The Little Girl in Mark Ryden

The first thing someone might be interested to know about Mark Ryden is that in the 90s when he was still working as a commercial artist, years before he was to became “the grandfather of pop-surrealism”, he was acquainted with Michael Jackson and did the album cover for Dangerous. Mark is unfortunately mum about the time they spent together.

Mark Ryden - album cover Michael Jackson's "Dangerous" (1991)

Mark Ryden – album cover Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” (1991)

Ten years later, Mark was on a new career path. Having shifted from commercial to fine art, he rose to Art World superstar—selling his paintings for six figures and his exploits followed by celebrities like Nicholas Cage, Leonardo DiCaprio and Johnny Depp.

“His work had become increasingly popular through mass exposure, particularly in the Low Brow Art publications HI-FRUCTOSE and Juxtapoz.” (Joseph R. Givens, LOWBROW ART.)

Mark Ryden - Incarnation (2010); Magazine Cover "Juxtapoz" December '11

Mark Ryden – Incarnation (2010); Magazine Cover “Juxtapoz” December ’11

Lowbrow Art emerged in the 70s and its unofficial spokesman is Robert Williams, who coined the phrase. But by the late 90s the movement was splitting in two. In one camp were the loud, sarcastic, anti-establishment originators while in the other were a new breed of artist who painted with exacting technique, referenced the Old Masters and began to appear in major galleries, being accepted by the canon. The term “Pop Surrealism” was first used by the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum for their 1998 show. Mark, and others like him, who had been educated by the very artists the early Lowbrow artists rejected, brought figurative art back to the fine art scene for nearly the first time since Abstract Expressionism had wiped it out almost a century ago.

Mark Ryden - Instagram; Queen Bee (2013)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; Queen Bee (2013)

Mark Ryden names as his own classical artistic inspirations: David, Ingres, Bougereau, and Bronzino. (BL!SSS Magazine) Girl art fans will realize that Bougereau painted Before the Bath, The Little Thief, The Nut Gatherers and so on, while Bronzino immortalized Bia de’ Medici. Contemporary artists who inspired Mark include Marion Peck, James Rosenquist, Loretta Lux, Ana Bagayan, Julie Heffernan, John Currin, Darren Waterston, Neo Rauch—and maybe not surprisingly: Balthus. (Brian Sherwin, Fanny Giniès, HI-FRUCTOSE, The World Observer)

Marion Peck is none other than Mark’s ex-wife. They were powerfully inspired by one another.

Marion Peck - Peaceful Slumber (2007)

Marion Peck – Peaceful Slumber (2007)

The same clean, cutesy sentimentality often pervades both their paintings.

Mark Ryden - Awakening the Moon (2010)

Mark Ryden – Awakening the Moon (2010)

Mark attributes his deep realizations about philosophy to Marion, “he had been asleep; his spirituality was ‘isolated, and…progressed slowly’ before they met.” (Amanda Erlanson, Juxtapoz, 2011)

Mark Ryden - The Apology (2007)

Mark Ryden – The Apology (2007)

Not a few of Mark’s little girls on wood panels are reminiscent of another artist who graced the covers of HI-FRUCTOSE and Juxtapoz: Audrey Kawasaki.

Mark Ryden - Oak Tree Nymph (2006)

Mark Ryden – Oak Tree Nymph (2006)

Or from this series painted on wood slabs:

Mark Ryden - Girl Color Study (2006)

Mark Ryden – Girl Color Study (2006)

Mark is trying to evoke wonder. His paintings are laden with metaphysical allusions and all sorts of things which are puzzling and ponderous: Cyrillic and Chinese script, numerology, religious iconography, meat and little girls and on and on. Of meat, Mark explains, “it’s dualistic: it’s just a packaged product, and at the same time it is a symbol of the other side, meat is our living avatar in the world.”

Mark Ryden - The Meat Train (2000)

Mark Ryden – The Meat Train (2000)

But Mark’s signature inspiration, which gives his work it’s idiomatic style, is swap-meet junk: kitsch, sentimental, nostalgic, melodramatic camp such as figurines of Jesus and Abraham Lincoln, big eyed bobble-headed dolls, old toys, and taxidermied animals. Mark’s flea-market finds define his painting—a regular cast of which appear in nearly every one of his works.

Mark Ryden - The Piano Player (2010)

Mark Ryden – The Piano Player (2010)

Mark has also been influenced and inspired by his daughter Rosie.

Eric Minh Swenson - Marion, Mark, and daughter Rosie (2014)

Eric Minh Swenson – Marion, Mark, and daughter Rosie (2014)

He included Rosie in many of his paintings, one of which later appeared on the cover of HI-FRUCTOSE.

HI-FRUCTOSE Vol.3 - Mark Ryden - Rosie's Tea Party (2006)

HI-FRUCTOSE Vol.3 – Mark Ryden – Rosie’s Tea Party (2005)

“I photographed my daughter Rosie for the Tea Party painting several years ago. It was the first time she ever modeled for me. She took to it with unbelievable skill even at the age of three. Now she is almost eight and she still loves to pose for me. I usually have a sketch that she imitates. She instinctively understands the expression and gesture needed for a pose. I use her as a model even when the figure is not going to be a likeness of her. The little girl in Rosie’s Tea Party is an actual portrait of her. It is fun to have her face in the painting but it is more difficult and very different creatively than the faces I invent. Rosie enjoys being in my art. She and Jasper (my son) seem to understand my art better than many adults. They respond to it instinctively and they don’t over intellectualize it. Unlike adults they don’t get stuck, they just experience it. Children in general respond well to my art. I feel I have been successful when a child is captivated by one of my paintings.”  (Annie Owens, HI-FRUCTOSE, 2006.)

Mark Ryden - Instagram; Meat Dancer (2011)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; Meat Dancer (2011)

Mark sees a special relationship between children and art and has often mused on the topic:

“One of my favorite quotes is by Picasso: ‘All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’ I think this is very true. When making art, children can be so much more imaginative than adults. I think a quality that defines many successful artists is that they never lose a sense of wonder of the amazing world around us. I think it comes rather automatically when one is young.” (Nate Pollard, Verbiside Magazine, 2013.)

“It is only in childhood that contemporary society truly allows for imagination. Children can see a world ensouled, where bunnies weep and bees have secrets, where ‘inanimate’ objects are alive. Many people think that childhood’s world of imagination is silly, unworthy of serious consideration, something to be outgrown.”  (Artist Statement – “Wondertoonel”, 2004.)

“Children have no inhibitions when making their art. I’ve never seen my 4 year old son have a creative block; and his art is much more interesting than most adult’s art. Children are miraculous.”  (Artist Statement – “The Meat Show”, 1998.)

Mark Ryden - Instagram; The Creatix (2005)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; The Creatix (2005)

Children appear often in Mark Ryden’s artwork, but it is especially female children—little girls, who haunt his canvases and sketch pads.

Mark Ryden - Saint Barbie (1994)

Mark Ryden – Saint Barbie (1994)

Mark talks plainly and directly about the value he puts on the feminine and of the danger of ignoring it:

“As you look back into what has gone on in western civilization, you can see that patriarchy has been the cause of much strife and suffering in our world. It is the masculine dynamic that has caused our society to place money and corporate profit above human beings. It has allowed the earth to be viewed only as a commodity to be exploited. The feminine perspective sees things differently. She sees the earth and all its inhabitants as entities to be revered and cared for. She sees individual human beings as more important than the relentless advance of capitalism and competition. It is my hope, perhaps indirectly expressed in my work, that the divine feminine is reawakening.” (Gachman, Interview Magazine.)

One critic, Elliott David, has suggested likewise of the little girl in Mark Ryden, “Hidden in these girls’ oversized eyes is the imperialism and the blood of heritage aristocracy, a sort of false innocence that might imply evil but is really coy subversiveness lurking within.”

Mark Ryden - sketch for Pine Tree Nymph (2006)

Mark Ryden – sketch for Pine Tree Nymph (2006)

Mark is himself mostly elusive about the meaning of the little girl in his work:

“There are many symbolic meanings in my art that I myself am not necessarily conscious of.  The most powerful meanings in art come from another source outside an artist’s own literal consciousness. To me, tapping into this world is the key to making the most interesting art. Some people find my refusal to explain everything in my work deeply dissatisfying. They can’t stand mystery.”  (Joseph R. Givens, LOWBROW ART.)

Or, “I like for viewers of my paintings to feel presence of meaning and story but I like for them to come up with their own interpretations. I think if I explain too much of a painting away the painting loses a sense of mystery and curiosity.” (Kitty Mead, Art Beat Street.)

Mark Ryden - Sophia's Bubbles (2008)

Mark Ryden – Sophia’s Bubbles (2008)

While Amanda Erlanson observed that, “Languid girls who exude both a doll-like innocence and a knowing sensuality appear in nearly every painting”; none-the-less, when asked by Maxwell Williams: “[a]nother leitmotif of your paintings are young girls. Why do you feel your world is populated by these waifish little girls, and how did this evolve?” Mark replied, “A lot of people can’t get past the sexual part of a girl. For me, there’s truly nothing sexual at all.” (Juxtapoz, Hollywood Reporter.)
Mark Ryden - from "Pinxit" (2011); The Long Yak (2008)

Mark Ryden – from “Pinxit” (2011); The Long Yak (2008)

Mark is so coy about the meaning of the little girl in his work because she is mysterious to him too.  He says, “I’ve had to think about that myself and work backwards.  My wife actually said something really funny, and I think she’s right, in that they’re sort of self-portraits. They’re anima figures; they’re soul figures…They’re sort of everybody. They’re you when you’re looking at the painting.”

Marion Peck expands on the little girl as self-portrait idea, “each of the girls Mark paints is in one sense a self-portrait. In his paintings, the anima manifests as Sophia—the muse, the fount of creativity, and the goddess of wisdom.” (Amanda Erlanson, Juxtapoz, 2011.)

Mark Ryden - Allegory of the Four Elements (2006)

Mark Ryden – Allegory of the Four Elements (2006)

But not everyone loves the little girls in Mark Ryden.  Robert Williams satirized them in a drawing in which the cartoon girl’s head is so big she can’t hold it up; Joseph R. Givens explains, “Mocking Ryden’s sentimental themes, Williams drew a banner above the melancholy figure with the words “caring, nurturing, fawning.” As a slight to Ryden’s childlike persona, Williams signed his drawing “Bobbie Wms.””

Robert Williams - Pop Surrealism (2011)

Robert Williams – Pop Surrealism (2011)

Meanwhile, it’s hard to imagine what is actually anti-establishment as opposed to conformist about Robert Williams’s pornographic ultra-violence.  Sexualization of women, callousness and blood are almost the most monotonous things someone could paint, perfectly instep with the patriarchy.  Elliott David’s perception that the girl in Mark Ryden “is really coy subversiveness” of “imperialism” is a keen one.  Mark’s work and his portrayal of the little girl is personally vulnerable, sensitive, and touching—precious qualities to be sure.

Mark Ryden - Yak Dream (2008)

Mark Ryden – Yak Dream (2008)

Pip Starr did a post on Mark Ryden a couple years back as well so visit here to see more.  It includes a closeup of the girl in the Dangerous poster and a couple of interesting comments. -Ron

Mark Ryden’s personal site

Crying Over Spilt Camera: Ève Morcrette

While investigating new leads in a French publication discussing the modern portrayal of girls, I came across an image I had initially mistaken as that of Eva Ionesco. A colleague of mine corrected my misperception and told me the girl’s name was Elsa and that an entire book, Elsa (1999),  was devoted to her childhood, lovingly documented by her aunt, Ève Morcrette.

Ève Morcrette - Rue François-Miron (1990)

Ève Morcrette – Rue François-Miron (1990)

The book is a visual tale, interspersed with poetry, of a developing relationship and obsession in which Morcrette bonded with her little niece. Like many such endeavors, the artist got the opportunity to examine and relive her own childhood vicariously through Elsa, as though she were watching a version of her own sister from the past. The work appears to have developed in two stages. First, Morcrette found herself chasing Elsa, camera at the ready, sometimes coaxing her to cooperate by inventing some game or other. In those early days, she recalls taking pictures surreptitiously, hiding behind bushes and whatnot, hoping to catch a precious shot. One will notice how many of the early images are a blur of action and sometimes Morcrette was simply not fast enough to capture it.

Ève Morcrette - Rue Perdonnet (1986)

Ève Morcrette – Rue Perdonnet (1986)

Ève Morcrette - La Vallée (1985)

Ève Morcrette – La Vallée (1985)

Ève Morcrette - Le Ninian (1984)

Ève Morcrette – Le Ninian (1984)

At some point, Elsa, being self-conscious about fitting in with other kids, refused to let her aunt take any more pictures of her for a year. However, after that, a new collaboration emerged and Elsa began to take an active role in the production by handling the equipment, setting up the staging, choosing the costumes and helping with the lighting.

Ève Morcrette - La Ville-Bizeul (1993)

Ève Morcrette – La Ville-Bizeul (1993)

Ève Morcrette - Rue Cavé (1989)

Ève Morcrette – Rue Cavé (1989)

One memorable incident brought to light how the photographic sessions became an integral part of their personal bond. By accident,‭ Elsa dropped Morcrette’s ‬Leica camera, breaking it. When the impact of what had happened hit them, they found themselves embracing each other and weeping bitterly over the incident.

Given the personal nature of this exploration, it is surprising that virtually no biographical information can be found on Morcrette, except for her artistic accolades. It would be reasonable to say that she was probably born around 1960 in or around Paris, France. Elsa was born in July 1980, but Morcrette was not compelled to start photographing her until 1983—her first picture taken next to the living room window in an apartment in Paris.

Later, Elsa had a little brother, Alix. When he got old enough, he began to resent his aunt’s lavish attention on Elsa and would mischievously hide her equipment, much to her distress. Morcrette regrets the anger she expressed during those times, which often brought her to tears. Another important addition to the family was a tabby cat named Duchess and so in those later years, pictures of Alix and Duchess also began to appear.

Ève Morcrette - Avec Alix. Ruillé-sur-Loir (1997)

Ève Morcrette – Avec Alix. Ruillé-sur-Loir (1997)

Morcrette exposed Elsa to culture, sometimes taking her on trips to Britain. In 1998, the work concluded and Elsa moved on to the next chapter of her life—going to school to study film and falling in love. The artist got a number of awards for her work, but it should never be forgotten that both photographer and model worked together to create this work, acting as mirrors of each other through time.

Ève Morcrette - La Ville-Bizeul (1996)

Ève Morcrette – La Ville-Bizeul (1996)

Ève Morcrette official site

Alpha Girls and Secret Agents

It occurred to me after working on Pigtails in Paint for a short time that it was too easy for people to regard the appeal of little girls as a superficial exploration. I knew in my heart that there was some unspoken importance to this phenomenon, but that it would be hard for the general public to take it seriously. I decided to make a conscious effort to include more overtly socially-relevant posts, starting with ‘The “V” Word’. Naturally, Pigtails was not going to shy away from the more intimate, charming and controversial expressions of little girls, but I did not want it to be just another showcase of eye-candy.

Little did I realize that after the posting of ‘State-of-the-Art Exploitation’, there would be an almost unending series of serious issues involving little girls—and by extension, women. I have recently discovered a number of university lectures that can be viewed online by Professor Sut Jhally of the University of Massachusetts (Amherst). Jhally’s work makes me think of where I might be in the years to come. Like me, he has been a prolific reader and viewer of documentaries. Because he watches and analyzes the media intensely, he has an amazing collection of images and videos—some of which he helped produce—that he uses to illustrate his talks. His expanding contribution to the analysis of the modern market economy and how it influences our culture is too great to cover here, so readers can expect me to make periodic ongoing references to Jhally’s scholarship.

One of the most shocking revelations has to do specifically with little girls—what marketers refer to as “tween girls”. I already mentioned in ‘State of the Art Exploitation’ that one of the most important markets is children, but until now, I had not realized that it was the most important market. Children influence the purchasing choices of adults amounting to over $300 billion per year. With the advent of television, marketers began to realize that they could have exclusive access to a malleable and influential demographic. Saturday morning and after school shows began to advertise toys and other products for children. Of particular concern was the ubiquitous presence of unhealthy sugary cereals in targeted programming. In response, Action for Children’s Television (ACT), established in 1968, began to petition the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action about this distressing exploitation of the most naive members of our society. In 1977, the FTC proposed some seemingly reasonable guidelines, but the powerful food industry fought back hard and through its influence turned the FTC into the impotent agency it is today. What few concessions might have been made to ACT evaporated during the Reagan Administration’s mania for deregulation. A powerful illustration of the importance of little girls in market analysis is a program called the Girls Intelligence Agency. A special news report on this organization was aired on CBS—some of which can be seen in a film called Consuming Kids (2008).

Kim Kennedy - from CBS's Born to Buy? (c2005)

It is remarkable to think that billions in marketing dollars are spent on the decisions girls as young as 8 make. On the surface, this may seem empowering to girls, but when analyzed carefully, the fact is that companies are just using these girls as a relatively cheap source—cheap for the research companies, not their clients—of market research.  As shocking as this development may seem, there are companies that do something called ethnographic research where psychologists essentially stalk—with parental consent and compensation—children to observe how they interact with products, even following them into the bathroom to note their behavior during bathing or showering! An excellent book on the modern paradigm of children’s marketing is Born to Buy (2005) by Juliet B. Schor. Schor also adds that although the parents of the alpha girl sign a permission form and are aware of the nature of the event and are compensated, none of the guests are.  Any time your little girl is invited to a large slumber party, you may want to double-check what is really going on.

Also of great relevance is Jhally’s analysis of gender roles in society. Particularly, the escalating portrayals of masculinity offer some clues to the latest hysteria about child nudity and sexuality and readers can expect some of these points to appear in future posts as well.

Relevant Sut Jhally lectures here, here and here
Official Sut Jhally website
Media Education Foundation (MEF) videos website


Phan Thị Kim Phúc

Kim Phúc led the ordinary life of a little girl in the village of Trảng Bàng in the southern part of Vietnam. Then suddenly in 1972 she became a tragic icon of the cruel war that ravaged her country. On June 8th, South Vietnamese planes dropped napalm bombs on her village. Kim Phúc was badly burned and she tore off her burning clothes. Associated Press photographer Nick Ut took several pictures of the group of fleeing villagers, in particular one centered on that little girl running naked and screaming in terror and pain; in fact, she was screaming “too hot, too hot!”


Nick Ut – (untitled) (1972)

This image was so shocking that U.S. President Richard Nixon at first doubted its authenticity. It was used in anti-war posters and contributed to the movement for the withdrawal of the United States from Vietnam. It also won Nick Ut the Pulitzer Prize.

Less well-known is the film shot by British television cameraman Alan Downes for the British ITN news service. In it, one can see the horrible burns left by napalm with the skin peeling off on large parts of the body. Here are two pictures from that film, showing Kim Phúc’s burned and peeling skin. One also sees the reporter Christopher Wain giving her water and pouring some over her burns.


Alan Downes (1972) (1)


Alan Downes (1972) (2)

Later Kim Phúc was used by the government of a reunified Vietnam as a propaganda symbol. She finally settled in Canada with her husband.

According to an article in the Inquisition 21st century website, AP was at first reluctant to publish Ut’s photograph because of the little girl’s frontal nudity and one of its editors even rejected it. But finally it was wisely decided that an exception should be made because of the news value of the picture. However no close-up of Kim Phúc alone would be transmitted.

Since then this picture, because of its fame, has defied the U.S. ban on pictures of childhood nudity and nobody tried to censor it. However, the same cannot be said of the ITN pictures; here is an edition where Kim Phúc’s flat chest is hidden by a black rectangle.


Alan Downes (censored version) (1972)

As noted in the article mentioned above and the comment attached to it, this shows the grotesque and obscene mind of the censors, who are shocked not so much by the horrible napalm burns, but by the idea that the pre-pubescent chest of a nine-year-old girl could be viewed as “sexual”.

Phan Thị Kim Phúc Wikipedia page

Kim Phúc Interview

Badge of Honor

I discovered the incredible story of photographer Wyatt Neumann I felt had to be shared to expose the ignorant nature of an uninformed and, frankly, brainwashed populace who would verbally condemn a father for images he shared online of his young daughter.  Even more noteworthy is Mr. Neumann’s response to his attackers—fighting back with grace and facts and with the very images he was so maligned for posting.

The Safari, NYC - (untitled) (2014)

The Safari, NYC – (untitled) (2014)

“These compelling images of children, taken by their father, have been scrutinized and censored by conservatives who deemed them pornography. Along with the images will be the statements made by these people, people who hide behind the cloak of Internet, attacking real people from a veil of anonymity. This work unintentionally documents censorship in the Information Age, an issue we are just beginning to understand.”  -KP Lawless, Safari Gallery

“In my photographs, some people see innocence and beauty, while others see only sexual victimization and violence. It’s an interesting lesson in the power of fear and fundamentalism, and the aggression that it can spawn. It’s also a mirror that we can look at and see ourselves looking back. It’s a chance to decide how we want to view the world, and to decide what kind of world we want to create. For ourselves, our futures, and the future we leave for our children.”  -Wyatt Neumann

Wyatt Neumann, (Untitled) (2014)

Wyatt Neumann, (Untitled) (2014)

Learn more about this story in this Huffington Post article and from The Safari Gallery in New York which exhibited his work using one of the narrow-minded comments he received as a badge of honor: “I feel sorry for your children.”

Particularly moving is a short video on YouTube about Mr. Neumann, the knee-jerk hysteria that ensued and the support which came from other families with children.

[September 23, 2014] A number of readers expressed an interest in seeing more of the Neumann images and another was kind enough to offer a selection from the book.  With each image I will state Neumann’s comment, then the rude comment published in the book, then mine.  Neumann’s handle is #dadlife.  -Ron

Neumann: here you go: a not-so-rare sighting of not-so-elusive wild stella in her not-so-natural habitat. (at Navajo Nation, AZ)

Commenter: One photo where his daughter was crouched naked on the highway in the middle of the desert, looking like a feral cat.  The look on her face is disturbing.

Me: What I find disturbing (and I think I can speak for Rousseau as well) is that some grown-ups are so spiritually bereft that they cannot enjoy and appreciate the animal spirits of very young children.

Wyatt Neumann - from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (1)

Wyatt Neumann – from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (1)

Neumann: Swan Song.

Commenter: It’s not just his daughter he’s exploiting, either. He has one of his son where he’s throwing him up in the air, naked, with his penis flying.

Me: Unmitigated Joy. (and a great shot to boot!)

Wyatt Neumann - from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (2)

Wyatt Neumann – from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (2)

Neumann: everything good in the world lives within the eyes of my children.

Commenter: Every good thing you are and every good thing you do is cancelled out by the fact that you exploit your children.  You truly have no right to do this to them.

Me: Every good parent should be lucky enough to have such a tender and candid shot of their child.

Wyatt Neumann - from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (3)

Wyatt Neumann – from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (3)

Neumann: definition of true happiness: driving down the highway with all the windows rolled down, cranking “out of the blue” by julian casablancas and singing at the top of my lungs to my screaming and giggling baby girl… ❤❤❤

Commenter: He’s such a passive aggressive little diva.  #dadlife? More like #douchelife

Me: It’s called being irreverent (and more unmitigated self-expression on Stella’s part).  We could use a little more of that in our society.  Shouldn’t he at least be given credit for securing her properly in a child seat?

Wyatt Neumann - from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (4)

Wyatt Neumann – from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (4)

This image appears with no text and falls on the copyright page.  I’m surprised there was not some comment condemning this community for allowing a half-naked child to be in their midst.

Wyatt Neumann - from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (5)

Wyatt Neumann – from I Feel Sorry for your Children (2014) (5)

Out of the Inkpot: Oyari Ashito

Many years ago, I worked at a print shop for some extra holiday income. I can’t remember how the subject came up, but another young man there introduced me to the new phenomenon of Japanese anime/manga. One of the earliest incarnations of this new formula was Sailor Moon. Not knowing much about biology, psychology or art history, the peculiar exaggerations of the characters’ features seemed unremarkable to me. I was amused to learn that though the animated program had targeted little girls, it was middle-aged men who were the most rabid fans.

Later, I did learn more about science and the humanities and now understand more about the unconscious appeal the characters have on the male mind. I took no further notice of anime until perhaps five years ago when I spotted a book called GIRLS AD2008 TOKYO (2003) by Oyari Ashito. This image appeared on the cover.

Oyari Ashito - In Dark Red (2001)

Oyari Ashito – In Dark Red (2001)

Unlike those in the past, these images caught my eye. The girls were adorable, of course, but Ashito’s work had a delicate quality that gave his images the feel of traditional Oriental watercolors.

Oyari Ashito - Talk with Teddy Bear (c2000)

Oyari Ashito – Talk with Teddy Bear (c2000)

The other striking thing was that a large number of the images showed little girls wearing cat’s ears and tails. This evoked fond memories from my adolescence when girls would dress as cats, devils, angels, tigers, rabbits etc. for Halloween. I still haven’t got a full handle on the logic of this psychological impact yet, but somehow ears and a tail add something appealing to young girls and this post is an effort to advance my personal analysis. The book is a collection of images of girls mostly designed for a video game by developer Littlewitch. My favorites are the main characters in Episode of the Clovers named Sayu, Toka and Ema (left to right).

Oyari Ashito - from Episode of the Clovers (2002)

Oyari Ashito – from Episode of the Clovers (2002)

Born Shinichi Nochise “Nocchi” (後瀬 慎一) in 1974, Ashito got his start in the 1990s doing art for adult comics. At the same time, he was working on getting his art noticed through a kind of self-publishing collective the Japanese call a doujinshi. His big break came in 2001 when he helped produce the characters and backgrounds for a series of visual novels produced by Littlewitch. Because of the different genres he works in, his art has appeared under different names but Oyari Ashito (大槍葦人) is associated with his Littlewitch work. After the disbanding of Littlewitch in 2008, he continued his work with a new doujinshi entitling it “Girl Knights”.

Visual novels are interactive fiction games composed of mostly static graphics typically using anime-style art. As the name suggests, they resemble mixed-media novels, but some distinction is made between proper visual novels which are mostly narration with few interactive elements and adventure games which require problem-solving as part of the gameplay. The market for visual novels outside of East Asia is small and those that are marketed in the West have to contend with the issue of translation. Therefore, the most popular carry-overs are those where the visual content is paramount. The Littlewitch novels are classified as hentai (or H Games for short) which are erotic novels that give the reader/player a sense of being in the intimate inner world of the girls. Unfortunately, some producers have used this form to create explicit animated pornography which has stirred controversy in Japan and tainted the genre.

The four most popular stories from the Littlewitch productions are: Episode of the Clovers (2002), Quartett! (2004), Girlish Grimoire Littlewitch Romanesque (2005) and Rondo Leaflet (2006). The premise of Episode of the Clovers is that a researcher develops a set of combat androids (Ema, Sayu and Toka) who—for the most part—have a relaxing lifestyle until combat robots invade the laboratory and trigger a fierce battle. The term android is a bit misleading here because the girls are actually biological, not mechanical. Interspersed in the adventure are comments about their genetic strengths and defects and their parentage. The idea behind Quartett! is that there is heavy competition between chamber music groups to make it to the finals in a competition reputed to impart fame to the victors. But the players must navigate a series of interpersonal entanglements in order to stay on track. Girlish Grimoire takes place after a destructive magical war where knowledge of magic is practically extinguished. An instructor at a magical academy who has been neglecting his duties is exiled and is told to teach two young girls (Aria and Kaya) the art of magic in order to redeem himself. The story is about the girls’ training and encounter with various interesting characters. Rondo Leaflet is about an unmotivated servant who can’t seem to keep a job. He is given one last chance working at a dilapidated house which he must whip into shape and adventures take place as he does so. I have focused on Ashito’s earlier work because it has a more artistic feel with thicker lines and slightly amorphous forms that leave more to the viewer’s imagination. In time, Ashito progressed to the more conventional thinner lines and sharper forms which give his work a commercial feel. Consistent with this is the increased appearance of girls with bustier figures that conform to mainstream heterosexual male fantasies.

Ashito takes great care with his costumes and does counterpoint his more fantastic designs with more mundane but charming examples.

Oyari Ashito - Heart Warm (2004)

Oyari Ashito – Heart Warm (2004)

Most characters are distinctly Caucasian and wear western clothing like fancy gowns or skirts, lacy underwear, swimsuits etc. Here we see characters in maid costumes.

Oyari Ashito - On an Errand (2005)

Oyari Ashito – On an Errand (2005)

I have noticed that many Japanese artists have assimilated European iconography. Placing wings on a character is distinctly Western symbolizing spiritual flight.

Oyari Ashito - Sepha (2005)

Oyari Ashito – Sepha (2005)

Complete nudity occurs only occasionally in Ashito’s work. Here we see a transition from his earlier style with somewhat sharper lines and forms but still having a slightly impressionistic and dreamy atmosphere.

Oyari Ashito - Pink Pool (2000)

Oyari Ashito – Pink Pool (2003)

Beyond the obvious symbols of servitude which are arguably misogynistic, there is point to be made about the general impression of this piece. Again, we see ears and tails, but the neck shackles are more than just symbols; they also serve as a visual divider. They resemble the chokers women used to wear that added an elegant definition to their appearance. Similar effects are created by tank tops, tight skirts, boots and sometimes hats which create a series of horizontal layers that accentuate a woman’s proportions.

Oyari Ashito - Two Kittens (2003)

Oyari Ashito – Two Kittens (2003)

Ema from Episode of the Clovers is especially popular. The earliest incarnations of this character show a pigeon-toed posture indicative of little girls. Plastic figurines of Ema are also available, but please note that they do not include a tail!

Oyari Ashito - Two Small (2001)

Oyari Ashito – Two Small (2001)

Oyari Ashito - Ema in Black (c2005)

Oyari Ashito – Ema in Black (c2005)

A few readers have expressed surprise that Pigtails in Paint would feature this kind of artwork. This site has gotten a reputation lately for emphasizing high art and the empowerment of girls. These are very important purposes, but I want to remind the readers that our mission is to cover all portrayals of little girls—excepting illegal ones. Even more commercial portrayals tell us something about power in our society and erotica gives us insight into the applicable male or female psyche. People may find specific themes or images distasteful or lowbrow, but it is our intent to challenge and educate our readers.

Neither Pip nor I are familiar with manga artists so this is only one I intend to post.  However, if someone has something worthwhile to share about other artists, they are encouraged to make a proposal.  -Ron

Oyari Ashito official site

Littlewitch official site

Maiden Voyages: September 2014

Sometimes, I can’t get over how wonderful our readers are. The only reason Pigtails in Paint still exists is because of our readers. And as our readership increases, this site gains credibility and resources which can make our site even better. I am still not sure what Pigtails’ ultimate function will be, but I am confident that we are addressing something important that does not get talked about in popular culture.

One of the things I am pleased to see right now is that my dream of having more writers contribute is starting to happen. Ami has told me she has begun work on a Mark Ryden post. WCL is doing a post on some interesting statues he found in cemeteries. Another writer is promising a scholarly piece on the famous—iconic really—image of a naked Vietnamese girl fleeing a Napalm attack. Yet another wants to do a piece on Ida Teichmann and another is working on Range Murata.  RJ discovered an artist who received some flak for images of his 2-year-old daughter.  He is now exhibiting and has used the derogatory comments as titles for his work!

In the last month, one of the artists we featured, Zoltán Jókay, requested that his images be removed from our site. This was a surprise, because of all people, I would expect artists to be tolerant and to understand the need for a range of expression that say something meaningful. Also, anyone who has taken a closer look at this site realizes that we are offering substance, not just eye-candy. When a person cannot take the time to recognize this, he/she reinforces the corrupt paradigms of mainstream culture.

Another brief item is that Graham Ovenden is scheduled to be released from prison in November, assuming there are no new developments.

I have been meaning to mention an amazing documentary called Tim’s Vermeer. Because it does not deal with little girls, I could not make an excuse to make a dedicated post. However, anyone who has any interest in art history or technique owes it to himself to see this. I don’t want to spoil the premise except to say it is about the painter Vermeer and it will blow you away.

I also read an interesting book review. Understandably, the conflict in Afghanistan has been taking its toll on girls and it appears that some Afghan families are raising their girls as boys in order to give them access to education and other privileges offered exclusively to boys. It is hard to bring out most of the complexities of this situation, so I recommend anyone interested in gender roles or the devastation of military conflict read The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg.

Thank you for your time. -Ron

Bug Splats

I noticed this item and it reminded me of protest street art writ large. Although it is a kind of escalation of the art form, given the magnitude of the issue, it seems perfectly appropriate here. And you will not find any local people calling this an eyesore or defacement of property.

Combat is messy, but in the modern age of advanced technology, combatants can destroy their targets from a distance, practically eliminating any emotional impact. This godlike power has no small psychological affect and drone operators often refer to kills as “bug splats”, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed. To challenge this insensitivity and raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan—where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, an operator sees not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face. The child featured in the poster is not named, but is reported to have lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack.

MQ-1 Predator camera footage - Not a Bug Splat Installation (2014)

MQ-1 Predator camera footage – Not a Bug Splat Installation (2014)

The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in the hope that it will become a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites. Read more here.

The Definition of Gymnastics: Ernst Vollmar and Ludwig Hohlwein

In contemporary society, students find it surprising that the word “gymnastic” comes from the Greek meaning to train or exercise naked. Further digging would reveal the ancient Greek ideal of the nude masculine form, the foundation of the Classical Nude in sculpture. The peculiarities of that culture relegated women and children to second-class status except in those few instances when a young boy happened to catch the fancy of a powerful older patron. In today’s more complex world, children feel more iconic of the notion of free spirits than those “free” and chauvinistic citizens of the ancient city-states.

A wonderful book has come to my attention that I felt ought to be shared right away. It is a photographically illustrated book on children’s gymnastics published in 1925 called Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (Children’s Gymnastics in Play), written by Alice Bloch and published by Dieck & Co.

Ludwig Hohlwein - Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (cover) (1925)

Ludwig Hohlwein – Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (cover) (1925)

The cover illustration was painted by Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949), a well-known illustrator of posters. Lamentably, he did not do any other work featuring children in this style. The photographs were by Ernst Vollmar. Practically nothing is known of him except that he was a contemporary of Lotte Herrlich, Carl Lepper and Genja Jonas who also did much work with German naturists. The first two images set the stage showing everyday scenes and some pagan-inspired rituals commonly associated with these communities.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (1)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (1)

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (2)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (2)

The book was not meant to be the kind of serious exercise guide that would become ubiquitous later in the more regimented and rigorous Nazi regime. It is as the title suggests—playful. The names of the exercises are clearly light-hearted or fanciful: Sounds of Spring, Clapping to the Beat, Blowing Trumpets, Leapfrog, Rocking Horse, Ostrich, Somersaults and Scurrying Like Mice. Quite a few of them required interaction with a partner. The first illustrates some mock flute blowing.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (3)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (3)

The next shows two children forming an arch or gate.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (4)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (4)

These children appear to be hopping like rabbits. I remember an incident when eBay refused to allow a seller to post an image of a girl in such a pose even while wearing a swimsuit! I suppose Playboy has spoiled the sweet innocence of the bunny for many of us.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (5)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (5)

It is interesting how stereotypes and language change. The caption calls the next image “Greeting Like a Mohammedan”. Mohammedan is an old-fashioned term for Muslim, but perhaps the American term “Sitting Indian Style” is more appropriate as this meditative posture was in wide use in northern India well before the advent of Buddhism or Islam.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (6)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (6)

These girls are demonstrating “Flying Like a Bird”.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (7)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (7)

Different stages of this “Clock-Flower” are illustrated in the book.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (8)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (8)

Here are two illustrations of the “Flying Jump”.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (9)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (9)

It is hard to say what these girls are doing, but it appears to be some kind of alternating stroke motion.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (10)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (10)

There are many scenes of these girls skipping rope.

Ernst Vollmar - from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (11)

Ernst Vollmar – from Kinder Gymnastik im Spiel (1925) (11)

It should be pointed out that naturism was very popular at the time. A demonstration of this was the fact that Hitler and the Nazis initially wanted to ban these practices, but thought better of it and instead incorporated them into special events promoting their notions of racial supremacy.

I have been informed by one of our readers that some of these images also appeared in a book called Book of Nudes (2007) by Alessandro Bertolotti but in a smaller format.

15 Seconds of Fame

I know the expression is supposed to be “15 minutes of fame”, but I think that only applies to those who seek fame. If one has mediocre talent and is very ambitious, one can expect to get at least that. However, there are many who are wonderful team players who make things work behind the scenes. I remember watching the director’s commentary on The Incredibles and how an animator who put his heart and soul into a scene would get only a few seconds of air time in the final cut. The efforts of people like this creates a credible atmosphere in the film so the viewer can be completely immersed in the story.

The same goes for set and costume designers who also get little recognition. An instance I would like to single out appears in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005). Emma Watson (as Hermoine Granger) and Evanna Lynch (as Luna Lovegood) certainly deserve notice, but I would like to recognize one other who may have slipped under your radar.

Angelica Mandy played a very small role as Gabrielle Delacour, the little sister of Fleur—one of the Tri-Wizard Champions. Costume designer Jany Temime and her team designed the stunning silver suit Mandy wore as she somersaulted into the scene during her school’s introduction. The shot lasts only a few seconds and we mostly see it from the rear.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (1)

Even when we do see it from the front, it is cut off because the emphasis is on Fleur.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (2)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (2)

The only way we get to see the front is in the outtakes. As the actors were not experienced in coreography, they fumble around a bit trying to get it right and some of the footage is shared in the video extras. The silver body suit is accented by a feathery fringe around the collar and sleeves and some extra flames were painted on the abdomen and thigh portions of the suit to give it a dynamic, fiery appearance.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (1)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (2)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (outtakes) (2)

Here she appears to be wearing a cloak over it as she sits down by her sister. You can still see some of the fringe on the sleeve.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (3)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (3)

There are only two other scenes where Mandy’s character is featured as more than a spectator. Here she is underwater waiting to be rescued in the tournament’s second task.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (4)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (4)

And here she thanks Ron for helping to save her in that incident.

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (5)

J.K. Rowling, Steve Kloves and Mike Newell – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) (5)

Mandy—who was about 12 during shooting—also appeared as the young Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair (2004) and supposedly appeared in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, probably in the wedding scene.  As it was only a cameo and she was much older, I was not able to spot her.

William Makepeace Thackeray et al - Vanity Fair (2004)

William Makepeace Thackeray et al – Vanity Fair (2004)