"Adam, in other words, had allowed herself to be embodied by books--and the women in her collages are also surrounded by texts from the literature she loved."

Helen Adam's Sweet Company, cont.

by Kristin Prevallet




Adam did not function well in the real world. To her, going to work was entering into a world of darkness. She did not perceive of the real world as THE real world. "Reality" is the undesired world where diabolic humans interact and make each other's lives miserable. Pat, consequently, was the one who had to hold the secretarial job that kept their meager income steady. Helen tried a job as a file clerk, but was fired for insubordination. Her boss informed her that she showed him no respect--to which she replied, "how can I show you respect when I hold you in utter contempt?" The only job she liked was being a bike messenger. She claimed that the rhythm of biking enabled her to compose ballads in her head. The poet Lewis Ellingham told the story of seeing her ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, completely unaware of the traffic around her.


In order to exist in this otherworldly realm, Adam formed her own religion--a blend of Egyptian and Greek polytheism, Christian judgment, and Buddhist morality. She once said in an interview, "I have always believed in interpenetrating universes." The universes that converge in her religious beliefs are the result of having read and absorbed all kinds of books. Throughout her life she read and re-read the gothic Victorian novelists, the Romantic poets, and plays from antiquity. With as much voracity, she embraced occult pulp magazines, Beat Generation writers, experimental film, and modern art. She blended all of these worlds together in the making of her collages, and in the writing of her ballads.


Adam, in other words, had allowed herself to be embodied by books--and the women in her collages are also surrounded by texts from the literature she loved. Each collage has a short caption--a fragment from an old ballad, children's rhyme, or famous poem--attached to it.

    "I had sweet company
    because I sought out none
    But took what came to me
    All by the magic drawn.
    I had sweet company
    I had no dark friends but one."

This poem by A.E. Housman forms the title of Adam's collage, "I Had Sweet Company / because I sought out none." This collage depicts a woman who is so esthetically entranced by the physical attention she is getting from her slimy soul mates, who is so resigned to their special love, that she is far beyond male desire. Her stereotypical beauty only accentuates her alien nature. Adam has converted a model in love with jewelry into a the dreaded Lady Arabella, whose crimes against humankind are too atrocious to mention.


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[the work] [diner] [dialogue] [theory & practice] [opportunities] [archives] Volume Two, # Two 1999 - 2000