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Retrofuturism & Mythpunk (2011-2014)

Retrofuturism: This world of mythic characters, airship pirates, and sentient clockwork dolls is an exploration of the artistic/academic equivalent of the "Observer Effect" (re: quantum physics) — the very act of studying the past will alter its existence; we inject ourselves and our own society into anything that we study, so that the past is no longer a virgin, sterile territory — at the same time that the worlds of the past become part of the subconscious of the historian, the historian's subconscious shapes the valency and meaning of the past.

Mythpunk: Works punking, queering, and revisiting ancient myths. Archetypal images drawn from theory and dreams, revealing moments in nonlinear, diachronic time.

  • Marooned (36"x36")

    This painting evokes a story of epic scope -swashbuckling, time traveling adventure, complete with heroism and betrayal - but it refuses to dictate a narrative to the audience. Rather, you're invited to treat the character as a cypher for your own storytelling; the main figure's gender, race, and origin (and their eventual fate) are all left intentionally ambiguous.

    Publications: Sole Literary Journal 2011; The Lyrics of Abney Park 2012; eSteampunk Magazine 2013.

  • Thumbnail of Skin Horse
    Skin Horse (36"x48")

    This painting appears on the cover of the Ruined Empires book by Cakebread and Walton, but the piece was actually completed well before the book came out -- the character from the painting was written into the world. This piece was partly inspired by the legend of the taming of Pegasus (the god-horse who was bent to human will by a golden bridle) and partly by the postmodern myth of the Velveteen Rabbit (which suggests that a toy becomes real when a child treats it as real). This painting won honorable mention at the 2013 Creative Tallahassee exhibit.

    Publications: Ruined Empires by Cakebread & Walton (cover) 2011; Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton 2011; The Stone Hobo 2012; The Lyrics of Abney Park 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Daedalus
    Daedalus, Flight (v.2) (36"x36")

    In this series, we reimagine Daedalus as a female character. In Greek myth, after Daedalus designed and built the labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur, he and his young son Icarus were locked in a tower to ensure the secrets of the labyrinth were never shared. But feathers and wax aren't the only way to escape a tower...

  • Thumbnail of Daedalus
    Daedalus, Warsaw 1944 (36"x24")

    In this series, we reimagine Daedalus as a female character. In Greek myth, after Daedalus designed and built the labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur, he and his young son Icarus were locked in a tower to ensure the secrets of the labyrinth were never shared. But feathers and wax aren't the only way to escape a tower...

  • Thumbnail of Herr Drosselmeyer's Doll
    Herr Drosselmeyer's Doll (31"x41")

    "...Doll" was created for the "Airship Pirates" universe, in which clockwork dolls serve as sex workers in a dystopian society. It was very important to me to use this story to reflect the way in which our own society expects women to perform unrealistic gender roles and discuss the violence that objectification does to the self and society. This piece was also published in "Inopinata Literary Journal."

    Publications: Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton 2011; Inopinata Literary Journal 2011; The Lyrics of Abney Park 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Inspector Hook
    Inspector Hook (32"x25")

    This piece has been published by Cakebread & Walton and the "Inopinata Literary Journal." This piece is in dialogue with the German Expressonist classic film "Metropolis," the paintings of John Atkinson Grimshaw, and the writings of Victor Hugo and James Barrie. This piece is as much about relationships as any of our works; it's a love story between the constructs of human invention: a city and a mechanical policeman.

    Publications: Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton 2011; Inopinata Literary Journal 2011; eSteampunk Magazine 2013.

  • Thumbnail of Marian
    Marian (32"x22")

    "Marian" was conceived in mid-2012 under the influence of non-stop election coverage, with the working title of "It's Not a War On Women Until They Start Fighting Back." This piece is in dialogue with the Frank Frazetta fantasy-heroic type, where a helpless maiden lies contorted on the ground (usually flashing her breasts and buttocks simultaneously) while the hero or villain towers over her. We wanted to see if the female type could have agency even in a position that seemed hopeless -- if she could exist as a protagonist rather than a sexualized object -- if the viewer could be pulled in to identify not with the figure that towered over her, or the hero coming to save her, but identify with her struggle to find a way to turn the tables. We used Noir/German Expressionist film motifs to add to the political content, because it's referencing eras of tyranny, social unrest, and the potential for necessary revolution. And the juxtaposition of machine and human added to the sense of body politics, as it were -- a struggle between the right to one's own flesh and the power of the state machine. This image donned the cover of eSteampunk Magazine and it is also to be found in "Underneath the Lamplight," one of the Airship Pirates books.

    Publications: eSteampunk Magazine 2013; Underneath the Lamplight (Airship Pirates) 2013.

  • Thumbnail of Mr. White
    The Occupation of Metropolis (24"x18")

    Publications: Irregular Magazine 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Mr. White
    Mr. White Was Not a Bad Man

    This piece was created for the "Airship Pirates" universe — visual inspiration comes from 1940s German Expressionist film and propaganda.

    Publications: Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton 2011.

  • Thumbnail of Art
    Transparent Iron Oxide, Pthalo (32"x42")

    Part of our "pigments" painting series, where each painting is named after the primary paint pigments used to create them. The original digital study for this piece was optioned for the cover of an Eternal Essence CD, and it was also published in the Lyrics of Abney Park book. This oil painting is closely based on that digital study.

  • The Washer Woman The Washerwoman (16"x20")

    Celtic and Gaelic mythologies both describe a fairy/hag/goddess who washes the clothes of the dead and soon-to-be departed and frequently appears as an omen before battles that will be lost. Why does everyone think that fairies glitter?

    Publications: Penduline Press 2012; The Lyrics of Abney Park 2012; Terror of the Skies 2013.

  • Endzeit Endzeit

    Endzeit is a diptych, with the top three scenes appearing on a separate canvas. "Endzeit" was inspired by an out-of-context quote from Gaston Leroux ("I have invented a mask that makes me look like anybody else.") and a deep appreciation for the difficulties of attempting to appear neurotypical.

    Publications: Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton 2011.

  • Medusa Medusa, Portrait.

    In Greek mythology, Medusa was turned into the snake-haired Gorgon by the goddess Athena as punishment for being raped by the god Poseidon. Our Medusa series series examines gender and the monstrous Other.

  • Just Skin Just Skin (44"x35")

    This piece won first place for student entries at the 2013 DragonCon Art Show in Atlanta, GA.

    Publications: Uno Kudo Vol. III 2013.

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  • Thumbnail of Pharmakos Pharmakos (17"x17")

    "Pharmakos" is the Greek word from which we get "pharmacy." But in Greek, the word means not only a medicine but also a poison (see Derrida), and also signifies a ritual scapegoat, kept by the city so that he could be sacrificed/exiled as a form of communal catharsis. This image was particularly inspired by the mythic archetype of the ritually unclean, poisonous healer, a spirit or deity with a sinister domain —such as abortion or disease— whose help is also sought in healing, due to their power over the cause.

    Publications: Dirty Chai 2013.

  • Thumbnail of Giving Ground Giving Ground (17"x33")

    Hackberry Emperor butterflies will frequently land on a person's hands or face, but it's a myth that they're friendly. They actually eat human skin and sweat, though their primary diet consists of carrion. If a body is ever left in the woods in Northern Florida (or other areas populated by related species of butterflies), as soon as it begins to decay it will be covered in butterflies.

    Publications: Euphemism Literary Journal 2012; Weekenders Magazine 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Mustang Mustang (17"x24")

    One earlier reworking of "Mustang" was published in "The Kudzu Review" in 2005. The current version retains its earlier references to America's destructive collisions between technology, humanity, and the natural world, but also speaks to ancient myths of labyrinths, biformed saints, and the paths of the Underworld.

    Publications: Kudzu Review 2005; Weekenders Magazine 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Iatrogenesis Iatrogenesis (17"x17")

    In modern terminology, "Iatrogenesis" refers to an illness or injury caused by medical treatment. Originally, the term simply meant "brought about by a healer" and could be either good or bad. In addition to continuing the Gift Series' interest in the uncanny, this piece intentionally references the "Photoshop" body alterations made to models to give them extreme, and often inhuman, proportions.

    Publications: Euphemism Literary Journal 2012; With This Ring by Allie Marini Batts 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Rehab Rehab

    "Rehab" (as seen here) has not yet been completely reworked, though it's in progress. This is the closest of anything in my portfolio to MANDEM's early work.

    Publications: Euphemism Literary Journal 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Art Gift: Exegesis (Loki)

    A page from the first GIFT book: Exegesis, Chapter One. "The history of canine domestication reveals a startling truth -- the Wolf in sheep's clothing became the shepherd's guard dog." Materials include pigment ink, indian ink, oil paint, encaustic, and dog bones/teeth.

Gift Series (Paintings)

"Gift," in German, means "poison." This series is inspired by autoantonymous imagery, drawing from descriptions of exiled gods, poisonous healing, and life-in-death. The series began as work on canvas almost a decade ago. Recently, we created an artist book (Gift: Exegesis) that was meant both to stand alone and to accompany the paintings as part of the same text. That artist book is showcased in our the "Assemblage and Other Media" section, though one page from it is included here.

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Notes from a Time Traveler's Journal

Notes from an apocryphal journal...fragments of a non-reconstructable narrative...

These images began as part of our work on Abney Park's Airship Pirates, but the series quickly grew beyond that... The physical versions are mixed media: Indian ink, gouache, oil paints, charcoals... whatever it takes. The paper is "aged" by hand and caught on fire, so each one looks like it was torn out of a burning book. We mount them on archival board - ashy tatters and all - and put them into shadowbox frames, so there's an illusion of a preserved document, barely saved from some great disaster.

  • Jane Nine Pins

    "Jane Nine Pins searched for Seven Eons - And broke the Back of Time. She never found her way back home to the girl she left behind."

  • Neverbird

    "Now you'd better behave, my dearies, for the world's a terrible place..."

    The Rhacid birds frequently follow after Neobedouin caravans, picking through the waste left behind by our intrepid heros.

  • Cowboy

    "I think I'll call her 'Apples'."

    Indricotheriinae have many uses.

  • Centurion


    It is a little recognized fact that a super soldier with gun arms is incapable of reloading by himself.

  • Beware the Innocents

    "Let us not underestimate the illusion of innocence."

    One ought never make hasty conclusions regarding the difficulty of a mission based entirely on its description. Nuns and orphans are not always as harmless as one might expect.

  • Done Run Out

    "Carrion birds are all that pray the world again will be theirs one day..."

    When preparing for long journeys, be sure to bring sufficient fuel. (Credit goes to the crew of the Neverwas Haul for imagining and building the prototype of this vehicle!)

  • Lion Hunt

    "We are all defined by our speed -- and our hunger."

    Local fauna may vary dramatically in size and ferocity over the millenia.

  • Truant

    "Another day truant going nowhere fast..."

    Resistance to dominant trends appears in most times and cultures.

  • Lady in the Black Hat

    "She had the look of Rain breaking over the city wall... she said -- Is there anything Outside?"

    Dystopia is easier to achieve than one might think, and seems to be the natural order of human affairs.

  • Project Hippolytus

    "From a distance, their Medical Advances resemble nothing so much as Mythology..."

    They say that Zeus struck down the demigod of healing, Asclepius, as punishment for raising young Hippolytus from the dead. The lesson does not appear to have been entirely learned by medical profession.

  • The Island of Patmos

    "Urgently, the child's eyes..."

    (Find v1.0 of this drawing in Postscripts to Darkness 3.)

  • The Peeler

    "The greatest threat to law enforcement is Empathy. Justice finds itself at odds with human sentiment. Innate instinct emerges that we are not defined by a set of codes.

    NO if --> then analysis. NO if and only if --> but rather a profound if--> and also if --> and also if...

    Yet empathy is also the greatest strength of the law's enforcers - an empathy that allows them to understand their prey.

    The Mechanical Police have no weaknesses.... But the strength of a Drone is blinder than justice."

  • The Wallflower, Ward 023

    "Entire generations have lived and ... mostly died ... within these walls.

    Still we persist, building ourselves a better past."

  • The Washerwoman

    "They say the Old Woman washes the robes of the Dead the day before they fall in battle. But when I met her, she was only washing cradle clothes."

    (Find v1.0 of this drawing in Postscripts to Darkness 4.)

  • Orion

    "Orion" is a Greek hero/dying god who was blinded for his sexual indescretions and went on a long quest --with the help of the god of smiths and makers-- to find the sun that would restore his sight. The blind man's difficulty in locating the always-shinging-sun seems to be a perfect metaphor for the attempt to restore balance to human affairs.

  • Notes on Display

    This shows how the aged/distressed pages from the journal appear when on display as a group.

  • Notes on Display

    This shows how the aged/distressed pages from the journal appear when on display as a group.

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  • Her Brother's Keeper: Potnia Tauron (32"x25")

    This painting references the story of the Ariadne, mistress of the labyrinth, whose gift of thread allowed Theseus to pierce the maze's center and kill the minotaur within. What many moderns have forgotten, and this piece remembers, is that Ariadne was the Minotaur's sister. The Her Brother's Keeper series includes both paintings and sculptural pieces.

    Publications: "Sex, Sacrifice, and the Sacred Beast" (published thesis) by M. Arendsee

  • PeaceKeeper (17"x17")

    After this piece was optioned for The Crüxshadows' album DreamCypher, two companion pieces (DreamSeeker and Galatea) were created. Along with When You Tame a Thing...., these four pieces make up the Windbringer Series.

    Publications: The Crüxshadows "DreamCypher"

  • Dreamseeker (17"x26")

    This piece was created for the cover of The Crüxshadows' album DreamCypher and is the sister piece to PeaceKeeper; it is one of four pieces making up the Windbringer Series. The album draws heavily on stories of the fall of Troy, which also inspired this piece.

    Publications: The Crüxshadows "DreamCypher".

  • When You Tame a Thing (17"x17")

    The title is a reference to a line in The Little Prince, and refers to the responsibilities that exists between humans and the creatures (or forced) they have tamed. This is one of four pieces making up the Windbringer series.

    Publications: The Stone Hobo 2012.

  • Galatea (17"x17")

    This image also appeared in The Crüxshadows' DreamCypher album and references the myths of Galatea and Athena. This is one of four pieces making up the Windbringer series.

    Publications: The Crüxshadows "DreamCypher"; Penduline Press 2012.

Early Works (Prior to 2011)

These are some of MANDEM's older pieces, including the Windbringer series and the first painting in the Her Brother's Keeper series.

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Illustrations & Commissioned Works

While our art has a narrative component, is it seldom subjugated to any story. Even work created for a specific publication is entirely our own vision; we fiercely refuse to allow anyone to dictate the compositional elements or implied narrative, and we especially protect our right to determine the conceptual content of our work. But the work in this gallery violates these rules in some way. These are commissioned pieces, and they are either directly illustrative of an outside text or they had specific contextual demands (e.g., "a painting of our wedding -- and no, we can't be cyborgs eating a tree").

  • Thumbnail of Beast Dancer
    Beast Dancer

    A neobedouin warrior from the world of Airship Pirates.

    Publications: Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton 2011; The Lyrics of Abney Park 2012; Terror of the Skies 2013.

  • Ethernaut
    Ethernaut (24"x24")

    This piece is a collaboration with Rogue Dupont, created as an album cover for The Crüxshadows' CD Ethernaut.

    Publications: The Crüxshadows "Ethernaut" 2010

  • Thumbnail of Allie's Battle
    Allie's Battle (27"x48")

    We were asked to paint hyenadons. When we finished it, the creators of Airship Pirates all commented on how doomed the human was. But when we showed it to a friend a few days later, she said with certainty: "Those hyena-things are totally fucked!" Subsequently, the piece has been called "Allie's Battle" in honor of our optimistic friend and her own battle with cancer.

    Publications: Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton - 2011; The Tavern's Vault - 2011.

  • Turning Night
    Turning Night

    The cover of Turning Night by Nico Murray.

    Publications: Turning Night by Nico Murray 2012.

  • Thumbnail of Airship Pirates
    Tales of the Airship Pirates

    This faux pulp magazine was created as part of a world-building project for the Airship Pirates universe.

    Publications: Abney Park's Airship Pirates by Cakebread & Walton 2011; Terror of the Skies 2013

  • Nest of the Green Eyes
    Nest of the Green Eyes (44"x34")

    The cover of the Pirates & Dragons roleplaying game book, by Cakebread & Walton.

    Publications: Pirates & Dragons by Cakebread & Walton 2014.

  • Morning
    Morning: A Light in the Distance

    Originally designed for the cover of an album by the band Eternal Essence, this digital illustration was later revisited as the foundation for our oil painting Transparent Iron Oxide, Pthalo.

    Publications: Penduline Press 2012; Eternal Essence "A Light in the Distance" 2012; Lyrics of Abney Park 2013.

  • Thumbnail of Perimeter Guard
    Perimeter Guard

    This painting was originally completed to be the cover for Of Hell, a collection of short stories about zombies. Of course, to us it will always be a landscape painting of Detroit.

  • Thumbnail of Good Ship Ether
    The Good Ship Æther

    Concept art.


MANDEM (MFA, Studio Art) - Painting, Assemblage/Collage, Film, Sculpture, Book-Making. With an academic background in mythology, critical theory, and gender/queer studies, MANDEM works across media and materials, intentionally destabilizing genre in terms of content and media. MANDEM's work has been widely exhibited and published. As Maize Arendsee, MANDEM can be found teaching university-level art classes and presenting original art historical research at academic conferences.