My portrait of Carisa Bianca Mellado for her New Queen phase came together during a melancholy point last November, amidst disturbing political news, creative complications and personal crisis. In that point where the orange glow of autumn begins to blur into winter’s iron gray, I put aside work on my Swords Suit to explore another artist’s world momentarily. The portrait was intended as a surprise gift for Carisa’s birthday. Over the years that I’ve known her, I’ve learned that Carisa is fiercely protective of her vision. Her New Queen album challenged me as a listener more than her other material because of its connection to classical and experimental work. I thought it was important to try to convey the darkness of the source material while also indicating the dramatic trajectories of the story that Carisa had so artfully constructed.
A Surprise Collaboration
Since I didn’t fully understand The New Queen when I first heard it, Carisa painstakingly explained her concepts to me over the years. It’s actually a very rich opera that adds a strange majesty to tragedy; a sort of high class horror. I’ll say no more for fear of minor misinterpretation but the record is still available in digital format and the videos, all conceptualized and directed by Carisa, are also available to watch on the Carisa Bianca Mellado site. I had the honor of playing keyboards as part of Carisa’s orchestra for her sole live performance of The New Queen opera and also performed as the characters H and Gebo in the videos. However, like all of Carisa’s music, I had no creative input in The New Queen (in fact, it was recorded before I even met her). So, doing a portrait of Carisa’s New Queen concept as a surprise birthday gift was akin to a surprise collaboration…which could have ended disastrously. Fortunately, Carisa seemed to enjoy the result.
In Favor of Mystery
Normally, I like to explain the symbolism behind my art but, in the spirit of this piece, I’ll leave all symbolism up to the viewer to piece together through the music and videos already out there. The portrait is centered on Carisa as the nameless queen, wearing a mask comprised of iron roses, red thorns, a black heart, and a pattern reminiscent of dripping blood. In the artwork for the album, Carisa is often portrayed wearing a mask with feathers sprouting from the center so I took those asymmetrical black feathers and positioned another image of the queen so as if the feathers would allude to black angel wings. In this image, the queen is holding her head high in a haughty manner with a collar punctuated by iron blades and a jagged crown with a single red jewel at its center.
The Figures of Carisa’s New Queen Mythology
To the right of the queen is M, a frolicking maiden-like entity that appears throughout the album. At her other side is Gebo, an advisor to the queen with uncertain intentions. The clothes of both characters are adorned with the runic symbols that Carisa assigned to them when working on the concepts of The New Queen. Across a spectral checkerboard floats the visage of an entity called H who appears at times in Carisa’s New Queen mythology. The borders of the portrait depict a bear, a zebra, a pig, and a horse; animals that are prominently featured in the videos and album concept.
A dark political atmosphere was an appropriate time for this portrait. But there was also a strong sense of sadness beyond politics that was in the air at the time though it went unrealized by me for several weeks. It didn’t really find its way into this piece but is saturated throughout my Swords Suit which I look forward to sharing over the coming months.