Welcome to Crash by Lina Langley
The cover artist is Anna Sikorska
Available for purchase at DSP Publications
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to host Lina Langley here today on her Welcome to Crash tour. Welcome, Lina.
Sam Riordan is a minor but important figure in Welcome To Crash. Part of the reason for that is the frame of reference that he provides for Damien as a character. When Damien gets a job at Crash, he’s ridiculously excited. It’s the equivalent of getting a job at Andy Warhol’s studio. Of course, Sam Riordan is supposed to be long dead, and everyone around Damien acting as if he was still alive and simply around is completely dismissed by Damien. It’s just something that artsy people that he doesn’t get would do. And Damien is, in effect, right. That is absolutely the kind of stunt that Sam Riordan would pull off, if he wanted to. Damien isn’t wrong in thinking that. Sam Riordan is more than just a painter, he’s an artist (and an artiste), hugely influential in Damien’s worlds in ways that don’t simply influence the story, but rather the entire cultural framework that encompasses it.
Sam Riordan is an amalgamation of various artists who were hugely influential, mostly in the twentieth century. He’s heavily based on both David Bowie and Salvador Dali.
The thing about these artists is that not one of them was perfect as people, but they were both hugely influential in their mediums. In Welcome to Crash, Sam’s presence is seen as something of a myth. Even when people speak about him, even in the studio, they do so in hushed tones. Long after Riordan is supposed to be dead, his presence lingers–John has a job at his studio, Damien thinks he’s extremely lucky to have landed it, and Levi is writing a book about it.
Sam Riordan’s relationships closely resemble those of Salvador Dali’s. He’s married, to someone who he considers the love of his life, but unlike Dali, he’s openly bisexual. While Salvador Dali denied that he had any homosexual inclinations, it was rumoured until the end of his life that he had a passionate love affair with Garcia Lorca. Federico Garcia Lorca was a legendary Spanish playwright and he was openly in love with Dali. While Dali denied claims that the two were involved romantically, many of his peers contend this. Whether or not the playwright and the artist were involved, Dali and his wife were deeply in love and they had a long, fulfilling marriage. Their relationship, first as artist and muse, and then as artist and wife, was complex and often complicated, but they were madly in love. The relationship with Sam Riordan’s wife, while only briefly touched on in the book, is extremely similar to the one that Dali had with his wife. When it’s looked back within an academic and historical framework, Sam Riordan’s relationship with his wife is matter-of-fact, just another facet of a modern art genius who dared to break the norms of what society dictated a marriage between a man and a woman had to be at the time. Unlike John, however, Sam Riordan is not a punk in the slightest. His convictions are a lot more whimsical and he’s only anti-establishment when it serves a purpose. He is who he is, and he’s proud and unapologetic, but he’s also shy and prefer to communicate through his art.
Which brings me to the second artist that Riordan was based on: David Bowie.
David Bowie’s influence on modern pop music cannot be understated. He told the world that he was gay, then as bisexual, in the 70s, and he pushed performance boundaries with androgynous make-up, dresses and other concepts which weren’t as accepted at the time. He was firmly part of gay culture while he was at the top of the charts in the 70s, releasing songs like “John, I’m only dancing”. Bowie’s sexuality was thoroughly questioned at the time and he spoke publicly about it through the years, often changing what he said. Bowie pushed hard against the boundaries of gender representation and what gender was. Some academics argue that it was done carelessly, in ways that only hurt the queer community (especially the gay community, which at one point, believed they had found an ally in the huge rock star and just as quickly lost it), but the influence of David Bowie’s androgyny and cross dressing in more mainstream pop culture remains far reaching to this day.
His sexuality–or the public persona surrounding his sexuality–wasn’t what influenced Sam Riordan’s character the most. David Bowie’s personas weren’t designed only to push boundaries, they were there because he was famously shy. David Jones could never perform in front of an audience, but Ziggy Stardust was the kind of star that would announce he was quitting to a packed stadium at the very height of his career. This is the kind of artist Sam is, famously shy and willing to adapt as long as he gets to push boundaries.
Sam is a background character through the story, but his existence is complex and he plays an important role, both for Damien’s story and in the context of his cultural framework. That’s the reason that Damien thinks, well, if anyone is alive even though they’re supposed not to be, of course it’s Sam Riordan.