Visual Arts

Malice in Wonderland

It's a pop culture tenet that Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was a perv. Carroll, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, was a shy, stuttering deacon and lifelong bachelor with an interest in little girls that, to contemporary eyes, appears very Michael Jackson. No one has ever proved for certain that Carroll diddled children, but the circumstantial evidence is damning.

Maryland painter Eric Finzi explores Carroll's oddness in a series of paintings on exhibit at Perihelion Arts. The images of Carroll and some of his "child-friends," as Carroll called them, are based on the writer's own photographs. Finzi's paintings are hazy, shadowy concoctions where faces and hands are blurred and figures melt into objects around them. It's reality as seen through the imagination, where Carroll and his children must have spent most of their time. Or reality as seen through a drug-induced glaze, which legend also attributes to the man who dreamed up characters like a hookah-smoking caterpillar. The shine of the epoxy resin Finzi uses to make the paintings heightens this stoned, glassy-eyed feel.

Finzi's paintings are ambiguous, dreamy and a bit creepy, which is probably an accurate portrayal of what Carroll himself was like. One image in the show is overtly creepy. It's a painting of Alice Liddell, the prepubescent girl who is said to have been the Alice of Carroll's Wonderland stories and the love of his life. Finzi reduces her eyes and mouth to dark painted gashes and her body to a ghostly white shape. The only part of the child that isn't ethereal is the gaping, violent hole Finzi has cracked into the epoxy resin where her private parts would be. Yow. Talk about rabbit holes. It's a graphic depiction of what Carroll wanted to do with his dear Alice -- or maybe even what he did do.

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Leanne Potts