Re-watched Clive Barker’s Nightbreed (director’s cut, still a disappointment) and noticed in protagonist Boone’s apartment Peter Blake’s “Babe Rainbow.”
Not “noticed”—Barker cuts from a bottle of spilled pills to a hand-held shot of “Babe Rainbow” on a free-standing, wood paneled wall, surrounded by hubcaps. Cuts to another hand-held shot, this from behind Boone as he takes off his t-shirt and steps forward—toward “Babe Rainbow.”
Search Nightbreed + Clive Barker + Babe Rainbow and find “Now watching Nightbreed with my babe” and this quote from the film: “It’s all true. God’s an astronaut. Oz is over the rainbow, and Midian is where monsters live.”
“Babe Rainbow” is a screen print on tin; according to the University of Warwick Art Collection website, the central image, a woman dressed in a white bathing suit, is “based on a 1967 cover of the French magazine Marie Claire”—a cover image easy to track down (Joanna Shimkus is the model). The woman in the print takes a step forward, from a dark background, beneath an arch. Framing that arch is the rainbow. Beneath the woman are the words “Babe Rainbow.” 10,000 “genuine multiples” of the print were made.
Which means lots of people have an original copy of “Babe Rainbow”—there’s a copy down the hill from me at the RISD Museum. Apparently, Clive Barker has a copy too. And fictional character Boone, too. Why is “Babe Rainbow” so prominently featured in Nightbreed?
There’s lots written about how queer Nightbreed is. Yeah—its coding is ABC. That quote about Oz, for one. Then there’s this exchange between two of the Nightbreed, Narcisse and Ohnaka: “Hey. Love those tattoos” [Ohnaka glances at the tattoos that circle his nipples, runs away; Narcisse, to himself, says] “Sailors.” There’s a priest who tries to stop the massacre of the Nightbreed by a mob of police—the sheriff calls him “faggot”; the sheriff is promptly killed by Boone, who warns the priest away, but the priest pulls off his collar and declares, “No. I have to see. Take me with you.” Once he does, he becomes Nightbreed and destroys the sheriff—who so obviously represents unthinking, violent, and frightened adherence to conformity. Read Trace Thurman’s “The Inherent Queerness of Clive Barker’s ‘Nightbreed’” for a light-hearted examination of other queer tropes in the film.
So, I wondered—is “Babe Rainbow” simply another signifier? Maybe. But why that rainbow?
Another possibility occurs to me. There’s Clive Barker the English horror author and film director and there’s Clive Barker the English pop artist. Clive Barker the pop artist made a collage portrait of Peter Blake; Blake and Barker have shown work together. Maybe director Barker was making an oblique shout-out to pop artist Barker?
(I first learned of Clive Barker the pop artist when I saw his “Van Gogh’s Chair”  featured on the cover of Paul McCartney’s 1983 album Pipes of Peace. As you all know, Peter Blake and Jann Haworth executed Paul McCartney’s rough idea for the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.)