Rain Harris’ poison bottles

I’m having a squee over artist Rain Harris’ series of Poison Bottle sculptures –gorgeous, ornate, organic-looking creations that reference perfume bottles of past ages when cosmetics contained poisonous ingredients like cadmium and white lead. Harris states:

I look to the contradictions that reside between the tasteful and the tawdry; I question the notion of good taste. The idea that one is supposed to prefer one over the other is one that has bothered me for a long time now. And one cannot examine notions around taste without examining the notion of beauty; I would argue that the two are inextricably entwined. Can an ugly object be in “good taste?” Can a beautiful object also be a tasteless object?

I’m also interested in questions of taste, especially how economic and social consciousness factor into its arbitration. How would we dress, eat and drink and decorate our homes if we were confident of being accepted on our own terms, rather than feeling obliged to play socially scripted identity games? I think Harris’ bottles have their cake and eat it, which I heartily approve of.


Fragments of Gunpowder Tea

…We may say, at any rate, that sleep is its own creature. Perhaps it even possesses a soul, a heavy, slow soul like a hippopotamus, a flat soul like a bed; perhaps it is a bacterium like those which cause so many diseases, and whose combined mass is so dauntingly immense in the earth and in living bodies. Inevitably one comes to the thought that the self-conscious personality might be a disease suffered by sleep, along the lines of a fever or diarrhea, perhaps even something as serious as cancer, of which sleep wants to rid itself; so that, in some myth or other, sleep must have created death at the beginning of time in anticipation of the advent of conscious life. It is man’s job to conquer sleep, but he would be an unhappy victor. Sleep is his ancient home, unconsciousness is the bulk of his being, he is sleep’s child and natural ally…)


The Tea Road is a haunted road. It winds past pagan waters where sacrifices were drowned, past gallow trees and burial hills. The figures of fancy one meets upon it were all, without exception, once alive. They are not figments of the mind or any such thing: they are the dead whose souls have not moved on. They are ghosts, and like all ghosts they are bound to patterns. The influence of adepts over the centuries has sustained them, altered them, kept many of them alive after a fashion, caught up in dream after dream. Often they imitate real persons, living and dead, thanks to the images in the minds of their summoners; they have become actors. Rightly certain schools call them chameleons. Their own desire to imitate life, and our desire to have them perform in this way, keep them bound to the soft tissues of the world, and seem likely to do so until time dissolves the human race. Without any doubt, the more horizons one crosses the more one enters their condition. One dies without dying.
11th Matron of the Rose Gate Lodge