Before there was Facebook

It is now commonplace with digital cameras and social media for young people to express themselves. Some of these expressions are controversial and have lead to debates about personal freedom versus protection. When new technological developments become ubiquitous, it is hard for the new generation to imagine what life was like before. How did we ever manage?

I came upon this image on a sales site and just had to keep it in my files. I find it curiously compelling and I was especially delighted to learn that the photograph was shot by a child and there were once organizations promoting the development of artistic expression in children.

(Artist Unknown) - From The Child as Artist Exhibition (1967)

(Artist Unknown) – From The Child as Artist Exhibition (1967)

I was intrigued by the following commentary:

This is a black-and-white print of one of the 28 color photographs in an exhibit entitled THE CHILD AS ARTIST adjacent to the theater in the U.S. Pavilion at EXPO 67. The attached 8 × 10-inch glossy and the four-foot color prints on display are enlargements from 3¼ × 4¼-inch Polaroid Land Polacolor photos snapped by children who previously had never used a camera. The 8 to 12-year-old youngsters from the Henry Street Settlement House in New York City shot the pictures on display and many others during a six-week summertime course aimed at “teaching them to ‘see’, to recognize and use visual language—color, shape, relationship of forms and content.” Disciplining their ability to “see” was done through the viewfinder of an instant-picture Polaroid Land camera which their instructor, professional photographer Miss Susan Wood, selected “as a teaching tool because they could see their results in 60 seconds and improve by reshooting on the spot.”
The 28 enlargements in THE CHILD AS ARTIST exhibit were made and donated by Modernage Color, Inc., of New York.

I asked an associate to look further into this but the current staff at the Henry Street Settlement were unable to add anything substantive and nothing else is known of Wood. Some arts programs are being offered at the Abrons Art Center which is associated with Henry Street such as: Big spaces/big art, Saturday morning cartoons, Fragmenting Realities: Still and moving digital images and Studio collectives. However, none of these programs offer anything similar in scope and breadth to the “freelance” or “street” photography genre that had been previously offered. Of course, the logic may be that with the proliferation of digital cameras and phone cameras (and tightening arts budgets), there is little benefit to a supervised program like this. In those days, 60-second photography was an exciting innovation; today, it pales in comparison to Photoshop and instant messaging.

Louis Malle, Part 2: Black Moon

The first thing that strikes most people when they first watch Black Moon (1975) is that it is hard to follow. Any film or novel that makes extensive use of “stream of consciousness” narrative will not be comprehended by most people at first. So why do such things exist? My contention is that this is dream imagery—imagery from the subconscious—that an artist is compelled to express in an effort to understand it himself. Personal motivations aside, these creations do nevertheless have value to others because dreams make extensive use of archetypal symbols which we can all appreciate with proper education.

It is a little bit of a stretch to include this film on Pigtails in Paint. The lead character, Lily (Cathryn Harrison), is on the cusp of womanhood which is on the high side of our age range. However, the presence of naked children is a recurring motif and part of our agenda is to remove the stigma of such imagery in our culture. And Louis Malle makes extensive use of Lewis Carroll’s Alice imagery, so that makes this film appropriate in a number of tangential ways.

The opening shot is of a badger rooting around until Lily speeds by in a small car. She stops to look at it with a blank expression on her face. It is not clear at this point, but this establishes the idea that as a young woman, she is intimately connected to nature and is compelled to pay attention to it. As she continues her journey, she comes upon some military troops and watches as they execute some prisoners. There is the suggestion that this is a manifestation of a war of the sexes with the aggressors playing out the male role and the more passive women (and their male allies) playing the victims. The presence of the battle in the periphery throughout the film creates a convincing substrate of anxiety. I also feel it is a reflection of Malle’s experience as a boy in Vichy France—Au Revoir Les Enfants and Lacombe, Lucien are two excellent portrayals of the German occupation. One of the soldiers approaches her car and whisks off her cap; thus exposed, she drives off in panic.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (1)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (1)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (2)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (2)

On her way, she observes more vignettes of nature communicating with her and another military scene of a prisoner being beaten. In her flight she falls, giving herself a bloody nose—symbolic of the onset of menstruation. Her first sign of civilization is a horsewoman—whom she mistakes for a man—who seems to scrutinize her before cantering off. Then she encounters a group of naked boys acting as swineherds.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (3)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (3)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (4)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (4)

She finally comes upon a house and enters. There are many signs that the place is inhabited: a lit fire, food cooking on the stove, etc.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (5)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (5)

By this time, the surreal tone is already suggestive of Lewis Carroll’s tales, but we begin to see specific examples: a glass of milk indicative of the “Drink Me! Eat Me!” scene. Lily even has to strain to reach the glass as though she were too small. Across the table is a piglet (The Duchess’ Baby) grunting seemingly in protest and the sound of the piano in the other room is actually a cat walking on the keys (The Cheshire Cat). The milk, however, is a clear symbol of motherhood.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (6)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (6)

Another important recurring character is a rather shabby unicorn. Clearly a symbol of the girl’s maidenhood, Lily’s interaction with this creature illustrates her progress in coming to terms with her adult sexuality and accepting the passing of her youth. Unicorns are post-medieval* symbols of lust, but as strictly fantastic creatures, we understand that we are witnessing the machinations of this girl’s subconscious.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (7)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (7)

Hearing noises upstairs, she explores the house further and finds an old woman (Thérèse Giehse, in a kind of Red Queen role) speaking to a rat (The Dormouse) in a strange mixture of Germanic and Latin sounding languages. Next to her is a radio symbolizing Lily’s connection to the outside, real world. In her first encounter with the woman, Lily has an altercation with her and believes she has died.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (8)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (8)

She hears singing outside and sees a young man tending the grounds. She goes outside to look for him and comes upon him suddenly.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (9)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (9)

Dissatisfied with the old woman’s communication, Lily tries to get a straight answer from this man (Joe Dallesandro). She finds that he only communicates telepathically and is also named Lily. She turns and sees the horsewoman and the naked children now joined by some girls all shepherding a hog and some sheep. The horsewoman is the man’s sister (Alexandra Stewart) and is named Lily as well. The coincidence of the names points to the fact that Brother Lily and Sister Lily are the girl’s alter egos, representing the Animus and the Shadow in Jungian psychology. The twin motif is also suggestive of Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (10)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (10)

Throughout the film, the twins serve as models of Lily’s impending role: Sister Lily as caregiver and Brother Lily as seducer. Both represent the more impulsive aspects of their gender roles while the old woman represents the more rational. Brother and Sister Lily return to the old woman’s room and revive her; Sister then allows the old woman to suckle at her breast. After witnessing this, Lily sits provocatively in a chair (in a Balthus-like pose) while Brother comes by and sensuously caresses her bare leg. Alarmed by this development, she withdraws suddenly and is then locked in the room alone with the old woman. One at a time, each alarm clock (The White Rabbit’s Pocket Watch) goes off and in a rage of denial, Lily throws them each out the window. The clocks are a call back to reality but also symbolic of a woman’s “biological clock”. She is then humiliated by the old woman as her panties fall down inexplicably, yet another expression of sexual denial.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (11)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (11)

She escapes when she sees the unicorn again and tracks it down. The unicorn is the only character that speaks plainly to her and she wishes she could continue speaking with it indefinitely. After this, she experiences a shift in her relationship to the children: at first personally associating with them as a fellow child and then acknowledging her role as caregiver. She again observes Sister Lily modeling the caregiving role by feeding the children. She decides to accept her role and now when the old woman makes suckling sounds, Lily feeds her from her own breast. This strange scene is reminiscent of the final passage in The Grapes of Wrath with Rose of Sharon suckling the old man.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (12)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (12)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (13)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (13)

This rite of passage is commemorated in the film by a performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde with Lily playing the piano accompaniment and two of the children playing the leads. The choice of subject matter is instructive; the Tristan and Isolde story came into full blossom in the troubadour era and is about a young couple who fall in love but don’t realize it. The drama is escalated when the couple drink a love potion they mistake for wine.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (14)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (14)

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (15)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (15)

Lily then witnesses a violent scene as Brother Lily kills an eagle with a sword and then Brother and Sister begin fighting tooth and nail, perhaps representing the unresolved tension between the sexes in our society. Lily returns upstairs—the old woman is now gone—and assumes her role: sleeping in her bed and trying to work the radio. A snake appears, an obvious phallic symbol, and slithers into the bed. It appears that Louis Malle does not regard womanhood as a liberation, but an obligation to be meekly accepted. Lily’s expression is of passive resignation and not consistent with the notions of sexual freedom of that period.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (16)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (16)

In the final scene, Lily gets closure with the unicorn which suddenly appears. This time it says nothing and Lily dutifully bares her breasts as it makes suckling sounds. In fact, this is the freeze frame at the end of the film. The significance of this is that in satiating the unicorn, she is able to let go of her attachment to her childhood innocence and fantasy.

Louis Malle - Black Moon (1975) (17)

Louis Malle – Black Moon (1975) (17)

I would like to thank Pip for his contribution in analyzing this film. Without his help, it would have been a lot more work for me to put this all together.

The last installment of the Louis Malle films will be Pretty Baby starring Brooke Shields.

*I erred in my original assumption that this was a medieval symbol.  After some of Christian’s comments and some more follow up on my part, I realize the symbol belongs to the late 15th Century (but possibly earlier).  Please read the comments below for a clarification.  In an effort to get so much information out, there are bound to be errors like this and I will correct them as needed.  It is not my intent to deceive or misrepresent historical paradigms.  -Ron

Telling it like it is: Victoria Grant

As I have mentioned many times, I watch a lot of documentaries. There is so much about the world that does not make it past the mainstream media filters. The internet is a blessing in that regard because it makes alternative information more accessible to the general public. Pigtails in Paint is a case in point.

I came across a short video produced in 2012 of a speech by 12-year-old Victoria Grant about the nature of the banking system and how money works. Naturally, this is a well-rehearsed speech but I think the point is that the key concept is simple enough to be understood by most reasonably educated young people. Efforts by economists to make certain aspects of this system seem complex when they are not is really a cynical diversion to keep the public from realizing just how obviously unjust it is. Grant has followed up on this theme in subsequent years.

Victoria Grant and the Public Banking Institute - Public Banking in America (2012)

Victoria Grant and the Public Banking Institute – Public Banking in America (2012)

You can see the whole speech here.

Maiden Voyages: May 2015

This post was originally published on April 19th because Pip and I felt that the Sally Mann news was timely and should be announced right away.  I have added a couple more items and so this now constitutes our official May Maiden Voyages post.

Sally Mann Speaks: I am planning a substantial post on Sally Mann this summer. Many readers have seen a number of her images involving her three children. However, few people truly appreciate the depth of this artist. When I first saw the documentary What Remains, that is when I officially fell in love with this generous, thoughtful and sophisticated soul. Most people are also familiar with the small-minded commentary she has received for exposing her children in this way or the superficial and low-minded comments about the children’s physical attributes. A new development—to the general public, anyway—is that at least one disturbing “fan” has been obsessed with the family and pestered friends and neighbors for small personal details about the children’s lives. The frustrating thing about law enforcement is that in this kind of domestic terrorism, its hands are tied while the federal government can throw caution to the wind when pursuing its enemies in the name of national defense. Mann was fortunate to find one compassionate agent in the FBI who tried to advise her on how to handle this interloper, who never went so far as to actually step onto the property. This latest revelation comes from The New York Times Magazine article based on excerpts from a book, Hold Still: A Memoir With Photographs, being released in the coming month. Anyone interested in Mann’s story or in the complexities of children exposed to public scrutiny are encouraged to read it. Once I have assimilated this new information, Pigtails will be featuring this artist in a more thorough post. So many of Sally Mann’s decisions and experiences are relevant to the issues that Pigtails in Paint tries to address. For starters, Pip and I wanted to emphasize that obsessive and aggressive behavior of this kind is never acceptable, even when there was no malevolent intent. Mann has been very generous in sharing these intimate family moments and she, her husband and children deserved a safe place to develop and express their own humanity.

The Secret Lives of Girls: Pip—in comments and personal correspondence—has mentioned an excellent book that I have finally gotten around to. I dare say it should be required reading for any girl, woman or man who truly respects girls and women. It is called The Secret Lives of Girls by Sharon Lamb. Many authors have tried to deal with the subject of aggression and sexuality before, but Lamb so skillfully brings out the intricacies of the interaction of these two qualities and dispels myths about what is “normal”. I was able to find it in my local library, so it should be readily available to most of our readers who live in English-speaking countries. I have maintained for a long time that although children are sexual creatures, it is not of the same order as adult sexuality and any arguments promoting sexual interaction with adults are tenuous at best. Sexuality is a sensitive subject and every society has rules of proper conduct. What I found illuminating is that girls take the initiative to find ways of educating themselves so long as they do not find themselves in families or societies that are too oppressive. This plays right into gender standards—both male and female—that is causing so much of the psychic distress right now.

Pip’s Gallery: I suggested to Pip that since some of his art will be appearing on Pigtails from time to time, he should establish a gallery page so readers can examine the range of his art.  I have a few of his pieces, so in due course, I will add them.  This is the least we can do in gratitude for him given that he created this popular and flourishing site.

New Young Girl Blog: One of our readers has started his own blog that focuses on the inspirational aspects of the younger girl.  It has a literary/historical bent and broaches deep humanistic issues.  It is called Agapeta: When younger girls awaken hearts and illuminate lives; lovely title, isn’t it?

Facebook Rules: This is a short item and a reality check for internet sites and services that profess to uphold society’s standards while trying to offer maximum personal freedom. The web is supposed to optimize these possibilities and Facebook management is realizing that it is not a simple matter of having a blanket policy about content. You can read more about it here.

David Hofmann: Dream Job

David Hofmann is a photographer of girls’ dance.  He’s a commercial photographer based in Los Angeles who has worked on seven feature films, does nature photography, editorial photography and has become well known in certain circles for his characteristic photography of girls’ dance under the name “SharkCookie”.

David Hofmann, David and Friends (2014)

David Hofmann – David and Friends (2014)

David prefers to use natural light and aims for an “uncontrived” style that stands out from typical studio sessions.  He capitalizes on the natural assets of his SoCal environs, often working with the urban backdrop of LA or on seaside beaches for his shoots.

Many of David’s subjects are superstars within the world of American girls’ dance—the foremost being Maddie Ziegler who has become well-known after appearing in three of rock-star Sia’s videos, Chandelier, Elastic Heart, and Big Girls Cry.  In fact Maddie has previously been featured on Pigtails in Paint.

David and Maddie Ziegler (2013)

David Hofmann – David and Maddie Ziegler (2014)

Maddie started dancing very young with the notoriously loudmouthed and domineering Abby Lee; Abby’s dance company would later be featured on the popular American television show Dance Moms which has now run five seasons.  The success of the show rocketed not only Maddie, but several of her co-stars to relative fame and contributed greatly to the mass appeal of girls’ dance around the world.

David Hofmann - Maddie Ziegler (2013)

David Hofmann – Maddie Ziegler (2014)

Chloe Lukasiak is another of the Dance Moms stars to grace David’s lens.  She too started dancing for Abby Lee at a very young age.

David Hofmann – David and Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

David Hofmann – David and Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

Like Maddie, Chloe has also made numerous other television appearances besides Dance Moms and has performed in several music videos.

David Hofmann – Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

David Hofmann – Chloe Lukasiak (2014)

Sophia Lucia, while not a regular on Dance Moms, nevertheless made four appearances on the show.  She is arguably the most technically virtuosic of American girl dancers having won mention in the Guinness Book of World Records for performing fifty-five consecutive pirouettes.

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David Hofmann – David and Sophia Lucia (2013)

Like the other girls, Sophia has made numerous television appearances including Dancing with the Stars, Shake it Up, So You Think You Can Dance, the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and even a McDonald’s commercial.  She has her own line of dance gear marketed via “California Kisses”.

David Hofmann – Sophia Lucia (2014)

David Hofmann – Sophia Lucia (2014)

Unlike the above girls, Autumn Miller declined to participate in Dance Moms, her mother apparently rejecting the overture.  Still she has followed a similar career path, appearing on Shake it Up, Dancing with the Stars and so on; she was featured in Willow Smith’s music video Whip My Hair and various commercial and modeling gigs.  Autie too was also featured on Pigtails in Paint.

David Hofmann – David with Autumn Miller (2012)

David Hofmann – David with Autumn Miller (2012)

Although Autumn never had the television exposure some of David’s other stars did, she is perhaps the most popular and well-known in girls’ dance due to her repeated successes at Dance Nationals and her creative YouTube show, “Autie’s Freestyle Friday“.

David Hofmann – Autumn Miller (2012)

David Hofmann – Autumn Miller (2012)

While David has photographed numerous girls who dance, a few others are popular and worthy of mention.

David Hofmann – Mia Diaz (2013)

David Hofmann – Mia Diaz (2013)

Mia Diaz appeared only once on Dance Moms but is very well-known and liked in the world of girls’ dance.  Like the other girls, she began dancing as a toddler and has won oodles of dance competitions.

David Hofmann – Jordyn Jones with David’s camera (2014)

Jordyn Jones is another popular young dancer who moves in the Hollywood set.  Incidentally Jordyn has produced a series of high quality music videos showcasing her dance covering a number of current pop songs such as “Fancy“, “Lip Gloss“, and “Banji“.

David coincidentally has a young daughter himself, Avaree, who is a dancer and whom he often photographs.

David Hofmann – David and daughter Avaree (2014)

David Hofmann – David and daughter Avaree (2014)

While Avaree may not be the super star dancer that some of David’s clients are, it seems she has at least one die-hard fan!

David Hoffman – Daughter Avaree (2015)

David Hoffman – Daughter Avaree (2015)

David’s professional site can be found here and his very active Instagram account is here.  There are several behind-the-scenes videos of David’s photo shoots, one of which can be viewed here.

12 and in Love

***SPOILER ALERT***

12 and Holding was billed as a coming-of-age movie; and despite some very serious themes, it still manages to come off as a comedy with a deadpan and dark sense of humor.  Directed by Michael Cuesta, who is best known for his work on the TV shows Six Feet Under, Dexter, and Homeland, the film’s biggest star is Jeremy Renner.  Less well known is the young actress Zoe Weizenbaum who plays the determined, out-spoken and precocious Malee Chuang.  Zoe also appeared in Memoirs of a Geisha.

Dispensing with any idea that this story of twelve-year-old friends might be light, the film opens with the murder of Malee’s friend Rudy, leaving Rudy’s twin brother Jacob, who has a birth mark over half his face, Leonard, who is morbidly obese, and Malee to cope with the loss.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (1)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (1)

In the next scene, Malee is having her first period, but her mother is too busy to realize and Malee has to figure out how to use a tampon herself.  On the way to school she gloats to Leonard that she could now conceive and give birth to a child.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (2)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (2)

After the funeral, Malee stops in at her mother’s psychotherapy practice where in the waiting room she happens to meet one of her mother’s clients, Gus, a former firefighter dealing with PTSD.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (3)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (3)

Malee is smitten with Gus despite his being thirty-something years-old and she only twelve.  While hanging out with Jacob and Leonard, Malee discovers that Gus is working at a nearby construction site, which also happens to be the location of Ruby’s murder.  She resolves to make lunch for Gus and invite him to a picnic during his lunch-break.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (4)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (4)

Having had the fact of her mortality stirred by Rudy’s murder, Malee commits to living boldly.  She dares to sign up for a flute solo at her school music show, and mentioning this to Gus, he promises to attend.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (5)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (5)

In her curiosity to learn more about Gus, Malee had eavesdropped on his therapy session with her mother and discovered that a certain song figures prominently in his dreams.  This culminates in one of the comic highlights of the film as Malee plays Blue Oyster Cult’s Burning For You on the flute and then sings the lyrics in possibly one of the worst renditions of the song ever.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (6)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (6)

Gus is nonetheless extremely touched and Malee and he share a few moments together after the show.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (7)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (7)

Having fallen for Gus, Malee resolves to visit his house.  Finding that he is not at home, she happens upon the key and lets herself in.  As she snoops around Gus’s place, she uncovers a pistol, which she takes.  When Gus returns home, Malee hides under the bed, but when he goes straight into the shower and begins weeping, Malee, out of fascination, is drawn out and is tempted to comfort him but instead decides to let herself out quietly.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (8)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (8)

Concerned that her mother will find the pistol, Malee passes the weapon off to Jacob to hide.  Jacob will later use the gun to avenge the murder of his brother, and in the original version of the film, Malee returns it to Gus in the last scene.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (9)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (9)

By now Malee has decided to raise the stakes in her pursuit of Gus.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (10)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (10)

She makes herself up and joins Gus again for a lunch-break picnic; this is presumably the first time she has recognized and expressed herself as a sexual being.  Unwittingly, Gus leads Malee on when the conversation turns to sex and he is forced to admit that it was not because of the age difference that his previous relationship had failed.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (11)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (11)

Malee falls out even further with her mother.  Because she is also estranged from her father, the viewer is lead to believe that this lack of a supportive male presence in her life may be what is driving her infatuation with Gus.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (12)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (12)

Malee returns to Gus’s house a second time.  She cleans up the place, prepares dinner,  then puts on stockings and a negligee awaiting his return.  Gus is not altogether surprised to discover her in his home, having surmised that she had previously been there and well aware of her crush on him.  Gus reacts awkwardly, not wanting to destroy her, but at the same time realistically aware of the problematic nature of what is happening.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (12)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (12)

Malee is not discouraged and approaches Gus, asking him, “Don’t you like my body?” and telling him, “Touch me.”

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (13)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (13)

The two briefly come together but they do not consummate their affection.  Instead, Gus calls Malee’s mother and tells her what has been happening.  Her mother is extremely shocked to the point that she acknowledges what a poor mother she has been and Malee’s need for a male connection.  She finally agrees to take Malee to see the father she never really knew.  And for Gus, his brief but profound relationship with Malee finally brings him release from the guilt he was suffering over the death by his own hand of a little girl in a devastating fire while he was a firefighter.

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (14)

Michael Cuesta – 12 and Holding (2005) (14)

One cut of the film can be seen in full on Youtube.

The Short Life and Long Afterlife of Penelope Boothby (1785–1791)

Penelope Boothby was the daughter (and only child) of Sir Brooke Boothby (1743–1824), seventh Baronet (sixth, says Wikipedia) and of his wife Susanna (1755–1822). For her biography and cultural afterlife, I follow mainly Rosemary Mitchell’s article in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Penelope was born at Lichfield, Staffordshire (UK) on 11 April 1785. Her education was probably influenced by the theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose works her father translated into English. In July 1788, her portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds. According to Rosemary Mitchell, “Allegedly a warm relationship developed between the artist and the sitter, who disappeared from her home one day and was found at Reynolds’s house.” Her oversized bonnet earned the painting the epithet of the “Mob-Cap”. I show the scan given in the article by Roy Flukinger in Cultural Compass:

Joshua Reynolds – Penelope Boothby (1788)

Joshua Reynolds – Penelope Boothby (1788)

Penelope died on 13 March 1791 (on the 19th, says Wikipedia) at Ashbourne Hall, the family estate in Ashbourne, Derbyshire, after an illness of about a month. She was buried on the 20th at St. Oswald’s Church in Ashbourne. Mitchell says: “according to local legend her coffin was carried by six little girls, accompanied by six little boys holding umbrellas over them to keep off the rain. Her parents’ grief was life-long and devastating, and appears to have resulted in the collapse of their marriage.

Boothby devoted several years to paying a posthumous tribute to his beloved daughter. He “commissioned the artist Henry Fuseli to memorialize his daughter in a painting entitled The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby (1792).

Henry Fuseli -The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby (1792)

Henry Fuseli – The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby (1792)

Mitchell notes: “With its strong resemblance to an altarpiece, Fuseli’s work depicts a winged and elegantly clad angel sweeping down from heaven to receive an elongated Penelope, while a figure representing the daystar indicates the way upwards. On the ground, an urn and an oversized butterfly or moth serve to symbolize death, the fleeting character of human life, and the resurrection of the dead.

And that was not all: “A monument to Penelope was commissioned in 1793 from the prominent sculptor Thomas Banks. Made of Carrara marble, it depicted the little girl apparently sleeping, and carried inscriptions in English, Italian, Latin, and French, culled from the Bible, Catullus, Petrarch, and (unsurprisingly) Rousseau.” This monument lies in St. Oswald’s Church, Ashbourne.

Here is the photograph taken in 2009 by Pasquale Apone for Panoramio:

Thomas Banks - monument to Penelope Boothby (1793) (1)

Thomas Banks – monument to Penelope Boothby (1793) (1)

In the following photograph from Wikimedia Commons, one sees in the background the Memorial to John and Anne Bradbourne:

Thomas Banks - monument to Penelope Boothby (1793) (2)

Thomas Banks – monument to Penelope Boothby (1793) (2)

Here is a close-up 2006 photograph by user ‘JR P UGArdener’ on Flickr:

Thomas Banks - monument to Penelope Boothby (1793) (3)

Thomas Banks – monument to Penelope Boothby (1793) (3)

Two old-fashioned argentic black & white photographs by F. H. Crossley are available on the website of the The Courtauld Institute of Art, London, see references B47/2057 and B47/3058.

In 1796, Brooke Boothby published a collection of sonnets expressing his grief: Sorrows. Sacred to the Memory of Penelope. According to Mitchell, some reviews were “measured but sympathetic”, but another stressed the “sameness and insipidity of sound” of the sonnets. Indeed, eight of these poems are reproduced on Sonnet Central, and I find them moving, but far from exceptional.

Sir Brooke Boothby lived in an extravagant way and finally became ruined. Ashbourne Hall was leased in 1814, then Boothby settled in Boulogne in 1815 and died there in 1824.

As says Mitchell: “Penelope Boothby’s cultural afterlife did not end with her father’s poetical tribute.” Several artists emulated Penelope’s portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. I show two 19th century mezzotint prints downloaded from the National Portrait Gallery (references NPG D21649 and NPG D31993, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0):

James Scott, after Joshua Reynolds - Penelope Boothby (1850-1880)

James Scott, after Joshua Reynolds – Penelope Boothby (1850-1880)

Samuel Cousins, after Joshua Reynolds - Penelope Boothby (1874)

Samuel Cousins, after Joshua Reynolds – Penelope Boothby (1874)

Then “Reynolds’s portrait served as the inspiration for John Everett Millais’s Cherry Ripe (1879), which was a portrait of Edie Ramage, who had attended a fancy-dress ball in that year dressed as Penelope.” I show here the reproduction given in Pip’s article Cherry Ripe! Pt. 1:

John Everett Millais – Cherry Ripe (1879)

John Everett Millais – Cherry Ripe (1879)

Mitchell continues: “Three years earlier the photographer and writer Lewis Carroll had taken two pictures of his favourite model, Xie (Alexandria) Kitchin, dressed as Penelope Boothby—one in which she is sitting down and one with her standing against a minimalist background.” I reproduce these two photographs from the article by Roy Flukinger in Cultural Compass; as one sees, Xie wears the same mittens and “Mob-Cap” as Penelope in Reynolds’s painting:

Charles L. Dodgson - Xie Kitchin as Penelope Boothby, seated (1875-1876)

Charles L. Dodgson – Xie Kitchin as Penelope Boothby, seated (1875-1876)

Charles L. Dodgson - Xie Kitchin as Penelope Boothby, standing (1875-1876)

Charles L. Dodgson – Xie Kitchin as Penelope Boothby, standing (1875-1876)

Rosemary Mitchell concludes:

“The parental and artistic response in the 1790s to Penelope Boothby’s untimely death reveals the impact of Romantic ideas on constructions of childhood as a period separate from adulthood, and blessed with innocence and openness to natural and spiritual truths. It also illustrates the effect of Romanticism on perceptions of death, as the memorials to Penelope reflect an increasingly individualized and partially secularized response to the experience of loss. The later Victorian appropriation of Reynolds’s image of the living Penelope reveals both the intensification of the cult of childhood in the nineteenth century and a nostalgia for the apparently simple and rural world of pre-industrial Georgian England.”

References:

  • Rosemary Mitchell: ‘Boothby, Penelope (1785–1791)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, May 2010; online edition, Jan 2011. (The online version is available only to registered users or subscribing institutions.)
  • Roy Flukinger: ‘For his most famous child portrait, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) drew inspiration from an eighteenth-century painting’, Cultural Compass, The Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin.

Update: a new transcription of three other sonnets from Boothby’s Sorrows.

Album Cover Art – Spring 2015 Edition

It’s time to post some girl-related album art again, and let’s start with a couple from Finnish symphonic metal band Nightwish.  These are both single covers, and the first is a beautifully illustrated image for a fantastic but melancholy song called Eva (originally from the album Dark Passion Play) about a mistreated little girl who runs away from home.  In the image, we can see the girl is wearing a period costume from late 19th or early 20th century.  She stands on her front lawn at night, carrying only a few meager belongings and looking back at the home she is about to leave, perhaps forever.  It’s a lonely image for a sad song.  Poor Eva.

Artist Unknown - Nightwish - Eva (single cover) (2007)

Artist Unknown – Nightwish – Eva (single cover) (2007)

Oh, and if you’d like to hear the song itself, you can check it out here.  I find it quite moving myself.  And the lyrics are here.

The next image is for the song Ever Dream, which was released before the album it would appear on, Century Child.  In this case, however, the cover art for the single release has little to do with the content of the song.  It’s just a nice romanticized image of a little girl.

Artist Unknown - Nightwish - Ever Dream (single cover)

Artist Unknown – Nightwish – Ever Dream (single cover)

This next cover image is one of my favorites that I’ve encountered over the last several months.  It’s from the band Royal Bliss, and the album is called Waiting Out the Storm.  The cover image artfully references The Wizard of Oz, as well as featuring some really lovely border art that recalls Constructivist poster designs.

Artist Unknown - Royal Bliss - Waiting Out the Storm (cover)

Artist Unknown – Royal Bliss – Waiting Out the Storm (cover)

Artist Unknown - Royal Bliss - Waiting Out the Storm (cover) (detail)

Artist Unknown – Royal Bliss – Waiting Out the Storm (cover) (detail)

The next cover design I’m fairly certain comes from Jugend originally, but I do not know which issue or who the artist is.  I just thought it was a lovely composition.  The band is Tangemeenie and the album is The Gilded Age.  Beyond that I know nothing about it.

Artist Unknown - Tangemeenie - The Gilded Age (cover)

Artist Unknown – Tangemeenie – The Gilded Age (cover)

And here is another stunning album cover design, this time for Wild Child‘s album The Runaround.  A nice use of digital photocollage here.

Artist Unknown - Wild Child - The Runaround (cover) (2013)

Artist Unknown – Wild Child – The Runaround (cover) (2013)

Here are a couple from female singer Tei Shi.  The first cover image—for Tei Shi’s rendition of Beyoncé‘s No Angel—looks to be a simple family snapshot of Tei Shi herself as a child, possibly in a Halloween costume or some sort of ballet outfit.  I love her tutu!  I have never seen one with that color combination before.  The cover itself has no text.

Photographer Unknown - Tei Shi - No Angel (single cover)

Photographer Unknown – Tei Shi – No Angel (single cover)

This second image is for Tei Shi’s single M&Ms and also seems to be a childhood snapshot of the singer herself, this time in a swimsuit and painted face and holding a bunch of balloons.  A birthday party photo perhaps?

Photographer Unknown - Tei Shi - M&Ms (single cover)

Photographer Unknown – Tei Shi – M&Ms (single cover)

Now here’s a classic!  This is the cover of the Rolling Stones album It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll, which came out in 1974.  The design is a photocollage where the artist, after completing the collage,  then went and hand-painted over the photos.  I’m guessing the little girls came from photos taken at one of Isadora Duncan’s dance schools.  The costumes are right at any rate, and notice the poses of the girls in the bottom left-hand corner and compare it with this image.  There’s something oddly suggestive about this image, hinting that the Rollings Stones have sex appeal to females of all ages, including little girls.

Artist Unknown - The Rolling Stones - It's Only Rock 'n Roll (cover) (1974)

Artist Unknown – The Rolling Stones – It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll (cover) (1974)

Here’s one I’ve been meaning to share for ages and just never quite got to it.  But here it is now.  This is the cover image for The Enchanter Persuaded album by Sinoia Caves (a.k.a. Jeremy Schmidt), an electronica musician.  I quite like this album, especially the songs Through the Valley and Evil Ball.

Artist Unknown - Sinoia Caves - The Enchanter Persuaded (cover)

Artist Unknown – Sinoia Caves – The Enchanter Persuaded (cover)

Last but not least, here we have the cover for Little Dragon‘s Nabuma Rubberband.  Little Dragon is an electronica band from Sweden.  This is a great cover, very dynamic.

Artist Unknown - Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband (cover)

Artist Unknown – Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband (cover)

Porcelain Dolls

A traditional craft in some parts of Germany and in neighboring regions such as Alsace is the making of dolls whose head, neck, forearms and lower legs are in porcelain. Often their facial features are painted by hand, and nice dolls have their eyes in painted glass, with eyelashes attached to the eyelids. The rest of the body, being covered by clothes, usually consists of padded tissue.

Dolls can be found in various styles. Some resemble young women and look a bit like Barbie, while others represent babies or toddlers. But the classical model is the “romantic” doll, a 9-year-old girl dressed in Victorian style with a robe going down just under the knees, bloomers covering the legs and high laced boots; they generally have long hair, often with plaits. The price varies according to size and quality, but you can count 150€ (about $159 US) for a good quality 60cm doll.

In order to make them stand upright, one fastens around their waist a metallic holder attached to a wooden base. Under the base of the ones I have, there is a warning label:

Purely decorative item. Not suitable as a toy for children!

Indeed, porcelain dolls are a gift for adults, not for children. Adult fans will collect them, cherishing and admiring each one.

I will present here photographs of my dolls as they stand in their “natural environment” inside my apartment. I start with one that I bought second-hand in a flea market in Brussels at the end of the eighties. It is not particularly beautiful, her eyes are just painted, but her pale lunar appearance imparts to her some mystery and for a long time I fancied her having magical powers. She sits next to my CDs and DVDs.

doll1BrusselsI have another old doll of a similar style, which I bought last year in a second-hand shop in Strasbourg. She reminded me that a second-hand doll is sometimes like a neglected child, left alone in a dusty place, who needs care. To make her pretty again, I had to wash her robe and bloomers, brush her face and hands with a soap-covered toothbrush, shampoo her hair then untangle them individually (a comb is too hard). Now she sits as a shy girl in an old chair on a small table next to a big dresser.

doll2OldMy other dolls were new ones bought in a souvenir shop. I show first the “twins”. I bought them the same day, they are the same size (32cm) and they stand facing each other in a showcase. I like the quite modern pink clothes of the second one; they give her a very sensual look.

doll3Blue doll4PinkThe next one (40cm without the hat), my latest acquisition, is special because her face looks more like that of a 5-year-old.

doll5BabyMy sixth doll (42cm without the cap), standing over my writing desk, has quite rustic clothes but her deep eyes captivate me sometimes.

doll6GreenThe next one (49cm without the hat) is in my bedroom. Look into her eyes; she seems so serious!

doll7BedroomI end with my two big ones. First a gorgeous redhead (58cm without the hat) with a beautiful robe covered with flowers; as it fits, she stands over a marble table.

doll8RedheadAnd now for my biggest and favorite (60cm). Her grey clothes are modest, but her face and smile ravish me, especially with her head slightly tilted to the right. Her hairstyle is very original, she has short hair overall, with two long plaits on each side; notice also the long side-locks in front of her ears, exactly like the “payot” worn by orthodox Jewish men and boys. She stands next to my computer and guards me when I am communicating or blogging through the Internet.

doll9PayotHere is a close-up of her beautiful face.

dollPayot-headCollecting dolls requires patience. Often one finds some whose face or smile is not engaging, or whose hands look crooked. A careful examination, especially of the porcelain parts, is necessary before purchasing it.

Southern Blossoms: Pati Bannister

Pati Bannister (1929–2013) was born in London and knew at a young age that she wanted to be an artist. By age 13, she was already illustrating books.

“I started drawing as soon as I could hold a crayon. My mother saved some of my work done when I was two in a family album. My father was one of England’s most noted artists. I was surrounded by creativity, and drawing and painting were an integral part of my life…Yet I knew I didn’t want to do real portraits all my life, I wanted to do faces I imagined…”

She emigrated to the United States in 1952 and became an American citizen. In the late 50s, she moved to Florida where she met and married Glynn Bannister who recognized her talent. He not only encouraged her to pursue her art, but used his business acumen to help her become commercially successful. Her earliest efforts were in New Orleans then the couple settled in Gulfport, Mississippi where the artist painted and made bronze sculptures in a studio overlooking a bird sanctuary and beach. Due to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, Bannister shut down her studio and retired from the print market in 2006. Her originals were once housed at the now defunct Teri Galleries in Metairie, Louisiana and it is not known if they will be made available again for public viewing.

Bannister painted girls and women exclusively using acrylics, oil and pastels, but her favorite medium was egg tempera. As an avid seamstress, she paid special attention to the detail of her subjects’ clothing. She did not use live models, claiming that when she got an idea, she could visualize it as a finished color painting. However she did make use of real backgrounds and props from her personal collection. Her fondness for flowers is unmistakable and specimens from her own garden also served as models. She said she always kept an eye out for some interesting item she could use in a future painting. She successfully captured the essence of the Southern sensibility and her girls and young women offer us an idyllic dream of beauty. However, one cannot help but feel that, under the surface, there is a seething desire to be liberated from the pretty constraints of the Southern Belle. Bannister’s work has been featured many times on the covers of magazines and gallery catalogs.

“The arts are our humanity. Without the arts we are just animals; that is what makes us different.”

Pati Bannister - Chapter One (1989)

Pati Bannister – Chapter One (1989)

Pati Bannister - The Dollhouse (1992)

Pati Bannister – The Dollhouse (1992)

Pati Bannister - Enchanted Evening (1998)

Pati Bannister – Enchanted Evening (1998)

Pati Bannister - The Swing (1999)

Pati Bannister – The Swing (1999)

Pati Bannister - Scent of Summer (2001)

Pati Bannister – Scent of Summer (2001)

Pati Bannister - Swan Lake (2002)

Pati Bannister – Swan Lake (2002)

Pati Bannister - Dogwood (2003)

Pati Bannister – Dogwood (2003)

Pati Bannister - Peony (2004)

Pati Bannister – Peony (2004)

Bannister was a prolific artist and her prints can be readily found advertised on the secondary market.