New Haven goths and goth-curious art lovers congregated in Lyric Hall in Westville to celebrate goth artwork at the first annual Gothic Arts Market, hosted by Lorelei Rayven.
Rayven, who lives in Milford, got the idea from the goth scene in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, where dark markets have been growing in popularity. In Salem, Mass., the Freaks Antiques & Uniques Dark Market spurred a chain reaction of pop-up dark markets all over New England. The markets welcome all walks of dark-themed creativity, ranging from steampunk-influenced items to taxidermy, taboo oddities to the occult.
Rayven wanted to celebrate goth art closer to home. “Why not try and throw one [an art market] to see what the outcome is like … and it’s been non-stop all day long,” she said. Her show Saturday hosted a handful of vendors — some local and some coming as far from New York and Ohio — most of whom she met through networking in the goth scene.
Rayven’s goth roots extend back to the 1980s when the scene emerged out of particular strands of punk and new wave to become a subculture with an aesthetic and lifestyle that ranged from books and music to fashion. The subculture celebrates the darker things in life — think vampirism and the occult, for example — while sampling themes from Gothic literature and artwork from the 18th and 19th centuries. The goth subculture sought to unify those with varying forms of dark and shifting identities and provide an outlet for creative expression.
“The whole trend back then was really cool. I kinda grew up with it. I was in high school when the Cure was on the radio,” Rayven said.
Assessing what is and isn’t goth can be complicated. Some would argue that bands like Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy epitomize early goth while bands like the Cure brought it to a wider audience. Yet Robert Smith, the lead singer and guitarist of the Cure, refused the goth label that fans awarded him, saying his eyeshadow, lipstick, and pale skin were all theatrics to compete with the authentic goth bands at the time. In an interview with Time Out in June he said, “I unfortunately fell asleep in the sun yesterday—very un-goth.” In the 1990s, however, elements of goth found their way into mainstream society, whether it was through Tim Burton movies or the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer or music like that of Marilyn Manson.
Rayven said she saw a lull in the goth subculture in the 2000s, but she’s seeing a resurgence now. In pop culture, it shows up on TV and in music again, and in internet memes as well. In real life, she’s seen more people recently interested in the aesthetic.
The market Rayven organized featured original goth-themed artwork, including stained-glass bats, custom gravestones, homemade candles, oils and crystals, dolls, and murderous-looking stuffed animals. All the art was handcrafted by the artists.
Be Reckless, from New York, was selling homemade bath products and bath melts. “Any chance to be able to share gothic goodies with the community is my favorite thing to do,” she said. “Goth is about enjoying the darker aspects of culture and enjoying the macabre. I’ve always been into Gothic literature like Mary Shelley, and I’m also into the ‘80s traditional goth rock — the Smiths, the Cure. That’s what got me into making bath bombs with skulls on them and stuff like that.”
Sarah Segovia, from Watertown, was selling her handmade stained-glass creations. “I got into goth 20 or 25 years ago,” she said. “There are not a whole lot of goth events going on. There used to be, but we all got older, so it’s good that we have an event like this.”
Melaney Pettini, from Vermont, was selling goth jewelry and attire. “Everything I do is handmade. I have an online store. I also travel around and do shows. Everything I make is very goth inspired, and inspired by my love of nature, witchcraft, the occult, and folklore,” she said. “I wear all black, I got the whole witchy thing going. But goth is so broad. It’s the music, the style, the attitude. It’s too much to list.”
Rayven showcased her own creations at the event too. Her table displayed candles, jewelry and other “witchy wares,” as she put it on her business card, that she’s been selling for 20 years.
Rayven said that goth is resurging in popularity partly because of the all-too-familiar polarized political climate. “Trends come back every 10 to 20 years.… It’s time for goths to come back,” Rayven said. “It’s a scary world right now. We’re politically charged, we’re in a lot of stress especially in this country, so I feel like people want to hide in the dark more. They feel safer. They want to go underground until it feels safe to come back up.”