Elena and Sacha Kalis: Mother and Mermaid

Elena Kalis’ ancestry is Russian.  Sacha is her daughter, her muse, her model and born in the Bahamas.

She’s my muse and my little mermaid. -Elena Kalis, Digital Photo, November 2013

A natural mermaid who could swim before she could walk; a perfect underwater model. She understands very well what I want to capture in the image. It’s not easy to find models who are graceful and relaxed underwater. It’s a gift only few people possess. -Maha Majzoub, RAGMAG, November 2012

Elena still longs for Russian snow from time to time and the way she photographs may have some surprising parallels with the snow. But in the Bahamas she found a different kind of landscape, or rather seascape. There Elena lives with her family, on a small island, where Sacha grew up.

At first Elena painted.  But the sea around the Bahamas called her to a slightly different kind of art: “Digital cameras and software offer huge opportunities for new images previously impossible to produce.” and “The dreamless, weightless atmosphere allows for all kinds of setups that are impossible outside the water.”  A good marriage of two former impossibilities.

Sacha became her main and probably her first model.  She frequently models for her mother, if that is the right word for someone who was apparently born in the ocean and has since remained there. Rather than modeling, it would be better to say she floats and dives there—swims. The Bahamas are, as cliché would have it, a paradise, but not so much above water as under it, a world less known by human beings.

It is as if somehow the underwater world is a more suitable decor for Alice, to Elena, a Waterland rather than a Wonderland to be found by a fall into the rabbit hole. The underwater world translates beautifully into Alice’s other mode of transport, the looking-glass.

Elena Kalis - Looking Glass (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Looking Glass (2010)

Under water, Elena lets her Alice play with all kinds of props from Carroll’s Alice stories. By reaching through the watermirror, Alice is reaching for a sphere of otherness, while she herself somehow remains the same in these surroundings.  She is still recognizable as Alice, in another of her many drawn, filmed, photographed and rewritten variations.  The timing of Kalis’ Alice is opportune as Sacha was about the right age to play that character as conceived by Carroll.  The movements of Kalis’ characters in clear, still water convey a dreamy, happy sphere—though she has sometimes portrayed the dark side of the sea.  But this is not like the dark sea of the movie The Piano, but rather a wild one—another kind of dream of the sea. The Piano (1993), was the debut of the 11-year-old actress Anna Paquin. She played Flora, daughter of the piano-playing Ada. The movie centered around Ada in the beginning and maybe a more wuthering sea suits Ada better while Flora could step into Sacha’s world more easily. But this image can also be somewhat old-fashioned.  This idea seems worth another article, not merely about this film, but about the portrayal of the 19th century girl in films based on the novels of The Brontës, Dickens and Jane Austen.

Jane Campion - The Piano (1993)

Jane Campion – The Piano (1993)

While I looked at Elena Kalis’ images from time to time years ago, I imagined myself in the images themselves, never asking myself the what and how; it was as if I, for a while, was in that sea itself. Although in beholding, in water, it could have been both anywhere and nowhere.

Now that I have looked more deeply into it, the artist has aid she prefers to photograph in the sea itself, not in a swimming pool.  This fact is more recognizable with the grown-up Sacha photos than the child ones. It seems as though the images of Sacha as Alice, and other images of her as a child, take place in deeper sea than those with the grown-up mermaid, where more often a watermirror/underwater surface is visible. It is logical to shoot underwater to create the sense of a dreamy world and yet the surface is never far away.  “Shooting mostly on sunny days near the surface, Kalis attempts to use natural light as much as possible, sometimes enlisting the help of underwater Sola light” (Maha Majzoub, RAGMAG, November 2012) and “I photograph especially between twelve and four in the afternoon when the sunlight reaches the water vertically. For the same reason I prefer to work in the summer than in winter.” (Elena Kalis, Digifoto Pro, 2011)

This artistic impression of the imagery may be suggestive of the general idea of childhood as a dream state and the so-called adulthood more as reality. But what is more a dream? Alice? Or an example here out of the series ‘Life Style’?

Elena Kalis - Lifestyle (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Life Style (2012)

Alice in Waterland appears as though it is taken in a big aquarium, or simply a swimming pool—a photo studio placed underwater. The impression is that of a dream just before a state of waking or, with these utterly clear photographs, a lucid dream.

Elena Kalis - Alice Down the Rabbit Hole (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Alice Down the Rabbit Hole (2009-11)

The artist uses a Canon 5D Mark II in a waterproof housing, sometimes using a red underwater filter.  When working with adult models she can work underwater for about an hour but only 30 to 40 minutes with children.  Afterwards, she makes use of the techniques of PhotoShop. Despite the fact that she sometimes uses artificial light underwater and the shallow parts of the ocean can catch sunlight wonderfully, this alone is not enough for her to capture her characteristic colorfulness.

Beside playing with colour saturation, photographer and model use plastic inflatable animals, but filled with water so they’ll work better underwater—and they play with costumes.

“The waving movements that clothes make in the water, give interesting forms and light reflections. To get that waving movement, models only have to move calmly and spread the clothes. The rest comes naturally.” -Elena Kalis, Digifoto Pro, 2011

Elena Kalis - Alice (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Alice (2009-11)

Sacha also dressed up as the schoolgirl Raye Hino, better known as Sailor Mars, from the anime show, Sailor Moon.

Elena Kalis - Sailor Mars (Underwater Pet)

Elena Kalis – Underwater Pet (2011)

Sailor Mars from series Sailor Moon

Sailor Mars from series Sailor Moon

Elena Kalis - Sailor Mars (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Sailor Mars (2012)

Other series with Sacha as a child are in the same sphere, emotional fairy tales, but with titles derived from the elements from which it all takes place: ‘Ocean Life’, ‘Ocean Song’, ‘Liquid Joy’.

Elena Kalis - Ocean Life (Sacha Kalis with manatee) (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Ocean Life (Sacha Kalis with manatee) (c 2013)

Elena Kalis - Liquid Joy Pikaboo (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Liquid Joy Pikaboo (2011)

A variation on Alice in Waterland: ‘Neverland’.

Elena Kalis - Neverland (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Neverland (c2013)

The female element in her element: ‘My Fair Ladies’

Elena Kalis - My Fair Ladies (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – My Fair Ladies (2009)

But also about the other aspect of the sea: ‘Dark Tales’

Elena Kalis - Dark Tales (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Dark Tales (2011)

Sometimes the same series is released under slightly different titles, like ‘Dark Tales’ and ‘Dark Water’. Or sometimes the same pictures appear in different series, usually on different websites. With so many sites, it is not always clear what the relationship of her series to each other is. And many fine pictures like Atlantis seem merely to emerge via a Google search on sites that have no direct connection to Elena Kalis with unclear connection to a particular series.  So now an observer must try to deduce, immersed in all her images, a way of categorizing, hoping it will make sense emerging as if from the sea.

Elena Kalis - Atlantis (Date Unknown)

Elena Kalis – Atlantis (2008)

The dream goes beyond just the image, but the dream of a better world.  Even the Bahamas is influenced by a corrupted world: the globally rising sea levels, an oil refinery in nearby Venice, oil leaks, floating plastic that gets into the food chain, etc.  Elena has produced ample work which appears on several sites and on social media.  The importance lies in the images themselves, any comments usually short and complimentary.

Digging with a pen and writing in the seabed leaves few traces behind. But doubtless there are reasons why Elena photographs women and girls.

“Female characters are prominent in my work, as I love to explore the softer and more feminine side of underwater photography. My images flit back and forth between happy and sad, dark and dreamy, but I always stay true to the elements that inspire me. I am inspired by the way that humans can interact with the elements underwater, as well as they can move. It allows for a more fluid and dreamlike way of capturing motion.” -Elena Kalis, The Practice, 2013

I would hang these these photographs in my house just like that and not just above my bed or couch. Here and there in the house there would be a little bit of Waterland mixed in with dry land, possibly crisscrossing just like an aquarium. And maybe an added touch with Alice and Sailor Mars or Sacha as minidolls.  Happily, I would not be constrained with only showing the more heavy portrait photography.

What more is there to say than that Elena in her Alice, Sailor Mars, Liquid Joy, Stingrays, Manatees and Neverland, imagines a girlworld that is perfectly appropriate for adults? Elena imagines a feminine sea in which her daughter and other girls and women can still express whatever beauty still remains of the Earth. And now there are these snapshots of beauty which may last forever. In her photography she has, in a manner of speaking, created and experienced growth, with her daughter.

She does not see her art as work; it is her style of life. Does she regard that reality underwater as a dream?   I imagine creating these images captured from her own unconscious is not easy.

Dimitri is a guest writer from the Benelux region.  He did his best to translate things into English, so I had to do some editing to make it more coherent to English readers.  I hope I did it justice.  Also, any more biographical information on the Kalises and dates of the artwork would be very much appreciated.  -Ron

Book featuring Elena Kalis’ work edited by Jock Sturges

Other sites featuring her work here

Online articles on Elena Kalis (some in German and Dutch) here

Elena Kalis’ YouTube channel

The Girls of Summer, Pt. 2

Well, I was planning to do an article on the Ana Torrent film El nido first, but I haven’t even got the film stills ready yet, so I will do it later this month.  Meanwhile, I’ll go ahead and get this out of the way, because I know some of you have been eagerly anticipating it.  So let’s get started, shall we?

The first two pieces are from a Russian photographer I’ve featured before, who went by the name Mastadont at whatever photography site I pulled these from.  The first piece is a reference to a character from Slavic mythology, a water nymph called a Rusalka.  But I especially like the second image.  It’s a lively piece, and one of the little girls almost seems to be dancing atop the rainbow that dissects the image.

Mastadont - In the Lake Swam Rusalka

Mastadont – In the Lake Swam Rusalka

Mastadont - (Title Unknown)

Mastadont – (Title Unknown)

Photodom: Mastodont

Now here’s a painting by Donald Zolan, who is known for producing highly popular if somewhat kitschy paintings of children.  Any one of dozens of his works could fit into this post, but I really like this one of a young girl stooping down to get a better look at a monarch caterpillar.  Zolan will eventually get an entire post devoted to his work, but for now we’ll have to settle for this one.  The artist himself passed away in 2009, but his art lives on and is as popular as ever.

Donald Zolan - Small Wonder

Donald Zolan – Small Wonder

The Zolan Company (official site)

This is a strange image.  The little girl is topless, which is odd considering the time and place the photo was taken: Coney Island, New York in the early ’90s.  Unlike in Europe or other parts of the world, little girls going topless at an American beach is highly unusual, to say the least.  Moreover, bucking the usual trend for these kinds of photos, this girl does not appear to be very happy.  She’s frowning, and her arms are crossed defensively.  Award-winning photographer Rineke Dijkstra is Dutch, but perhaps her subject here was not, and while Dijkstra clearly saw nothing out of the ordinary in having this girl pose topless, the girl herself seems less than thrilled at the prospect.  Then again, the little redhead could be upset about something entirely unrelated.  Who knows?  This subject is now an adult, and I’d be curious to learn what was actually going on in her head at the time this was taken.

Rineke Dijkstra - Coney Island, NY, USA, July 9, 1993

Rineke Dijkstra – Coney Island, NY, USA, July 9, 1993

Wikipedia: Rineke Dijkstra

This image has appeared on the blog before in one of the old Random Image of the Day posts, but I have eliminated that post and brought the image into this one.  I know nothing about the photographer.  This is another image I picked up from a photography site, probably Russian.  I am intrigued by the girl’s pose—she stares up at the sky with a smile, and seems to wave at someone there, perhaps a passing angel, her hand lambent in the sunlight.  I only wish the photo was slightly larger.

Tony Chiodo - Angelic

Tony Chiodo – Angelic

Frank Owen Salisbury’s work has appeared on this blog before as well.  The interesting thing about Salisbury is that he was a conservative hardcore Methodist and a serious portraitist who painted the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Queen Elizabeth II, Winston Churchill and even John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) himself.  And yet, Salisbury also painted this beautiful piece featuring two nude young girls.  In fact, the girls were Salisbury’s own twin daughters, Monica and Sylvia.  What?!  Imagine, a man like Salisbury presenting his own preteen daughters to the world without a stitch!

Ah, but alas, how differently we have come to look upon the nude child since Salisbury’s time.  Today a religious conservative like Salisbury would likely be protesting such images rather than painting them.  One thing I’d like to point out here: although it’s subtle, if you look at the blond twin’s wrist, you can see she is wearing a very thin bracelet, an item that  ever so slightly anchors this image to modernity.  Finally, it is notable that the original version of this painting is currently housed at the National Trust Museum of Childhood, part of Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, England, which looks like an altogether fabulous place to visit if you’re ever in that part of England.

Frank Owen Salisbury - Wonders of the Sea (1912)

Frank Owen Salisbury – Wonders of the Sea (1912)

Wikipedia: Frank Owen Salisbury

British photographer and art film director Tacita Dean took the next shot that focuses on a couple of toddlers who have clearly been enjoying a dip in a pool or pond or some such.  Is it just me or does the little blond girl’s costume look to be crocheted or knitted?  Whatever it is, it’s an odd choice for swimwear. Perhaps these outfits were not intended as bathing costumes at all and the water frolicking was all rather impromptu.  This image has the warm, fuzzy feel of a snapshot from a family photo.  Or, it could be a subtle advertisement for Johnson’s Baby Lotion.

Tacita Dean - Baby Lotion (2000)

Tacita Dean – Baby Lotion (2000)

Tacita Dean (official site)

Wikipedia: Tacita Dean

The following piece was scanned from The Family of Children, a book I’ve drawn from before.  The book contains another image of this girl from the same shoot, a closeup (bust and head) portrait, but I think this one is much more interesting.  The girl looks to be preparing for a swim while a young couple (her parents?) make out on the ground behind her, completely oblivious to the girl’s presence.  This image may have been shot at the original Woodstock festival—it has the right feel. I’m sure it comes from the hippie era: late ’60s/early ’70s.  Because the source image was small, this is a little grainier than I’d prefer.  I used the Gaussian blur feature in Photoshop to eliminate the halftone, but I didn’t want to overdo it or too much detail would’ve been lost.  It’s a fine balancing act.

The photo was taken by Joan Liftin, who isn’t terribly well-represented on the web but should be.  She has, in the course of her career, worked for the likes of the International Center of Photography, Magnum Photos and UNICEF, and she has edited books on other photographers such as Mary Ellen Mark, Charles Harbutt and Andrea Stern.

Joan Liftin - (Title Unknown)

Joan Liftin – (Title Unknown)

This next piece is a digital photo-manipulation piece by DeviantArt user Kayceeus.  She works with stock photos and creates collages that she then manipulates until they resemble paintings.  This one is particularly good, and had I not known, I might easily have mistaken this for an actual photo-realistic painting.

Kayceeus - Summer Fun

Kayceeus – Summer Fun

DeviantArt: Kayceeus

These next two photos are by Helen Eleeva.  Because of the girl’s movement and the tilted angle in each, these images are dynamic.  In the first photo, the girl is running along the beach with her dog.  Caught mid-stride, she appears to float over the beach.  In the second photo, we see her with arms outstretched and hair fanned out.  Is she pretending to be a helicopter?  Note how the other (tiny) figures in the shot have been relegated to the far upper right-hand corner.  It’s an odd composition, to be sure, but it mostly works.

A lot of images by this artist can be found here.  The particular images shown here are on page 33 (as of 150925) and the girl appears in at least 5 other photographs. Her work also appears here, here and here.

Helen Eleeva - (Title Unknown) (1)

Helen Eleeva – (Title Unknown) (1)

Helen Eleeva - (Title Unknown) (2)

Helen Eleeva – (Title Unknown) (2)

Along the same lines is this color piece by Swedish photographer and designer Jonas Elmqvist.  Running with arms outstretched, the little girl is about to bolt past the frame of the image and leave it altogether.  There’s something inherently true to the experience of childhood here.  It reminds me of a beautiful quote by Michael Whitmore from his article Finders Keepers:

Children, like legends and rare books, are often on the verge of disappearing, and it is for those who have left the kingdom of childhood—that high-walled garden whose gate has always been left swinging in the background—to wonder where they’ve gone.

This image appears here on Flickr and the artist also has an album focusing on portraiture and another on the artist’s daughters Kajsa and Maja.

Jonas Elmqvist - Summer Feeling

Jonas Elmqvist – Summer Feeling

Another image borrowed from a Russian photography site.  The thing that’s most striking about this image to me is how, though the one little girl is clearly nude, most of the other children (all of whom appear to be boys) are dressed in rather clean and modern-looking clothes.  These kids aren’t counterculture types, I think; nudity is just accepted for young kids hanging out on a raft with their grandfather.  But both the little girl and the boy sitting up front (a brother?) are also wearing crucifix necklaces.  This is Russia after all—far different standards than in the US.

This image can be found here.  The photographer specializes in weddings and special events so most images found online were commissioned by her clients.

Galina Sergeyev - Grandfather Said . . .

Galina Sergeyeva – Grandfather Said . . .

This piece is by Turkish painter Ali Özhan Güneş, who often paints scenes from nude beaches.  Again, the interesting point here is the contrast between the two boys wearing swimsuits and the naked (except for sunglasses) little girl who is watching them.  The boys seem to be completely oblivious to the naked girl beside them, but in a year or so that will likely all change.

Ali Özhan Güneş - Happy Children (2012)

Ali Özhan Güneş – Happy Children (2012)

Ali Özhan Güneş (official site)

This is a fun image.  I’m not entirely sure what the girl is wearing as the splashing water obscures most of it, but it appears to be some sort of scouting or sporting outfit.  The latter makes more sense based on the title.  Spain won the FIFA World Cup in soccer in 2010, which would indicate this image dates from the same year.  I know nothing about the photographer here.

Anna Kamińska - Congratulations Spain

Anna Kamińska – Congratulations Spain

Canadian photographer Valerie Rosen made a name for herself documenting life in the Near East, but she also works as a portrait and events photographer.  I really love the pose this little girl is in.  She looks like she’s about to tumble backwards, right onto her behind.  Joy indeed.

Valerie Rosen - Joy

Valerie Rosen – Joy

Flickr: Valerie Rosen

Tom Chambers is my favorite artist in this post.  As a photographer, he likes to create images that hover at the edge of surreality.  If you visit no other sites linked in this article, don’t miss this one.  There are plenty of little girls in his work, including a whole series from which this next image is taken.  The concept and symbolism here are compelling for reasons that are difficult to quantify, but I’ll do my best.  First there’s the contrast between the dark, massive, earthy beast and the airy, light and graceful girl who rides it, even as she mimics the sea bird flying nearby.  The bird itself hovers over the horse’s head, as if representing the true nature of the horse, who may want to fly too.  Thus we have a kind of spiritual triangle here: horse, girl and bird, all connected by the water and air around them and seeking the next level up from their usual conditions.  The horse is much lighter in the water, the girl is higher and freer on the back of the horse, and the bird is the most liberated of them all.  The horse is a Marwari, which come from India, a nation whose people are known for their spiritual connection to the elements.

Tom Chambers - Marwari Stallion #1 (2009)

Tom Chambers – Marwari Stallion #1 (2009)

Tom Chambers Photography (official site)

Carl Wilhelmson was a Swedish painter whose best work was produced during the first quarter of the 20th century.  He was a student of Carl Larsson, and his work bears much resemblance to Larsson’s, but he also studied under Bruno Liljefors, whom he might’ve inherited his love of outdoor scenes from.  He didn’t paint many nudes, but one of the few he did paint is our next image.  The girl’s pose feels slightly stiff and forced, and she is a tad too centered, but the light flooding the scene, the muted colors and the paleness of the medium itself tend to counteract any overly formal aspects of the piece.

Carl Wilhelmson - Sommar i skären (1915)

Carl Wilhelmson – Sommar i skären (1915)

Wikipedia: Carl Wilhelmson (Site is in Swedish)

Last but not least . . . two photos from Mikael Anderrson.  The close bond these children have is obvious, and I could look at dozens more photos featuring the two.  I wonder where they are now?

This artist can a huge account with NordicPhotos (over 330 pages) and these photos may appear there.  He has another account here and some of the images from this series were probably used to promote his book Barnmark (2011).

Mikael Andersson - A Boy and a Girl Playing in the Water

Mikael Andersson – A Boy and a Girl Playing in the Water

Mikael Andersson - A Girl and a Boy Embracing at a Lakeside

Mikael Andersson – A Girl and a Boy Embracing at a Lakeside

Alice: A Personal View

It was my intent after publishing the Graham Ovenden post to then move on to his other relevant work. However, while considering his book, Illustrators of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass” (1972), I was urged to cover a much more comprehensive volume recently published, Illustrating Alice: An international selection of illustrated editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass published by Artists’ Choice Editions in 2013.

I wanted to call this post ‘The Definitive Alice’ but the book itself admonishes its readers from regarding it that way. It is a fair argument because, after all, it only covers illustration despite including a lot of discussion about the stories and their interpretation. And instead of trying to be thorough in covering all views, we get a wonderful spectrum of personal anecdotes and revelations from artists, collectors and other lovers of Alice lore including the more prominent members of Lewis Carroll societies around the world.

Given that a definitive book on Lewis Carroll’s two stories, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1871), would require a multi-volume encyclopedia, Illustrating Alice does remarkably well, bringing out many imaginative key points. The Alice stories (and their ethnic adaptations) have been published in over 100 languages and, in proportion to total word count, are more often quoted in published works than the plays of Shakespeare. Illustrating Alice has an interesting organization. First, some discussion of Alice in different countries is offered, then numerous living illustrators were asked to discuss their experiences and views. There is also some discussion of film adaptations. For serious Alice lovers, this book is an important reference and I offer a more detailed outline of the contents of the book at the end of this post.

With respect to offering fresh interpretations of Alice, it should be recognized how challenging it has been to see past Sir John Tenniel’s iconic illustrations in the original books and to fruitfully psychoanalyze Carroll’s original intent.

Lewis Carroll - Alice's Adventures Under Ground (1864)

Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (1864)

Sir John Tenniel - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

Sir John Tenniel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871)

Due to copyright rules, new versions of Wonderland could not be produced by other publishers until 1907 (and Looking-Glass until 1946). In the U.K. there were already 30 new editions by the end of 1908. Millicent Sowerby had the distinction of being the first to have her illustrations published. Publishers would gradually compete to produce the most opulent editions. W.H. Walker was the first to include scenes not given in the original Tenniel and Harry Rountree had the record for the most color images published, 92. Two of the most popular editions were by Raphael Tuck: one based on early Mabel Lucie Attwell work in 1910 and then a more innovative approach in 1921 based on the work of A.L. Bowley giving us the first examples of pop-ups and a panorama scene with slots to place each of the supplied cut-out characters.

Arthur Rackham - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Arthur Rackham – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

During World War II, there was a dearth of publishing because of paper rationing. One notable exception was the work of Mervyn Peake. He produced illustrations for both Alice books which were first published in Sweden in 1946, then in the U.K. in 1954. His images, considered among the best by many experts, were modeled after a neighbor girl named Caroline Lucas who, he believed, had just the right qualities. The high regard for his work is exemplified by a quote from Graham Greene, “You are the first person who has been able to illustrate the book since Tenniel.” This is even more remarkable when one considers that Greene was generally opposed to the idea of illustrating great literature at all. The work has since appeared in many editions while the original art deteriorated from neglect.

Libanus Press was later commissioned by Bloomsbury Publishing to take up the challenge of scanning the original drawings and putting in about 240 hours of computer work to restore them. The results were published in 2001 and shortly thereafter Libanus published them with the title Peake’s Alice in actual size each accompanied by an appropriate quote. One of the first artists to break through the Tenniel paradigm was Ralph Steadman in 1967, with a freer and highly political take on the story. In the 1970s, Alice became a kind of poster child for the Ruralists, symbolizing an appeal to nature. The most notable of those were by Peter Blake and Graham Ovenden—the Ovenden works being bound into a volume with only 10 copies in existence. This incredible range of production is indicative of the fact that illustration seems to be the last art form that can be produced without need of government grants or powerful patronage.

Mervyn Peake - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1946)

Mervyn Peake – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1946)

In the early days in France only the images of Tenniel and Arthur Rackham were seen. In 1930, the first native illustrator, Marie Laurencin, was published in a limited edition (790) with six colored lithographs. As Alice was assimilated into other cultures, her character would change. Henry Morin (1935) drew an Alice who seemed ill at ease while André Pécoud (1935) portrayed a more mischievous Alice who took delight in her adventures. Nicole Claveloux’s (1974) work is considered a watershed of modern French illustration offering a non-conformist Alice and a special affinity for the animal characters in the story. Her plate with the flamingos became so iconic that it was the basis of a postage stamp in Czechoslovakia. Jean-Claude Silbermann (2002) gives a highly surreal interpretation while Pat Andrea (2006), a noted artist of erotic women, necessarily makes Alice a young woman.

Marie Laurencin - Alice in Wonderland (1930)

Marie Laurencin – Alice in Wonderland (1930)

The first Alice stories in Italy were adapted by Teodorico Pietrocòla-Rossetti—nephew of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and a friend of Carroll—in 1872. This edition was not well-received. The first book featuring an Italian illustrator, Riccardo Salvadori, came out in 1913. Because there was not an established culture of children’s literature in Italy yet, Salvadori’s work, imitating that of Arthur Rackham, meant that this genre was strongly influenced by the Anglo-Saxon imagination. In 1938, under fascism, Carroll’s Alice books were banned. Any publisher wishing to publish had to follow certain guidelines. Perhaps the most famous version was illustrated by Enrico Mercatali (1938) who introduced an older dark-haired girl consistent with the appearance of local girls. In the 1950s, the blond Alice reappeared, partly as a backlash to fascist rules and partly because of the popularity of Disney’s animated film in 1951. In the 1970s, Gianni Celati (1978) used Alice as a symbol of counter-culture and Antonio D’Agostini (c1975) gave a psychedelic interpretation which fits well with Carroll’s fantastical imagery.

Enrico Mercatali - (Exact title unknown) (1938)

Enrico Mercatali – (Exact title unknown) (1938)

During the publishing of the Alice stories, the United States was generally regarded as an ugly stepchild of Britain and something of a rogue nation when it came to respecting copyright. A print run regarded as unsatisfactory by Carroll was sent to the U.S. in 1865. At least half a dozen companies sold pirated editions between 1892 and 1907 before the official expiration of copyright. They all used the Tenniel illustrations but would hire an illustrator for the cover and maybe a frontispiece. Interestingly, the Thomas Crowell edition in 1893 included the first instance of an Alice in a blue frock which became established as her signature color; all images and merchandise approved by Carroll had required the girl to be in a corn-yellow dress. A few publishers did use original work by American illustrators. Blanche McManus was distinguished as the first in 1899 for her husband’s company and Peter Newell in 1901, whose characters display an amusing array of facial expressions and interactions. M.L. Kirk’s rendition in 1904 is somewhat conventional but uses the correct color for Alice’s dress.

After the copyright expired, the floodgates opened and a number of notable American illustrators had their work published including Bessie Pease Gutmann (1907), a single illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith (1923) and Willy Pogány (1929). Walt Disney was obsessed with the story of Alice for a long time, experimenting with various treatments and designs until finally producing the somewhat unsatisfactory film in 1951. The film’s popularity had a stifling effect on innovation in the following decades. David Hall’s paintings and drawings for Disney in the 1930s did finally see the light of day in 1986 and Mary Blair’s concept art for the original film was the basis for a 2008 book.

Perhaps the first satisfactory book after this stagnant period was published in 1982, illustrated by Barry Moser and intended for adult readers. He may have been a bit gun shy of portraying the now iconic Alice and she appears only in the first and last pages as though the reader were observing things from her point of view. A number of prolific and imaginative artists have worked on Alice since then and are really too numerous to name here. An interesting historical note is that the first comic book, a distinctly American art form, was published in 1929 by George Delacorte whose fortune was later used to fund the statue in Central Park. To date, the only edition to be illustrated by a Canadian, George Walker, was produced in 1988 and may also have the distinction of being the last to be set by hand.

Bessie Pease Gutmann - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Bessie Pease Gutmann – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1907)

Camille Rose Garcia - Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (2010)

Camille Rose Garcia – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2010)

U.S. fans and collectors of Lewis Carroll paraphernalia contributed substantially to the scholarship and preservation of the author’s work. Lessing J. Rosenwald donated a handwritten and self-illustrated manuscript of Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures under Ground to the Library of the British Museum in 1948 which can now be viewed in its entirety online.  A copy of ‘The Wasp in a Wig’, a lost chapter to Looking-Glass, was discovered and published in 1972 and Morton Cohen’s biographical research on Carroll is considered to be definitive.

Alice was first introduced to Brazil by Monterio Lobato in the early 1930s using original illustrators (Tenniel and Bowley). He started with an illustration of a fantasy world including Wonderland, Neverland etc. and one from his own stories which translates as “Yellow Woodpecker Ranch”. A number of artists have used collages made from everyday materials to add cultural texture to their work. An example is Helena de Barros (Helenbar) who sewed her own dress and incorporated herself in her images.

Helenbar - A Quadrilha da Lagosta (c2003)

Helenbar – A Quadrilha da Lagosta (c2003)

The popularity of Alice in Japan cannot be understated. In fact, the Alice books and associated merchandise are now so popular that it could be said to be an industry in and of itself. The first Japanese illustrator was Shotaro Kawabata (1908). Kawabata imitated Tenniel somewhat but substituted Japanese everyday articles for Europeans ones. Often these treatments were introduced in magazine form rather than stand-alone books. The benefit seems to be that new artists, both writers and illustrators, have an easier way to become established and recognized.

Tsubakibana “Chinka” Yoshimura (1911) was probably the first to illustrate Alice using strictly Japanese patterns, techniques and composition principles. The early portrayal of Alice had a curious character. Because, in Japanese culture, girls have no real transition from childhood to adulthood, girls were portrayed as very young or very mature. Girl children were expected to act very dependent until a certain age and then suddenly expected to be responsible. The idea of a transitional coming-of-age girl was new and explored seriously only in post-war interpretations. Takashi Saida (1925) was perhaps the first to create a middle class Alice with the right balance of sophistication and uncertainty seen in the English versions. In the 1930s, the rising tide of nationalism and militarism influenced the expression in children’s books and there was a decline in sweet and innocent portrayals until after the war when all constraints on style and interpretation were obliterated. The first expression of Alice as a nymphet was in 1974 by Kuniyoshi Kaneko and many have carried on this theme, exploring Alice’s emerging sexuality.

Takashi Saida - ふしぎなお庭:まりちゃんの夢の国旅行 (1925)

Takashi Saida – ふしぎなお庭:まりちゃんの夢の国旅行 (1925)

Mainland China had a strange ordinance in 1930 which banned Alice on the silly notion that because the animals talked, it put them on the same level as human beings. Also mentioned in the text is the mystery of a strange edition produced in a short run in Inner Mongolia that seems to defy Chinese convention. Writers and artists are not usually credited in Chinese Communist publications. However, this adaptation not only gives this Taiwanese illustrator credit, but seems to be observing a more international form of copyright law.

Shi Huimin - 爱丽丝梦遊奇境 (c2000)

Shi Huimin – 爱丽丝梦遊奇境 (c2000)

In 1879, the first translation of Alice into Russian appeared featuring the art of Tenniel. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for this new literature and a number of editions were produced before the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917. Under Soviet domination and particularly under Stalin, artists were regarded as engineers of utopian society rather than challengers of societal norms. Carroll’s works were banned outright simply because they emphasized fantasy and nonsense rather than serving a moral purpose—expressing Socialist Realism. Artistic institutions were integrated as government unions so no rogue artist could ever hope to get a commission or be published without state sanction. The principles of Soviet Communism continued to have a hold on the artistic process even after Stalin’s death.

There seemed always to be an attempt to bring a kind of order to chaos, either literally as in Aleksandr Dodon’s (2001) framing of the text with his illustrations or in some metaphorical way, making Alice the arbiter of morality in Wonderland and the Looking-Glass worlds. The fact that both stories take place in a template of game playing (cards and chess) gave Russian artists the comfort of structure and the application of rules. Julia Gukova’s illustrations break through this convention by making Alice more an integral part of Wonderland, undermining her ability to pass judgment on these dream worlds. The Russian truism that there is no absolute truth in narrative is perhaps the unifying theme of work in the region.

V.S. Alfeevsky - Алисa в Стране Чудес (1958)

V.S. Alfeevsky – Алисa в Стране Чудес (1958)

Aleksandr Dodon - Приключения Алисы в Стране Чудес (2001)

Aleksandr Dodon – Приключения Алисы в Стране Чудес (2001)

The first translation of Wonderland into Polish was in 1910 which included images by Tenniel mixed with an anonymous artist. The effect was confusing since the artist made no effort to match Tenniel’s design or style. It had only one edition and was quickly forgotten. Two later translations/illustrations that did have a lasting impact were by Kamil Mackiewicz (1927) and Olga Siemaszko (1955). As a caricaturist, Mackiewicz’s illustrations predictably exaggerated distinguishing traits of its characters.

A 1955 version was written by Antoni Marianowicz adhering to Communist cultural policy; any reference to class distinctions had to be toned down or reinterpreted. The particular genius of this work is that the English cultural references and poems were replaced outright by Polish ones that readers could relate to. And since Marianowicz was a humorist, this version was certainly more humorous than the original. Siemaszko also illustrated a 1969 version and there is a noticeable refinement in her technique. Most later Polish editions used mostly foreign illustrators and so there appears to be no distinctive Polish style. Only after the fall of Communism did native artists start to come to the fore. Ironically, some of the most recent editions again make use of the Tenniel drawings and so the younger generation is likely to have the same visual associations with the Alice books as their grandparents.

Olga Siemaszko - Alicja w Krainie Czarów (1955)

Olga Siemaszko – Alicja w Krainie Czarów (1955)

After discussing illustrations, the book covers film treatments of Alice. The most interesting is an essay by Jan Švankmajer who describes his relationship to Alice and how, in combination with his own childhood, it inspired the production of an independent film. His first foray into Carroll’s world was a 1971 film based on the poem Jabberwocky. He describes it as an imaginative history of his childhood up to the point when he rebelled against his father. The film opens with a child’s voice (his own daughter, Veronika, then aged 9 in the Czech version) quoting from Looking-Glass. Because the censors saw the film as containing political allegories, it was banned in Czecholslovakia and he made an English version in 1973 which traveled the globe. Only in 1989, was the original film finally seen in his home country.

Another film, inspired somewhat by Alice, was Down in the Cellar (Do pivnice, 1983) about a girl sent to the cellar to fetch potatoes and what happens to her there. Although the film was completed, it did not see the light of day for a number of years due again to censorship. Švankmajer emphasizes the importance of the dream imagery in our human development, a trait that has been long neglected because it served “no moral purpose”.

Finally, he decided to attempt Alice (Něco z Alenky ,1988). The filmmaker wanted to emphasize dream imagery but reminds us that dreams are also filled with familiar objects. All the voices, appropriately altered, would be done by the same child actress consistent with the theory that we are all the characters in our dreams. The idea is that Alice is the only live person in the film and there are no intrusions of adults in voice or body. The other characters were constructed from everyday objects from Alice’s world. The Czech studios took no interest in his work, so he got financing from foreign companies and enlisted the support of art institutions to give his work credibility. The filming was done using old discarded cameras and editing equipment and in 1986, the first Czech independent film saw the light of day. Then in 2006, a Japanese publisher asked him to illustrate both Alice books and he leapt at the chance.

“Lewis Carroll’s Alice is one of the basic books of this civilization, one of those we should take with us to a desert island, just in order to survive.” –Jan Švankmajer (2011, translated by David Short)

Jan Švankmajer - Alice (1988)

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988)

Another essay discusses how Alice lends itself so well to animation. Considering the fantastical nature of the stories, it seems that only this medium would have any hope of effectively portraying these magical worlds. Kamilla Elliott, in her book Rethinking the Novel/Film Debate (2003), has identified over 50 film and television adaptations. As mentioned before, Walt Disney was obsessed with producing Alice very early on and in the 1920s, he experimented with a combination of live action and animation for Alice in Cartoonland. The 1951 film distinguishes itself by featuring an actual child’s voice—that of Kathryn Beaumont who also did Wendy in Peter Pan—as opposed to young women used in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty.

A number of living artists shared their experiences illustrating Alice and the philosophy behind their approach. Michael Foreman, for example, noticed how few illustrators tried to make Alice look like the original Alice (Liddell). He also made a deliberate effort to distinguish reality (sepia) from dream (color) and insists that the real background for Wonderland must be his native Cornwall. Barry Moser muses how the story is really about loneliness because of how often the words “alone” and “lonely” appear in the text. John Vernon Lord is a stickler and points out that in the actual text, “Mad” is not applied to any particular character but rather all characters in general. Over the years, we have inherited certain assumptions because of past illustrators: the Hatter is mad, the Hatter wears a hat with a price tag on it and that, at the Mad Tea Party, things other than tea are served. Tatiana Ianovskaia observes a lightly etched eroticism implied by the various metaphors of two things being one: most notably, how playing cards are a kind of marriage of two bodies sharing one space. The other artists featured were John Bradley, Chiara Carrer, Emma Chichester Clark, Gavin O’Keefe, DeLoss McGraw, Helen Oxenbury, Ralph Steadman and Justin Todd.

Tatiana Ianovskaia - Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (2005)

Tatiana Ianovskaia – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (2005)

A short afterword, written by Graham Ovenden, comments on the modern estrangement between adults and children and that we are often deprived of the full potential of illustrators’ talent and imagination because of economic considerations.

Some of the contributors have observed some developments in the evolution of children’s books. First of all, they feel that there is a lack of charming little details. There is an assumption that children’s books should have simple illustrations. There also seems to be no adult market for illustrated books except in France and Russia. And one final observation is that with the onset of the digital age, Illustrating Alice may distinguish itself as the last time we see this kind of compilation in hard copy.

This post is quite timely as this year is the sesquicentennial anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Illustrating Alice was published in a run of 500 for the Standard edition (68 for the Special edition which comes with signed prints) and can be purchased through the Inky Parrot Press. This publisher also sells other Alice volumes including a version where each illustration is from a different artist. For those wanting a more comprehensive analysis of the Alice texts and history should read one the editions referred to as The Annotated Alice.

Illustrating Alice summary of contents:

  • Foreword by Marina Vaizey
  • Alice in different countries: Brazil by Adriana Peliano, China by Richard Newnham, England, 1865–1939 by Selwyn Goodacre, England, 1940 to today by Dennis Hall, France by Michèle Noret, Italy by Caterina Morelli, Japan by Mikiko Chimori, Poland by Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Russia by Ella Parry-Davies, United States and Canada by Mark Burnstein
  • Alice in Film: ‘Alice’ by Jan Švankmajer, ‘Animating Alice’ by Karen Lury
  • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (artists credited above)
  • Alice Through the Looking-Glass (collected illustrations only, organized by chapter
  • Alice: as through a Glass Darkly (afterword) by Graham Ovenden
  • Alphabetical Checklist of English Language Editions from the lists compiled by Selwyn Goodacre and Edward Wakeling
  • Index of Artists of non-English Language Editions and individual paintings

After School Memories

Reading RJ’s post about High Feather and after-school memories made me think of the times my sister and I would come home from school and watch cartoons. It seems strange now, but I remember us getting jazzed about watching He-Man and Masters of the Universe. I guess it was just something to do because the plots were obvious, the characters totally unbelievable and there was this annoying moral at the end of every story. However, there was this cute superheroine that appeared in two episodes so I get to share my reminiscences with you.

She is called the Starchild and besides being cute as a button, she has superpowers which others are trying to use for their own selfish purposes.

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (1)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (1)

In the first episode she appears in, two factions are arguing over custody and the main characters have to intercede in the best interests of the child. She has the power to make people like her, but her powers can be used for protection when needed. To demonstrate that she gets manhandled quite a lot from people, ogres and other creatures in the first episode.

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (1)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (1)

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (2)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (2)

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (3)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: The Starchild (1983) (3)

In the second season, she is abducted by a sorceress who desperately needs her as barter so she can free her father from the Realm of Evil. In the end, Starchild has to help our heroes get through a portal to escape from that realm.

Filmation - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (2)

Filmation – He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Bargain With Evil (1984) (2)

Growing up, I figured that He-Man was just another kids show until I started watching the Sut Jhally videos. It happens that when my sister and I were in school, regulations regarding prime time children’s television were severely relaxed and programmers no longer had to pretend to provide educational or uplifting material to young viewers. He-Man was the first show invented completely to sell toys (Mattel action figures). The idea was that kids would walk to their drugstore or whatever and collect the figures—crying to their parents the whole time until they got what they wanted.

All Girls Go to Heaven: The Life and Death of Judith Barsi

According to Dr. Phillip Resnick, a psychiatric professor at Case Western University and co-author of a study called Parents Who Kill, filicide (the murder of a child by its parent) comprises one in every thirty-three homicides in America, about three hundred per year.  It is the third leading cause of death for American children between the ages of five and fourteen and is the second most common type of intrafamilial murder.  And yet, most of these cases barely make national news; high profile cases like Aaron Schaffhausen’s murder of his three daughters (discussed in the linked article) are the exception to the rule in the violence-numb United States.  Another such exception was the murder of child celebrity Judith Barsi.

Although she never attained the level of a Shirley Temple, a Drew Barrymore or a Dakota Fanning, she had been quietly building up a respectable acting and voice-over career since age five and was set to become a household name with the release of her last film All Dogs Go to Heaven when her father put a .25 caliber pistol behind her ear while she was sleeping one late summer night in 1988 and murdered her point blank in her bed.  He also murdered her mother Maria that evening, and a few days later shot himself—a triple murder-suicide.  The events leading up to Judith’s murder and the crime itself comprise a staggeringly horrific story.

Photographer Unknown - Judith Barsi (1)

Photographer Unknown – Judith Barsi (1)

Judith Eva Barsi was born on June 6th, 1978.  Her father, József Barsi, was a fugitive from Communist Hungary, as was her mother, Maria Virovacz.  Her parents had immigrated to America separately and met in New York City.  Owing to their shared heritage, the two were drawn to each other.  But they had something else in common: both had difficult childhoods, József because he was illegitimate and was constantly bullied because of it, and Maria because her own father was a physically and psychologically abusive alcoholic.  It’s a story as common as dirt: those who come from abusive families wind up falling into the same groove when they become parents.

Photographer Unknown - Judith Barsi (2)

Photographer Unknown – Judith Barsi (2)

The couple eventually married and migrated to Los Angeles, where Judith was born.  Discovered at a skating rink, she was initially cast in a series of commercials for Lays Potato Chips, Jif Peanut Butter, Rocky Road Cereal and many others before she appeared in her first narrative role (in the television miniseries Fatal Vision, ironically about a doctor convicted of murdering his own family).  Judith was petite and short for her age, and she was often cast as a child two to three years younger than her actual age, a boon for filmmakers who needed a very young child, who are notoriously difficult to work with.  The next year she was given a small part in another television movie, a drama about sexual abuse called Kids Don’t Tell.  She went on to do guest appearances in several notable TV series: The New Twilight Zone, Remington Steele, Punky Brewster, The Tracy Ullman Show, Cheers, Cagney & Lacey and several others, including Christmas-themed episodes of The Fall Guy, The Love Boat and Trapper John, M.D.  She also filmed a few more made-for-TV movies such as Destination America and an entry in the ABC After School Special series, A Family Again.

John Finger, et al - Stills from 'Cheers' episode "Relief Bartender"

John Finger, et al – Stills from ‘Cheers’ episode “Relief Bartender”

Art Dielhenn, et al - Still from 'Punky Brewster' episode "Changes Part 2"

Art Dielhenn, et al – Still from ‘Punky Brewster’ episode “Changes Part 2”

Her theatrical film debut was in the Gary Busey biker gang action flick Eye of the Tiger, where she played Busey’s daughter, and roles in Slam Dance and Jaws: The Revenge would soon follow.  But perhaps her biggest role was as the voice of the little Saurolophus named Ducky (“Yep yep yep!”) in Don Bluth’s animated baby dinosaur adventure The Land Before Time.  Bluth was so impressed with her abilities that he hired her again to voice the little orphan girl Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven.  This would prove to be one of her final roles.  In fact, neither of the Bluth films were released until after Judith’s murder.

John McPherson, et al - Jaws 4; The Revenge (lobby card)

John McPherson, et al – Jaws 4; The Revenge (lobby card)

Don Bluth, et al - Still from 'The Land Before Time' (1)

Don Bluth, et al – Still from ‘The Land Before Time’ (1)

Don Bluth, et al - All Dogs Go to Heaven (poster)

Don Bluth et al – All Dogs Go to Heaven (poster)

By all accounts Judith was a quiet, sweet-natured and obedient child, leaving many around her with a false sense of her security; meanwhile, as her career was taking off, behind the scenes things were going from bad to worse.  Her father was an unemployed, insecure drunk who became increasingly paranoid and jealous of his daughter’s breadwinner status and the fact that everyone who knew her adored her.  Judith was constantly stressed and terrified of her father, who had repeatedly threatened her life if she didn’t come back to him, essentially the same way he treated his wife.  He was also growing physically abusive toward her, to the point where he threw a pan at her face and bloodied her nose.  When she had an emotional breakdown at her agent’s office, the authorities were contacted and Judith was sent to a child psychologist, but because the police had little physical evidence to go on, the case was not pursued.  Moreover, Maria had promised that she would soon divorce Jozsef and asked the authorities not to prosecute the case.

Photographer Unknown - Still from Unidentified Film

Photographer Unknown – Still from Unidentified Film

John McPherson, et al - Stills from 'Jaws 4: The Revenge'

John McPherson, et al – Stills from ‘Jaws 4: The Revenge’

In her final days Judith had begun to show signs of the strain, gaining weight and pulling out her own eyelashes as well as the whiskers of her pet cats.  The nose-bloodying incident occurred just before Judith left to film Jaws 4 in Hawaii.  During this period Joszef also put a knife to her throat and threatened to kill her if she did not come home, much the way abusive spouses often treat the objects of their abuse.  When the authorities were finally alerted, it seemed that things were about to change for Judith, and Maria promised to divorce Jozsef.  She had an apartment set up for herself and Judith to go to whenever her husband became belligerent, but it was too little too late, demonstrating the urgency that such cases should be given.  It seemed Jozsef had some inkling that the gig was up for him.  On July 25th, Judith was last seen riding her bike around the neighborhood of Canoga Park where the family lived; that night would be her last.

John McPherson, et al - Still from 'Jaws 4: The Revenge' (detail)

John McPherson, et al – Still from ‘Jaws 4: The Revenge’ (detail)

Additional Facts:

  • By age 7 Judith was pulling in $100, 000 a year, money that allowed the family to move into the nice three-bedroom home in Canoga Park, the same home she would eventually be killed in.
  • At 10 Judith stood at only 3′ 8″ and was taking a regimen of growth hormones to compensate.
  • Judith was bilingual, speaking both English and Hungarian fluently.
  • One of her favorite activities was swimming, and she wore her own swimsuit while filming Jaws 4.
  • She thoroughly enjoyed doing voice-over work for animation and wanted to continue doing it after her experiences working with Don Bluth.  Just before her death she had signed on to work with Hanna-Barbera.
  • Her funeral was attended by many of the celebrities who knew her and had worked with her.  Lance Guest, who played her father in Jaws 4, was one of the pallbearers at her funeral, and the Gold sisters (Tracey, Missy and Brandy, best known for childhood roles in TV series such as Benson, Growing Pains and Baby Makes Five) read Edgar Guest poem A Child of Mine as part of her eulogy.
  • The cast and crew of All Dogs Go to Heaven dedicated the song Love Survives–heard playing over the end credits of the film–to Judith’s memory.
  • She was buried beside her mother in Forest Lawn Memorial Park–also known as the Hollywood Hills Cemetery–in Los Angeles.
Photographer Unknown - Judith Barsi's Headstone in Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Photographer Unknown – Judith Barsi’s Headstone in Forest Lawn Memorial Park

Don Bluth et al - Still from 'The Land Before Time' (2)

Don Bluth et al – Still from ‘The Land Before Time’ (2)

Wikipedia: Judith Barsi

IMDb: Judith Barsi

Random Reviews by Emily: Judith Barsi 1978-1988       

The Dance of Life and Love: Glen Keane’s ‘Duet’

I will be posting a comics story soon by the brilliant Charles Vess, but in the meantime I really had to share this.  It’s a short animated piece that brought me to tears the first time I saw it, and I knew it was perfect for Pigtails.  The piece is by legendary Disney animator Glen Keane, who helped animate and design some of the most iconic Disney characters of all time–from Ariel to Aladdin to Pocahontas to Tarzan, his artistic touch is unmistakable.  He retired from Disney a couple of years ago, having put in a respectable thirty seven years at the company, but he is still working on animation.  This short film, called Duet, was designed for Google’s Spotlight Stories series, and you can read more about it here, as well as see some stills from the film.  I don’t want to say too much about the film itself; just watch and enjoy it!

Glen Keane - Duet (2014)

Glen Keane – Duet (2014)

Glen Keane – Duet (2014)

A Loyal Steed Indeed: Hiroyasu Ishida

Pip turned me on to an animation short that bears a striking resemblance to a Studio Ghibli production. Pip and I are quite fond of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli and will be doing posts about that animation and its stories.  In the mean time, this short is called Paulette’s Chair and is directed by Hiroyasu Ishida (石田祐康).

The tale is of a girl who feels rejected and has an adventure with an animated chair.

Hiroyasi Ishida et al - Paulette's Chair (2014) (1)

Hiroyasi Ishida et al – Paulette’s Chair (2014) (1)

Watching Paulette galloping around makes the other girls laugh and they start to include her in their games.

Hiroyasi Ishida et al - Paulette's Chair (2014) (2)

Hiroyasi Ishida et al – Paulette’s Chair (2014) (2)

Hiroyasi Ishida et al - Paulette's Chair (2014) (3)

Hiroyasi Ishida et al – Paulette’s Chair (2014) (3)

When she goes off to school, she has to start all over again with some snooty girls.

Hiroyasi Ishida et al - Paulette's Chair (2014) (4)

Hiroyasi Ishida et al – Paulette’s Chair (2014) (4)

The chair cheers her up by taking her for another ride, this time in a cityscape. Disheveled after all this, the chair deposits her on campus making the other girls laugh and presumably breaking the ice once again.

Hiroyasi Ishida et al - Paulette's Chair (2014) (5)

Hiroyasi Ishida et al – Paulette’s Chair (2014) (5)

Part of what makes the other girls accept her is that she does not take herself too seriously. She has several pratfalls as a little girl which result in her panties showing—presumably to punch up the humor.  Here she is bucked off the chair for the first time.

Hiroyasi Ishida et al - Paulette's Chair (2014) (6)

Hiroyasi Ishida et al – Paulette’s Chair (2014) (6)

I don’t yet know much about this animator also known as “Tete”, so you can go here to get a little more information and watch the entire video. The character designer and animation director was Yojiro Arai and music was by Masashi Hamauzu. The film was produced by Studio Colorido and released by the Fuji Television Network.

Zhang Peng: Creepy Girl with Knife

The theme of girls with guns does indeed seem incongruous and so frankly there are not a whole lot of images out there; so, I have been passing on my few leads to Pip.  I cannot offer any images of girls today with guns, but how about girls with knives?  It was fortuitous that I should come across this item for sale on the web. It is a pillbox measuring 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. The seller did not know anything about the art on this object, only that it caught her eye as it did mine.

If this were a drawing or painting, I would say that it was made by a teenage girl and then made into a pillbox.  Obvious and stereotypical perhaps, but it is our intent here to offer an honest presentation of the female character and our responses to it.  I have worked extensively with teenage boys and girls and this is not an uncommon sentiment and if she should have artistic talent, something like this comes into being.  However, if this is a photograph as it appears, with a doll posed at the artist’s whim, it is probably a woman with the resources to produce this and serves as a vehicle for working out some of her issues with the past.  There is a recent Japanese art form involving highly realistic but stylized dolls and it appears one of those was used here.

People may argue that the public should not be exposed to such imagery, but that demonstrates an ignorance of the fact that artistic expression serves as an important release.  This partially or completely suppresses actual homicidal impulses, even for those who merely view the images.  This applies to the whole range of human violent behavior and I will probably be making that point in future posts.


Zhang Peng – (Title Unknown) (1)

The follow supplementary information was posted on January 21, 2014:

Shortly after seeing this image, I saw another creepy image and decided to contact the seller.  She was kind enough to supply the original rectangular image to post on this site and confirmed that it is a photograph.  Any leads about the artist would be much appreciated.

Creepy Girl with Knife

Zhang Peng – (Title Unknown) (2)

Wikipedia: Zhang Peng

Alon Chou (Chou Jing-Long)

We haven’t done any digital art for a long time. Here’s a beautiful piece I happened across in one of my journeys through the web. The artist is Chou Jing-Long, better known by his online moniker Alon Chou, and all of his work is simply stunning. This piece is no exception. I love the almost fantasial feel of it, and the distorted perspective works perfectly here. A charming idea well done.


Alon Chou (Chou Jing-Long) – I’m Willing

Alon Chou (Chou Jing-Long) – I’m Willing (detail)

Alon Chou (Chou Jing-Long) – I’m Willing (detail)

Alon Chou (Official Site)

His Dark Materials, Pt. 2

I said in the earlier post on the His Dark Materials series that there were two main reasons I loved these books, the central protagonist and the fact that they’re critical of organized religion.  That’s true, but in fact there’s a third reason which is connected to both and overrides everything else.  While the fantasy and adventure aspects drew me into Lyra Belacqua’s world initially, what really cemented the greatness of the books for me was the way Pullman treated his child characters with respect and honesty.  In fact, the books wouldn’t have worked otherwise.  I despise badly written child characters.  You know what I’m talking about: kids who are little more than one-dimensional foils or MacGuffins for the advancement of the plot.  There is a lot of that in television series, especially cop shows, and the books of writers like Dean Koontz, and almost invariably shows or novels about child abuse are guilty of using kids this way.

I digress. Perhaps the main theme of the series is that the Church (called the Magisterium in Lyra’s world) destroys the spirit of children, almost quite literally, but in reality the Magisterium could be substituted with anyone or anything–whatever they identify as politically–that tries to suppress human nature by relabeling it and making it taboo or illicit. Of course, the Magisterium, like the Church on our world, calls it sin.

More of Lyra with Iorek Byrnison:


CookieCherry – The Golden Compass

DeviantArt: CookieCherry

klorel03 - The Golden Compass

klorel03 – The Golden Compass

DeviantArt: klorel03

zirofax - The North - The Golden Compass

zirofax – The North – The Golden Compass

DeviantArt: zirofax

Andrew Olsen - Golden Compass / Northern lights

Andrew Olsen – Golden Compass / Northern lights

Andrew Olsen Illustration (Official Site)

The hardened sap from a particular tree, arranged in a certain away, allows those who look through it to see Dust, particles that settle around intelligent beings, particularly daemons which have stopped their shapeshifting capacity and settled into their final form (this occurs at the onset of adolescence in humans which possess daemons.) The Magisterium mistakenly attributes this tendency of Dust to be attracted to fixed-form daemons as the tainting of the daemon—and thereby the person the daemon belongs to—by sin once the child reaches puberty; hence the Magisterium’s desire to sever daemons from children before they can become contaminated by Dust (sin). Of course, what they wind up doing is destroying the daemon—a daemon on Lyra’s world being a kind of physical manifestation of their soul—leaving children essentially soulless zombies who die not long afterward. Here we see Lyra peering through a piece of the amber, watching Dust as it drifts about the world:

Cal Erstein - Amber

Cal Erstein – Amber

Lyra and her daemon, Pantalaimon:

farewellrani - Lyra Belacqua

farewellrani – Lyra Belacqua

DeviantArt: farewellrani

One of the most beautiful—and ultimately most tragic—scenes in the final book is the scene in which Will and Lyra fall in love. These two kids, having just entered puberty, discover the joys and pleasures of each other’s bodies (or so the book strongly hints), but are destined to be separated forever not long after. Thus, they do what comes naturally to human beings . . . yes, even kids. It’s a sweet and romantic scene, which stands in stark contrast to the dirty, sinful picture of sex painted by the Church in our world, and presumably the Magisterium in Lyra’s.

Irene Flores - Separate Worlds

Irene Flores – Separate Worlds

Irene Flores – Illustrator & Mangaka (Official Site)

Carlos Lerma - Will and Lyra

Carlos Lerma – Will and Lyra

Lerms (Official Site)

Christian Canave - The Loss of Innocence

Christian Canave – The Loss of Innocence

CG Society: Christian Canave

Finally, to round out this series, perhaps my favorite piece relating to His Dark Materials is this one by Adam Hunter Peck:

Adam Hunter Peck - The Golden Compass

Adam Hunter Peck – The Golden Compass

Adam Hunter Peck (Official Site)


From rodstar1019 on December 25, 2011
“The Golden Compass,” one of my all time favorite books and I enjoyed the movie as well. The artwork is incredible. There is some real talent present here.

From pipstarr72 on December 25,2011
I count the His Dark Materials trilogy in my top five books & book series of all time. The movie was good–I have it in my DVD collection, but it just doesn’t compare to the books, in my estimation.

From dewimorgan on December 27, 2011
I loved the series, and having lived in Oxford, I loved the places they explored. It was like seeing my old haunt through new eyes. But somehow I think the series sort of lost its appeal for me after the first book.
It’s natural that as the story progressed, their concerns would become so much vaster, but I felt that I cared less about them because of the sense of scale, than when their concerns were just whether they’d get told off by the nursemaid in Oxford.
They became (as you’d expect from a coming of age story) less “children done right” and more “young adults”, and that was just a less magical thing, despite the great affairs around them.
If you like animé, another creator that I’ve always loved for his Children Done Right is Miyazaki: Totoro was the first one I noticed it in – it really made me go “crikey, that’s SO much better a depiction of kids than I’ve seen in animation before!” – though Grave of Fireflies, Spirited Away, and several others are well worth a look.

From pipstarr72 on December 27, 2011
We are definitely different then, because personally I’m a huge fan of epic fiction. The scale of the story in fact gave the reader a deeper sense of the vulnerability of the characters, I think, similar to the semiotic effect in film of pulling far away and hovering above the characters. And all the new exotic worlds and characters just increased my awe and keyed into my imagination. The bildungsroman aspect of the books was an essential part of what Pullman was going for, as you yourself point out, which makes sense because any child that went through what Lyra and Will go through are bound to mature emotionally. That’s just good writing. Characters in well-written stories are dynamic, and that this story coincides with Will and Lyra being on the cusp of adolescence means that they were bound to grow up as the story progressed. I really don’t understand your complaint there, as it would’ve defied realism if they hadn’t taken on aspects of adulthood along the way. I also disagree that this was less magical. For myself I see the onset of adolescence as perhaps the most magical time of our lives because we are changing very quickly. It’s not always pretty, I’ll grant, but it is certainly fascinating.
I’m definitely a fan of Hayao Miyazaki’s work and have most of his films, including Grave of the Fireflies, a relentlessly sad film but one that everyone should certainly see. I would also love to see the live-action version if I can ever get my hands on a copy with subtitles.

From dewimorgan on December 27, 2011
…there’s a *live action* version? Crikey. I don’t know whether to be delighted, or sad. Live action versions are usually a very pale imitation.
I completely agree with you about the character development in the stories. It was exceptionally well done. But for me at least, one of the things about coming of age is the sense of loss.
Combine that with the “mentors must die” and “last level is an alien world” tropes (my two personal least favorites), and the inevitable problem with every sequel that the content is no longer new to the reader… and I suppose it’s natural that I don’t find the later books as magically delightful as the first.
But yeah – they’re still great books, and I suspect Lyra’s Oxford will be aimed right at my mind’s delight-spot.

From pipstarr72 on December 27, 2011
Yes, apparently there was a live-action version of Grave of the Fireflies, though I don’t know if it made it into the English-speaking world. I just recall reading about it somewhere. Both versions were supposedly based on a famous novel, and, if I recall correctly, the live-action version preceded the Studio Ghibli version. By the way, I’m not hugely into anime and manga the way some people are, but I do tend to seek out the quality stuff. I’m much more into European comics, particularly the works of people like Moebius (whose short piece “The Apple Pie” I have put up here, along with a pretty solid critique, I think), Jacque Tardi and the like, and a lot of American indie comics. The central problem I have with anime is that there’s just not enough aesthetic variation in it for me. I know the Japanese are big on tradition, but you can take that too far. I love that their culture embraces comics so thoroughly, but they need to expand their aesthetic horizons.
I don’t recall Lyra’s mentor(s) dying in the story. Her parents died (sort of) but her mom was one of the villains and her dad was fairly emotionally distant and was never really a father to her. I think you’d be hard-pressed to call either of them mentors, even though both assist the kids at certain points in the story, though usually towards their own ends which just happened to be beneficial to Lyra. I mean, Lyra basically raised herself at Oxford, and all the other adults whom Will and Lyra encounter along the way and who help them in various capacities live, as I remember it. But it has been quite awhile since I’ve read them, so don’t quote me on that. The alien worlds . . . well, the whole series is mostly set on alien worlds, or more accurately, alternate versions of Earth, excluding the segment set in the Land of the Dead.

Yep, definitely a great series. Lyra’s Oxford I have not read, but whenThe Book of Dust comes out I’ll probably pick up both.