Edison Steelhead’s Lost Portfolio by Renee French

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Edison Steelhead’s Lost Portfolio: Exploratory Studies of Girls and Rabbits
By Renee French
Sparkplug Books

Renee FrenchTwenty little girls and twenty rabbits, each defined by a different disorder. One girl has a piece of drainage equipment attached to her nose, another sports a head covering and a patch to cover her amblyopia, while several more suffer some form or another of baseline deformities.

There’s a rabbit with ocular deformities, another with an amputated ear, and a third houses a series of electrodes implanted in its head.

All of this is to say that, if Renee French’s work has failed to win you over, thus far, Edison’s Steelhead’s Lost Portfolio will almost certainly leave you cold. If, on the other hand, you’ve managed to be taken in by the charm that bubbles beneath her macabre—and some have aptly pointed out, Lynchian—sensibilities, then the distillation of her talents on display in this mini Sparkplug release make it a nearly essential addition for your bookshelf.

Created specifically to coincide with French’s appearance at this year’s Comic Con, Edison Steelheadhead’s Lost Portfolio is something of a companion piece to the Top Shelf book, The Ticking, exploring the artistic outlet of the earlier book’s troubled—and severly deformed—protagonist. And while an understanding of The Ticking isn’t a necessary aspect in appreciating the Sparkplug Book, a serious appreciation of French’s work is absolutely essential.

The book consists 40 sketches—half girls, half rabbits—executed in French’s familiar soft charcoal style. Each piece is accompanied by a brief description of the subject and a quick explanation of the encounter, all penned in fractured phrases that give the text an almost haiku-like feel.

In many ways, the book feels like little more than an exercise in that question that has defined so much of the artist’s work: where does the line exist that separates the beautiful from the grotesque? It’s an important enough question, and French is a talented enough author, to make even a work of borderline self-indulgence a completely essential part of her ouevre.

–Brian Heater

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