ALEXA SHARPE

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There are ghosts all around us, don’t you know? Those souls that haunt jun­gled hills, the far corners of a grave­yard, may very well show up un­der a blink­ing street­lamp in your town. They can fol­low you right into your home. So cover mir­rors if you’d like, avert your eyes from win­dows black­ened in the dark. Jump through smoke be­fore you leave the places of the dead, and nail dried palm crosses to the door. They’ll come for you all the same.

So goes the in­tro­duc­tion of il­lus­tra­tor Alexa Sharpe for Espir­itu: Visayan Ghost Sto­ries her on­line se­ries of short ction and art. The Los An­ge­les- based artist is rec­og­nized on the in­ter­net for her af li­a­tion ith hor­ror and othic lit­er­a­ture and her el­e­gantly ter­ri­fy­ing art style rooted in the use of lush back­drops and dark, shad­owy vi­su­als, usu­ally ac­com­pa­ny­ing sto­ries ei­ther orig­i­nal ( Dressed for Death, a se­ries re­count­ing tales of mur­ders and tragedies) or adapted (for her the­sis, Alexa il­lus­trated An­gela Carter’s The Bloody Cham­ber an­thol­ogy). Grow­ing up on

Gothic clas­sics such as The Strange Case

of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and The Scar­let Let­ter, Alexa also en­joyed Ja­panese work from Junji Ito and CLAMP, cit­ing manga as her big­gest pop cul­ture in uence.

“I’ve al­ways been fas­ci­nated with the idea of beau­ti­ful art work­ing to­gether with great sto­ries, even be­fore I re­ally knew what de­sign was. In fact, I still have shelves crammed full of my fa­vorite child­hood pic­ture books! Early on, I de­cided I would do just that: I wanted to tell sto­ries with art,” she says.

All the same, be­ing half- Filipino, Alexa men­tions she owes much to her her­itage and up­bring­ing. Filipinos are known for their be­lief in the su­per­nat­u­ral and Alexa’s fam­ily was no ex­cep­tion. Raised in a closely knit neigh­bor­hood, she fondly re­mem­bers read­ing an en­tire box of books of lo­cal myths and leg­ends from her ma­ter­nal aunt. “I think what re­ally stuck with me, even if these sto­ries of both spir­its and mon­sters were good fun, was the level of be­lief my rel­a­tives held and passed on to us. I was safe from these things not be­cause they didn’t ex­ist, but be­cause they were an ocean away—and even still, it was best to be cau­tious when out af­ter dark,” Alexa re­counts, “When I was a bit older, once we started reg­u­larly re­turn­ing to Cebu, my ties to my her­itage as well as these su­per­sti­tions re­ally crys­tal­lized. It has been and al­ways will be very mat­ter- of-fact to me: we each have a healthy su­per­sti­tion for the un­known.”

What makes Alexa’s work so al­lur­ing, other than the fact that she dab­bles in writ­ing ction that ac­com­pa­nies her il­lus­tra­tions, is her deep pas­sion and love for true hor­ror—both of which show in her art. Her llus­tra­tions heav­ily dwell within the realm of con­tem­po­rary Gothic art, with darkly dra­matic land­scapes and por­traits de­pict­ing scenes such as an un­for­tu­nate man be­ing de­voured by a pack of wolves, or the Broth­ers Grimm’s Death con­fronting his cheat­ing godson.

These aren’t pieces whose sole ob­jec­tive is to scare. Her art of­ten treads the bor­ders of el­e­gance, deca­dence, ter­ror, and fright.

“The yawn­ing dark of a hor­ror story presents a world of un­cer­tainty, and ev­ery sin­gle out­come is a fright: we’d al­most pre­fer the sim­ple an­swer of a rob­ber in esh and blood, as op­posed to the un­know­able in­ten­tions of shad­ows and phan­toms. Good hor­ror al­lows you to draw your own con­clu­sions from a snap­shot of prose or a sin­gle im­age, de­lighted and fright­ened by what you see and what you think it means,” says Alexa, “It’s de nitely the minu­tiae that draws me to cre­at­ing hor­ror above all else. All the de­tails must work to­gether to cre­ate the right mood. It’s like solv­ing a vis­ual puz­zle, de­cid­ing how much you want to re­veal, and how much you want to leave for your au­di­ence to guess. In that way, I love ap­peal­ing to our nar­ra­tive of cu­rios­ity—all of us have some in­ter­est in hor­ror be­cause all of us are sim­ply nat­u­rally cu­ri­ous.”

Alexa also nds her­self fre uently il­lus­trat­ing the crea­tures she fa­mil­iar­ized her­self with while grow­ing up, ad­mit­ting she still en­joys draw­ing lots of

man­anang­gal char­ac­ters to this day, be they her own mod­ern in­ter­pre­ta­tion or the winged mon­ster from lo­cal folk­lore. An­other pop­u­lar piece of hers, Ang Panaad, is a por­trait of two women in Filip­ini­ana at­tire, shar­ing a kiss while hid­den in the woods. But Alexa’s most am­bi­tious work would be Espir­itu: Visayan Ghost Sto­ries, her orig­i­nal art and ction se­ries drawn from real ac­counts of her fam­ily and friends of friends. There is a scarcity of ac­cu­rate rep­re­sen­ta­tion of Filipino hor­ror and fantasy in the West, and Alexa’s de­sire is to ll that gap.

Cur­rently, Alexa has been con­tribut­ing to nu­mer­ous zines and is pre­par­ing for the launch of her rst self- pub­lished il­lus­trated col­lec­tion of her own ghost sto­ries, to be­gin her promis­ing future in books. Her art is a re­minder that once in a while, a good scare is ac­tu­ally quite healthy. As men­tioned in the in­tro­duc­tion of her Visayan an­thol­ogy, ghosts, in­deed, are all around us. All we need to do is look.

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