Taxidermied: The Art of Roman Dirge
Roman Dirge

Titan Books
Hardcover, 114 pages, $34.95
Review by Sheila M. Merritt

If one picture is worth a thousand words, then how many words does it take to describe a book full of pictures? In the case of Taxidermied: The Art of Roman Dirge, the compositions that comprise the volume require a handful of words that end in exclamation points: “Bizarre!” “Wacky!” “Dark!” “Sick!” “Morbid!” And yet, those choices don’t completely distill the artist’s delightfully twisted mind as represented by this impressive collection. Known in the world of comic books as the creator of a series featuring Lenore, The Cute Little Dead Girl, Dirge has an artistic aura similar to H.R. Giger and Tim Burton.

In the illustration “Elf,” there’s a bit of Burton-esque sensibility. The titular fairytale character possesses many small needle-like teeth and the febrile bulging eyes radiate an air of demented glee. The eyes have it again, in “Bad Kitties” another look at innocence askew: Two exceedingly cute fluffy white cats have stringy red, membranous matter in their mouths. Wide-eyed and presumably bushy tailed (that part of the anatomy is not depicted) these feasting felines display dainty and disgusting domestication defiance.

A duo of avian creatures reflects a H.R. Giger vibe. “Serpenteese” and “Perch” show Dirge’s self proclaimed dislike of birds. In each, ornate skulls are employed to create an air of disquiet. “Serpenteese” depicts a bird consuming beast with a bony visage that harbors a snake; somewhat similar in composition to Giger’s Alien construction. “Perch” is a portrait of a winged monstrosity; a very fowl foul with a head that would warm H.R.’s heart.

The aforementioned examples are reminiscent of the style and spirit of the highly visual virtuosos. Yet the numerous works assembled in Taxidermied are unique in their inspired and wickedly creepy renderings. They will appeal to those of the Goth persuasion, collectors of so-called “coffin table books,” and aficionados of cheerily eerie images. An introduction is provided by the artist, and his frequent remarks and citations add color to these rare or previously unpublished pieces. Illustrating illusions and drawing on dread, Dirge’s flair for fantasy is well exhibited in this volume.

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