That Old Black Magic

Llyn Foulkes
That Old Black Magic
Mixed media on board, 1985
67 x 57 inches
Gift of Ruth and Murray Gribin

That Old Black Magic is the title of a song made famous by Frank Sinatra. The lyrics to the song, which are scribbled on the chalkboard border surrounding the central image, refer to being in the spell of love, “Aflame with such a burning desire that only your kiss can put out the fire.” Judging from the burnt nose and scarred face, it looks like that kiss did not come. The double zeros overlaid on the eyes refer to “snake eyes,” a toss of the dice, and associated with treachery and betrayal.

Treachery and betrayal in love can definitely render you feeling like the image depicted of the poor soul in That Old Black Magic and it is probable that this work is autobiographical. However, like the song sung by Sinatra, unrequited love is a universal theme that plays out in human lives on an everyday basis.

Aside from being an artist, Foulkes is a gifted musician, and it makes sense that his artistic vocabulary overlaps into the musical. Through That Old Black Magic, Foulkes gives us one of the darkest interpretations of the ballad imaginable, made visceral by the burnt charcoal remains of the nose and the grimace of the teeth seen through the singed flesh of the mouth. Clearly, this is a portrait of someone in hell.

That old black magic has me in its spell, that old black magic that you weave so well.
Those icy fingers up and down my spine
That same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine.
The same old tingle that I feel inside, and then that elevator starts its ride
And down and down I go, round and round I go, like a leaf that’s caught in the tide.
I should stay away, but what can I do?
I hear your name and I’m aflame
Aflame with such a burning desire that only your kiss can put out the fire.
For you’re the lover I have waited for, the mate that fate had me created for.
And every time your lips meet mine, darling, down and down I go, round and round I go
In a spin, loving the spin I’m in, under that old black magic called love.


Access Granted!