Karen Maria Schleifer Album Cover

Just a quick post here.  I don’t know anything about this musician, but the photo is apparently of her at age 2-and-a-half.  To be honest, I don’t even remember how or where I first came across this adorable image.  Probably Spotify.  Anyway, it’s clearly an independently produced album.  I just got a big chuckle out of it and thought it was worth sharing here.

Photographer Unknown - Karen Maria Schleifer - Yes, You Can Touch It (cover)

Photographer Unknown – Karen Maria Schleifer – Yes, You Can Touch It (cover)

Cut to the Chase: The Eames’ Legacy

A couple decades ago, I lived in a small town with an interesting woman who opened a video store. She carried a few mainstream movies to keep the business afloat, but really it was a way of sharing her personal collection of avant garde films and documentaries with the public. Those were the days of VHS and so anyone who rented something from her personal collection had to follow strict rules including cleaning their VCR heads before each play. We became fast friends and she would recommend things that I had never heard of. I don’t remember most of the titles now, but they included things as wide-ranging as Wallace & Gromit, Equus and Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames. With my interest in science, the idea of examining the universe by zooming out and then zooming in exponentially was fascinating and an amazing achievement given the technology of the time.

Charles and Ray Eames - Powers of Ten (1968)

Charles and Ray Eames – Powers of Ten (1977)

I knew the Eames’ made a lot of other experimental films, but I had not seen them. I was pleased to discover later that all the films were finally put on DVD. None of this seemed to have anything to do with little girls, but I was in for a surprise. One of the pieces was called Lucia Chase Vignette and featured a girl—perhaps an Eames granddaughter—who had her diary stolen and spends the whole time chasing her little brother all around the grounds to retrieve it.

Charles & Ray Eames - Lucia Chase Vignette (c1978)

Before there was texting, many literate girls would record their private thoughts in a journal—sometimes with lock and key. Many sitcoms have used a girl’s diary as a way to motivate the events in a story. In this case, the simple plot was used to test a new home instant movie system that produced color film called Polavision which hit the market in 1977 and became the basis for more commercially successful systems later. It also offered a way to show off the Eames’ property where they built a model home in 1949—made from materials available in standard industrial catalogs—and shows how it had developed.

Charles Eames died in 1978 and when his wife Ray died in 1988, Lucia Eames Demetrios—the daughter of Charles from a previous marriage—became heir to the intellectual property the couple had produced in their long collaboration. The films—now viewable on DVDs—were then released in 1989. It is not clear whether “Lucia” in the title indicates that she shot it herself or that the actress featured is her daughter Lucia Dewey Atwood.  While working on this post, I discovered that Lucia Eames Demetrios just passed away on April 1st.

It is difficult to summarize the accomplishments of Charles and Ray Eames because they played with such an eclectic range of ideas. To my mind, they represented a kind of ideal of a bygone age of know-how and innovation that Americans were supposed to be known for. The Eames’ work started with the development of mass-produced molded plywood furniture—first for the military and then commercially. Then they began to develop techniques for making furniture using other materials which has been copied many times by other companies. In 1950, they produced their first film followed by many others covering history, science, math, technology and art. They also designed and erected a number of museum exhibitions—the most elaborate being a Franklin and Jefferson showcase to celebrate the United States Bicentennial in 1976. A rough overview of their work can be seen on Wikipedia (which only gives a taste of how prolific they were), but the best way to understand this couple’s contribution is by watching their films. An introduction was produced, narrated by Gregory Peck, to give us an idea of the scope of their work and what a stimulating environment they and their associates must have worked in.

Powers of Ten video

The Films of Charles & Ray Eames (DVD)

Eames: The Architect and the Painter (documentary)

The Angels Return: A Lukas Roels Update

It is testament to a good artist that he have a good working and/or personal relationship with his models. The strongest evidence of such rapport—short of outright defense in a court of law—is when they return for another shoot. This would not be possible unless the model were treated with the utmost respect in the first place and she herself got something positive from the experience. Time does fly and Lukas Roels informs me that he has begun a kind of “Angels of Time Revisited” series featuring his former models using similar poses and props as those of the original series. One of the first models to participate has graciously consented to have her image appear online. Thank you, Papi.

Lukas Roels - Papi revisited light (2014)

Lukas Roels – Papi revisited light (2014)

As a private collector, I never gave much thought to the ethical or moral issues in the production of such images. The nature of the self-righteous but ignorant rhetoric of extremists itself seemed to justify my position. However, it should not be forgotten that behind that closed-mindedness is a human emotional impulse and how we deal with it is an expression of our character. When I began work on Pigtails in Paint, I realized that images that were freely available in books could not just be posted cavalierly. Copyright issues notwithstanding, I understand that the internet offers a new level of publicity beyond printed matter. The issue, therefore, is not about the moral implications of producing the images, but in how they are publicized. The natural incongruity we feel has really to do with intimacy and vulnerability rather than bald exploitation. In a perfect world, models who want to pose nude would be given the liberty to pursue it, but the reality is that children especially are subjected to ridicule in own communities when they do something unconventional like this. Therefore, I wish to take this time to commend Papi for her courage and hope others will come forward soon to allow their images to appear on this site.

Readers can visit a couple of online galleries to see more of Roels’ work (here and here) or collectors may contact the artist directly at lukas.roels@skynet.be for a catalog of available books and prints.

Soviet Postcards, Part 8: E. Ignatovich

I intended the next Soviet postcard to be a beautiful nude by Zenaida Serebriakova, but then I realized Pip did an extensive post on that artist a while back. So, before moving on, why not take another look at it here?

Instead, as we notice the weather warming up here in the Northern Hemisphere, the following image is quite apropos. I could not find much on this artist (see note below) except that she clearly did a number of images promoting the pleasures of Soviet life. The title of this piece translates to “It’s hot!”. I noticed that this, like many color photos from that era, create the impression of a watercolor.

E. Ignatovich - Жарко (1956)

E. Ignatovich – Жарко (1956)

Update: Thanks to some digging by one of our helpful readers, Vasya, I now have a better idea about this artist.  He believes she is Elizaveta Ignatovich (Елизавета Игнатович), a sister of Boris Ignatovich, a major Russian photographer associated with Constructivism.  They along with their two sisters, Olga and Elena, were members of the art group “October”, headed by Alexander Rodchenko (I will have posting more on him at a later date).  Only one page was found about Elizaveta Ignatovich which simply states that she was a sister of Boris, created New Year’s postcards and was married to Kiril Dombrovsky, science fiction writer, director and scriptwriter of popular films.  You can see more of her work with girls here.  There are also a couple other series online featuring her work (along with other artists) here and with English captions here. Boris Ignatovich also shot some pictures of girls (here and here), but his most iconic image is one of Mamlakat Nahangov with Stalin (1935).  She was a 11-year-old Tajiki girl who was awarded the Order of Lenin for her great achievement in harvesting cotton and most school children would have learned about her while being taught Soviet history lessons at school.  You can read more about her here.

Hans Baluschek and the Small Universe of European Art

If one is a long-time follower of this blog or a fan of the European arts prior to the Postmodern era, then he should now be aware, if he wasn’t before, that that world was often a fairly small and insular one.  Many of the most notable artists knew each other well, or at least knew of each other.  It could be said that much of what was recognized then as the cream of European arts and letters really became so because of the fact that a goodly number of these folks were friends and acquaintances, and I would not argue the point . . . much.  It’s true that before Postmodernism changed the creative landscape, a great deal of what registered on critics’—and by extension the public’s—radars obtained its esteem by virtue of these relationships.  Of course, whether it remained there or not in perpetuity depended on many factors which had more to do with the quality of the art and the fickle tastes of high society, but it cannot be denied that many decent artists remained unknown or ignored in their own time due to a lack of the right social connections.  This type of class elitism was hardly confined to the creative fields, of course, but it certainly existed strongly there.

Consequently, the biographies of seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth century men and women of the humanities often reads like an episode of James Burke’s wonderful television series Connections (which Ron has mentioned here before), a chain of creativity reaching back into the Middle Ages, fostered largely by wealthy patronage and by the academies.  Even those artists who sought to change this unfair system through their work or through their social standing were still necessarily a part of it.  Such was the case with Hans Baluschek, a German painter and graphic artist associated with the Symbolists and especially the Berlin Secession.  Like many of the artists of that movement, Baluschek identified with the working class to some extent and sought to empower them, using his art to portray what he perceived as both the inherent dignity and the terrible conditions of the working class.

Hans Baluschek - Dancing on the Roof Garden (1926)

Hans Baluschek – Dancing on the Roof Garden (1926)

Hans Baluschek – Lost (1920)

Hans Baluschek – Transient Workers (1926)

Hans Baluschek - The Locomotive (1921)

Hans Baluschek – The Locomotive (1921)

Hans Baluschek – Working Family (1920)

Hans Baluschek - Cologne in Summer (1909)

Hans Baluschek – Cologne in Summer (1909)

Hans Baluschek - Summer Night (1928)

Hans Baluschek – Summer Night (1928)

Although Baluschek preferred to depict the working classes in his drawings and paintings, he wasn’t opposed to presenting the higher classes either, particularly in contrast to the poor, such as in the work Berlin Fairgrounds.  Note the lower class boy smoking in the foreground of the image.

Hans Baluschek - Berlin Fairgrounds (1914)

Hans Baluschek – Berlin Fairgrounds (1914)

I mentioned earlier how many of these artists were connected, if not directly then at least through third parties.  Such was the case with Baluschek and noted German Expressionist painter and sculptor Ernst Ludwig Kirchner.  Although Kirchner was never a member (officially anyway) of the Berlin Secession, he and his group of artists and architects known as Die Brücke were associated with it, and Baluschek and Kirchner had another connection through the person of Dr. Oskar Kohnstamm, a psychiatrist whose children became the stars of their own play and children’s book, Peterchens Mondfahrt (often tranlated into English as Peter and Anneli’s Journey to the Moon) which Baluschek illustrated.  Kirchner was a patient of Kohnstamm, whose sanitarium treated those with chronic depression.  The play’s and book’s author was Gerdt von Bassewitz, and Peterchens Mondfahrt proved to be his most–indeed, his only–successful work.

Hans Baluschek – Image from ‘Peterchens Mondfahrt’ (1915) (1)

Hans Baluschek - Image from 'Peterchens Mondfahrt' (1915) (2)

Hans Baluschek – Image from ‘Peterchens Mondfahrt’ (1915) (2)

But one of Baluschek’s most interesting paintings—to me at least—is uncharacteristic of his work in a number of ways.  First, while most of Baluschek’s paintings had urban settings, this one presents a sparse country scene.  Secondly, while the allegorical context of many of his artworks tended to be subtle, this one (called Death) is a fairly obvious Symbolist comment on a major social problem of his day: the abuse of opiates.  Opiates were fully legal in Germany in the late 19th century when this piece was created and were sold as an over-the-counter remedy for a number of ailments, even for children.  But here the children represent both the naivete many people had about the medicine’s dangers and the sort of child-like feelings of carefree bliss that opiates can sometimes induce.  Another factor which sets this piece apart from most of his later work is the odd, simple composition.  In fact, it is because of the simplicity of the composition—Baluschek relies on a handful of small, light elements at the right of the picture to balance out the heavier, darker elements on the left—that one can discern that it isn’t quite successful overall.  The left side is too heavy.  However, this is somewhat mitigated by the strange buoyancy of the poppy flowers.  The flowers appear to be almost consciously seductive, and we can see the children have fallen under their spell, with one of them, the little girl lying in the background, already presumably dead.  No doubt the boy will suffer the same fate soon enough.

Hans Baluschek - Der Tod (Death) (1895)

Hans Baluschek – Der Tod (Death) (1895)

Wikipedia: Hans Baluschek

German Cards: Hans Baluschek

A Provocative Perch

This story begins with a press photo I noticed on a sales site. I loved the impish expression of the girl while she sat on the head of the White Rabbit sculpture in Central Park, New York. Since the sculpture ties in to the whole Alice in Wonderland culture which is associated with a plethora of material about little girls, I decided it needed to be presented on this site. After a little digging, I realized this photo is historically significant as it was one of many taken during the unveiling of the statue in 1959.

Press photo (uncredited) (1959)

Press photo (uncredited) (1959)

I had no idea that this sculpture existed and even if I lived in New York, I would still probably not have known about it. Since beginning work on Pigtails and working with artists that deal with Alice lore extensively, I now feel it a duty to get to know some of this material (it would be impossible for any one person to keep track of it all). There are many sculptures in Central Park but this is one of the few depicting fictional characters. This piece features most prominently Alice, the Mad Hatter and the White Rabbit along with a few other charming characters and details from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 story. The statue is located on East 74th Street on the north side of Central Park’s Conservatory Water. The publisher George T. Delacorte Jr. commissioned the work from José de Creeft, in honor of Delacorte’s late wife, Margarita, and for the enjoyment of the children. The sculpture tries to follow John Tenniel’s whimsical illustrations from the first edition of the book Alice in Wonderland. Some sources suggest that de Creeft’s daughter Donna may have served as the model for Alice. The project’s architects and designers were Hideo Sasaki and Fernando Texidor, who inserted some plaques with inscriptions from the book in the terrace around the sculpture. The design of the sculpture attracts many children who climb its many levels, resulting in the bronze’s glowing patina, polished by thousands of tiny hands over the years. The casting was done at Modern Art Foundry Astoria in Queens, New York.

Owen Kennedy - Central Park's Alice in Wonderland (2009)

Owen Kennedy – Central Park’s Alice in Wonderland (2009)

Pip informed me that had I been more attentive, I might have noticed that there were a number of iconic images featuring this Central Park sculpture. In 1988, it appeared in Slick Rick’s music video, Children’s Story. But by Pip’s reckoning, the most notable photo was probably the one of Jimi Hendrix and his band sitting on the sculpture with a bunch of children. It was used as the back cover of some pressings of the Electric Ladyland album. Jimi actually wanted it for the front cover, but the studio in England insisted on a more provocative photo of nude women—a rare instance where the artist wanted a tamer image than the studio! Editions produced for the American market just feature a closeup of Jimi’s head, reflecting the more prudish attitudes in the U.S.  The image was photographed by Linda Eastman, who later married musician Paul McCartney.

Linda Eastman - The Jimi Hendix Experience's Electric Ladyland (back cover) (1968)

Linda Eastman – The Jimi Hendix Experience’s Electric Ladyland (back cover) (1968)

Sculptor and Photographer Unknown - (Title Unknown)

Sculptor and Photographer Unknown – (Title Unknown)

And while we are on the subject of children playing on statues, I have a bonus for you. This photograph also appeared online, but does not have any identifying information. The seller believes the statue is somewhere in Europe, but could offer no more than that. Anyone knowing anything about this piece is encouraged to come forward with the information and perhaps some better photos.

Wikipedia: Jose de Creeft

Linda McCartney (Linda Eastman) (official website)

Wikipedia: Linda McCartney

Wikipedia: Hideo Sasaki

Central Park (official website)

Jimi Hendrix (official site)

Climbing Mt. Ambition: Brooke Raboutou

It is easy to underestimate what children are capable of when given the right encouragement. A short while ago, a friend turned me on to a video about a rock climber named Brooke Raboutou. The video is one of a series about prodigies produced by @radical.media and aired on the THNKR channel on YouTube. At the time of production, she was 11 years old and had broken a number of age records for climbs with the highest difficulty ratings—climbs that only a minute fraction of adult climbers have tackled.

@radical.media - Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (1)

@radical.media – Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (1)

I was at first tempted to produce a somewhat perfunctory post about this remarkable girl, but as it happens, I know a little about rock-climbing. My mother’s second husband was an avid climber and turned her on to the sport and I have accompanied them on a few simple climbs. Climbing is often misunderstood by outsiders who assume that it is simply a matter of strength and endurance. In fact, the most important attributes are balance, flexibility and a degree of creativity. Strength and endurance complement these skills to produce the best climbers in the world. The remarkable swiveling moves Brooke makes is hard to convey in a photo still and the video needs to be seen to get a sense of it. One of her climbing coaches says she has almost baby-like flexibility. Indeed, after learning of this story, Ray Harris at The Novel Activist—doing research on child prodigies for one of his novels—decided he had better beef up his heroine’s superpowers!

@radical.media - Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (2)

@radical.media – Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (2)

A climbing wall is like an ordinary household appliance in the Raboutou home and theirs was built by Brooke’s father, Didier Raboutou—an exceptional climber in his own right. There is also a practice ledge for maintaining finger strength, a prerequisite trait for handling “hanging” climbs. In the shots above and below, we see Brooke exercising with her mother and coach, Robyn Erbesfield.

@radical.media - Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (3)

@radical.media – Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (3)

As with all prodigies, a bit of luck is involved. Talented children need to be given the right environment in which to express their talent. The Raboutou family has encouraged athleticism in their children from a very early age.

@radical.media - Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (4)

@radical.media – Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (4)

@radical.media - Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (5)

@radical.media – Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (5)

Her mother points out that Brooke is quite driven in her ambitions and the family have never had to push her in this regard. Many a time, she could be found trying and retrying a climb until she was satisfied—even after dark. With great ambition, comes great disappointment and I was impressed by the inclusion of one scene where Brooke lost her grip and fell. You can hear her cry as the reality of her slip hit her. It was brave to include this for it shows us her humanity and is not just another showcase for her talents.

@radical.media - Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (6)

@radical.media – Prodigies: Brooke Raboutou (2013) (6)

I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but I feel it important to point out some things about climbing that accounts for some of this virtuosity. As mentioned before, strength and endurance are important in the most challenging climbs, but for a climber, lean muscle tone is paramount. I am reminded of the movie Cliffhanger (1993) starring Sylvester Stallone. Anyone who knows this actor of Rocky fame knows he is quite muscle-bound. When training for the movie, his coach reported that he had the greatest difficulty doing what is considered the simplest maneuvers simply because he has the wrong physique to be a skilled climber. By the same token, a child with sufficient discipline actually has an easier time because of the lighter body. Once adequate finger strength is developed, the child climber has a huge advantage over adults with much more experience. Another fact of which most non-climbers are unaware is that the spacing of footholds and handholds are critical in the difficulty rating of a climb. For a shorter person, reaching the right combination of holds can be a radically different experience for someone with a different center of gravity. Therefore, it might be argued that the rating of some of these climbs is really inappropriate for Brooke (and other children). Instead, what I feel is most impressive about Brooke is not her ability to break records, but her tenacity in pursuing something challenging she really enjoys; she follows her bliss.

In researching this story, I found there was little information after a couple of years ago. The only current information can be found on Brooke’s own Facebook page. She still loves climbing, but I expect that she began to take on other interests and more and more her ambitions will be focused elsewhere.

Maiden Voyages: April 2014

I know my productivity has been erratic lately so I’ll make this update brief. First of all, because of all the positive contributions to my last post, I have split it into two separate posts.  There are new images and information on the Pierre et Gilles images, so take another look. One of our fans has contributed a delightful image of girls reading that I decided to add to our Poster Child post.  We could also use some help with identifying it.

A reader wrote directly to me a short while ago about his efforts to bring the Graham Ovenden case to the attention of Miscarriages of Justice UK (MOJUK), a UK organization concerned with the unjustly convicted.  However, even so-called philanthropic organizations tend to shy away from cases that involve this kind of rabid public outrage.  If anyone would like to help us get some traction on this case, I have posted his note to me in the comments section at the end of the Fall from Grace? post.

I decided because of the unpredictability of YouTube, the charming Godiva-like excerpt from Joseph Cornell’s The Midnight Party should be contained in-house on this site for viewers to see.  There is much more to share about this intriguing artist and his work, so look for it in a future post on Pigtails.

With the help of some friends and many fans of Pigtails, I have tracked down a number of interesting films featuring little girls.  In time, I will make full reviews and even include some excerpts that can be viewed on this site.

Part of what has distracted me is that I have been working on transcriptions of Japanese work.  I have found it frustrating not being able to learn the back story of the many intriguing Japanese artists because of the language barrier.  With the help of a friend, I have been transcribing Japanese text on the computer so it can be made more openly available and translated.  I had a major breakthrough last month and am convinced that I will be able to transcribe most Japanese text now.  I had already made an English transcription of the text in David Hamilton’s Twenty Five Years of an Artist which I did while producing that post and now I have a transcription of Hajime Sawatari’s journal from his trip to England when he shot Alice (still in the original Japanese, but you can at least give online translators a try).  I intend to have a transcription page where extra text could be pasted or downloaded on demand and hopefully some Japanese experts might be inspired to offer clean English translations of these texts in time.  I have also been working on transcriptions of text in other languages as well, but I think most would agree that Japanese is one of the most challenging.

I will redouble my efforts to get more posts produced and three writers have promised me that they have interesting contributions to make as well.  Pip informs me that he has gotten more motivated lately, so I know we are all eager to see what he has to offer on Pigtails in Paint in the future.  Best wishes to all, -Ron