Curiouser and Curiouser: Tell me about your fascination with the painting “Flaming June” by Leighton.
Damien Angelica Walters: I saw her for the first time on a greeting card when I was in my mid-twenties. The card itself was one of those any-occasion blank cards, and the colors, the imagery, captured me and haven’t let go since. I bought the card and kept it on my desk, and then a few months later, I found a larger image on a calendar. I bought it, carefully cut out the page, and framed it. I found a larger print a few months after that, which replaced the smaller calendar image, and later, found one even larger. I paid a stupid amount of money to have her professionally framed and she’s been on my living room wall ever since. Something in her speaks to my heart and soul, that’s all I know.
C&C: Those are the best kinds of connection to art, I think: the visceral, pure and unexplainable kind. Are there any other particular pieces/artists that you’ve been drawn to this way?
DW: John Reinhard Weguelin’s Lesbia is another one. While I don’t have quite the same visceral reaction as I do with Flaming June, I am still drawn to it in an inexplicable way and I’ve a print hanging in my office. With respect to more modern work, I have a print of Galen Dara’s Medusa in my office as well, but that has an emotional resonance for me because she created it to accompany my story “Always, They Whisper” in Lightspeed Magazine.
C&C: What do you have in your pockets? A lucky charm? Do you have a lucky charm?
DW: Alas, my yoga pants have no pockets, and I don’t have a lucky charm, per se, but I do have several xenomorph figures on my desk and a plush facehugger hanging in the doorway to my office.
C&C: How do you feel about musicals?
DW: Pauses to sing. “Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can smile at the old days. I was beautiful then. I remember a time I knew what happiness was. Let the memory live again.” I’m sorry, what was the question?
C&C: Wow!! That was a quick and definitive answer. Are you a fan of theatre at large?
DW: I’m a fan, but not necessarily a huge fan. I was very fortunate to see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore in the 90s. Ted Neeley, who originally played the role of Jesus on Broadway in 1971, reprised his role, and it was an amazing show.
My daughter was in the theater program at school and played Cinderella in Into the Woods, and I was able to witness not only the performance, but all the hard work beforehand. It gave me a different sort of appreciation for theater.
C&C: Do you sleep in socks?
DW: Nope, nope, nope. Just the thought makes me uncomfortable. I prefer to sleep unencumbered by fabric.
C&C: Do you have pets?
DW: I have two pit bulls, Kane and Ripley, both rescues. They’re seventy-five and fifty pounds, respectively, and while Ripley is a lap dog, Kane waits until you get up from the sofa, and then he steals your spot.
C&C: Do you like to color?
DW: Not really, but I like to doodle in my notebook when I’m brainstorming a story.
C&C: What do you doodle when brainstorming?
DW: Typically I doodle geometric shapes. Not very exciting, I know.
C&C: Have you broken any bones or ever had stitches?
DW: I’ve never broken a bone, but I’ve had stitches. The first time, I was two and had a tumor removed from the side of my neck. The story goes it took 200 stitches and given the size of the scar, I believe it. The second time, I was sixteen and put my hand/arm through a window (not on purpose!). The largest cut, on my forearm, took seventeen stitches to close, I can’t remember how many stitches the cut on my index finger required, but I had another on my forearm that only took one, notable only because it was done without anesthetic. Why bother with one needle stick when it will only take two to sew it up? And lastly, I had surgery on two toes (I had bits of bone removed) about fifteen years ago and had stitches then, but honestly, that’s a boring story, unless I mention that I was able to watch the surgery, which was neat.