use of metallics and Art Deco-graphic elements, for example, mirror Chambers’ setting of an imagined 1920s in the future. “The Yellow King” was once considered a forbidden work that, like its characters, could induce madness in the reader. “Haunt” captures this same fascination of the unknown, while finding the beauty in fear and despair.