René Iché

My second post is dedicated to René Iché, another French sculptor. He was born in Sallèles-d’Aude in 1897 and died in 1954. Iché was a soldier in WWI, where he suffered injuries and trauma. His experiences in the Great War inspired him to create one of his most famous works, Guernica. Many artists were moved by this historic event where the German Luftwaffe deliberately bombed a Basque civilian population, and created memorial works, most famously Pablo Picasso. But Iché’s piece is much simpler than Picasso’s. It is simply a single skeletal little girl, a symbol of the most innocent victims of the attack.

René Iché - Guernica (1937)(1)

René Iché – Guernica (1937)(1)

René Iché - Guernica (1937)(2)

René Iché – Guernica (1937)(2)

Another fascinating piece by the artist is Contrefleur, a word that translates to “Anti-Flower” which doesn’t seem very flattering. This is Iché in realist mode. In stark contrast to the usual artistic ideal for the youthful feminine figure, he gives us a pubescent girl who is a little fleshy, and her demeanor is somewhat shy and standoffish. Additionally, her pubis—usually smooth in sculpture—is meant to be covered in matted pubic hair. No fay little creature, this! And yet I still find her beautiful. I think Iché did too, and he meant the title ironically, as a snub to critics and idealists.

René Iché - La Contrefleur (1933)

René Iché – La Contrefleur (1933)

Samantha Everton’s Childhood Fears

I had planned to spend the entire month making posts on artistic horror imagery, including a dissection of two of my favorite horror films featuring girls, but due to circumstances out of my control I have not had much time to work on Pigtails.  I will try to work in three or four posts that adhere to the theme though, and this is the first.  The artist is Samantha Everton, a photographer based in Melbourne, Australia whose work often incorporates children, particularly young girls.  Of special interest for us this month is her series Childhood Fears, where she explores the darker side of girlhood.  Her palette is stark and cold—black, white, blues and greens—and a sense of dread pervades her images, making them a good fit for October.

The first two pieces directly confront the common childhood fear of stranger abduction.  Though it is extremely rare, society and media constantly remind children of ‘stranger danger’, making it a ripe area for artistic exploration of childhood fears.  These photographs use the common semiotic convention of the innocent girl-child (in a white dress) against the blackness of night to express the anxiety and menace of the faceless stranger approaching his potential victim on the road in his big dark automobile.  In the first image, the girls’ vulnerability is reflected in the sheerness of their dresses, and there is a certain sexual tension in visibility of their legs through the flimsy material.  In the second image, the girl runs away, but there is little hope of her outrunning her stalker.

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - Night Without Darkness

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – Night Without Darkness

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - Invisible Children

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – Invisible Children

The remaining photos settle on domestic unease.  The first of these presents a birthday party, but there is no joy here.  Everything feels overly stiff and formal, devoid of emotion, even mechanical and inhuman.  The title of this piece, Fear of Understanding, suggests that there is perhaps some unspoken secret that everyone present senses but does not fully grasp, the revelation of which will be devastating for all involved.  Thus, it remains the elephant in the room.  Questions abound.  For example, why does the dark-haired girl have a cupcake while the other girl does not?  And why does she need a cupcake at all when there is a full-sized birthday cake?  Whose birthday is it anyway?  Here again are those gauzy white dresses on the girls (mimicked, it must be said, by the translucent curtains), while the parents wear darker, more subdued clothing.

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - Fear of Understanding

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – Fear of Understanding

The next image uses the exact same setting, intimating that it is part of the same narrative as the image above.  Here the blond girl sits alone, covering her eyes.  Has the terrible secret been revealed at last?  Why does the girl cover her eyes?  Is she crying, or is there something she is afraid to see?  The birthday cake and other desserts remain untouched, and there is something menacing implicit in the silhouettes of the trees behind her.  This image effectively taps into what is perhaps the quintessential childhood fear: isolation.

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - Holding On

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – Holding On

The next photo addresses another childhood dread: the breakdown of the family.  As the child passes outside her parents’ bedroom, she is aware of something wrong and terrible happening between her mother and father—an argument, maybe, perhaps owing to the revelation of the big secret generating the tension in Fear of Understanding—which is only hinted at in the image.  Mother sags on the bed as father stands before her, his stern reflection captured in the mirror.  If I keep my eyes closed, the girl thinks as she passes briskly by the open doorway, I can ignore what is going on and pretend everything is normal again.

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - If I Keep My Eyes Closed

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – If I Keep My Eyes Closed

And now our girls stands quietly backlit in a dim hallway, her eyes still closed.  This is my favorite of these images.  Perhaps nowhere does the girl seem more vulnerable and ethereal than she does here.  The darkness behind her holds such portent and foreboding.

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - Silent

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – Silent

In the next piece, the two little girls stand side by side beneath twin copies of what appears to be Thomas Lawrence’s Pinkie, though you’ll note that one copy seems to have blond hair and the other dark, and that their positions are reversed from the living girls in the photo.  The meaning here is much more oblique, and the key to it all may be the pigeon in the blond girl’s hand.  Pigeons, being famously one of the first domesticated avian species, is thus symbolic of the home.  And yet, the presence of the bird here feels odd and out-of-place.  Likewise, the dark-haired girl’s hair billows while the blond girl’s hair remains still.  Although these girls are around the same age and dressed identically, they do not project a familial bond.  It’s almost like they are standing in the exact same spot in the same home at very different times and are completely unaware of each other.  Once again, there are hints of some strange and unnatural narrative here.  One can easily imagine an entire story with this photo series, where one of the children is a ghost haunting the other one without her awareness.  I think it is the dark-haired girl who is the ghost.  What do you think?

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - The Space Between Acceptance

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – The Space Between Acceptance

My evidence for this contention is this next photo, where the brunette girl is absent entirely but the second Pinkie is still in place!

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - Don't Let Go

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – Don’t Let Go

But then, there’s this . . .

Samantha Everton - Childhood Fears - The Suffocation of Fear

Samantha Everton – Childhood Fears – The Suffocation of Fear

The notion that the darker girl is a spirit casts the birthday party scene in a whole new light too.

Samantha Everton (official site)

The Girl as Political Model: Ana Torrent, Pt. 1 (The Spirit of the Beehive)

In 1973, young Spanish filmmaker Víctor Erice created his debut film: El espíritu de la colmena (The Spirit of the Beehive).  It is widely considered one of the masterpieces of Spanish cinema, an opinion I happen to share.  The film has been widely influential, and its imprint can be seen in dozens of other films, among them Carlos Taboada’s Veneno para las hadas (Poison for the Fairies), Gabriele Salvatores’s Io non ho paura (I’m Not Scared) and, perhaps most notably, Guillermo del Toro’s El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth).  Aside from its masterful direction, the key to its success was its young star, little Ana Torrent, who had never acted before and was not from a family of actors.

The film operates on two levels: The first is a story of a little girl growing up and learning to face her fears, a classic coming-of-age story.  The second is a political allegory, a veiled critique of the Franco regime which, unlike its Nazi and Fascist counterparts in Germany and Italy respectively, still had a grip on Spain at the time this was filmed.

The dominant party under Franco was the Falange, and we immediately get a sense of its presence when we see the Falange’s logo on the side of one of the buildings in the town of Hoyuelos, where the story is set.  A truck has arrived in this sleepy Spanish village, a mobile cinema.  For these rural children in 1940 Spain, a movie is something of a novelty.  When a Spanish-dubbed version of the classic Universal picture Frankenstein is screened in the town hall, nearly the entire village—or at least its younger segment—shows up to watch it, including sisters Ana and Isabel (Ana Torrent and Isabel Tellería).  At first they blend in with the rest of the children, like bees in a hive, but eventually we get a closeup of their rapt, apprehensive faces.

The relationship between Ana and Isabel is a more complicated one than it appears on the surface.  Many have interpreted the two of them as the opposing factions in the Spanish Civil War that only just ended in the period in which the film is set, and so will we.  Isabel, the older and more dominant sister, represents the nationalists under Franco, who won the war and now rules Spain, and Ana represents the leftists, who did not.  There is still some fighting as the Francoists clean up the countryside, but basically the war is over.

Before the film itself plays, the film-goers watch a government-approved addendum that is clearly intended to be political propaganda, wherein democracy is compared to the monster: a frightening man-made creation that subverts the natural order of things.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (1)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (1)

While the children of Hoyuelos are being enthralled by Frankenstein, the girls’ father, a beekeeper named Fernando, is working with his bees.  The beehive is a symbol that will appear throughout the film, most prominently in the form of the honeycombed windows of the manor house that Fernando and his family live in.  Fernando’s beekeeping costume also makes him resemble a medieval monk, and thus a stand-in for God looking down on Spain from above: although he attends to it faithfully, he disapproves of it, criticizing it as tightly-controlled but essentially mindless and soulless.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (2)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (2)

Meanwhile, the children’s mother, Teresa, writes a letter to her absent lover, whom we may assume is a soldier of some kind.  In her letter she explains how the war has torn the family apart emotionally.  Indeed, the family is never seen together as a whole until somewhere near the end, when they are breakfasting.  We see a recurrence of the beehive theme here, in the manor house’s windows, which we will see again and again.  Teresa writes by the golden light streaming through one of these honeycombed windows.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (3)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (3)

When Teresa visits the train station to mail off her letter, she walks through the smoke and steam issuing from the train, echoing the smoke Fernando uses to calm his bees into submission. Smoke or steam is another oft recurring nod to the beehive in this film. And the train has long been a symbol of industry and progress, playing well into the ideology of the newly appointed authoritarian governments of Europe, who each utilized the unity and pride of workers as propaganda to bring them into the fold. Trains, of course, were also used to carry soldiers and prisoners of war to their destination.  This train will be seen again.  In the partial breakdown of society after the war, it is one of the few connections the isolated village has to the world outside.

As Fernando is reading the newspaper, the sound of the film in the tiny village floats into the house, distracting him, and he steps out onto the balcony to get a better listen. Here we see those yellow honeycombed windows again, only this time Fernando is on the other side of them.  He is, in his own way, just another bee, another cog in the Francoist wheel.

Then we’re back to the theater again.  This leads into the scene where Frankenstein’s monster encounters the little girl, Maria (Marilyn Harris), who offers him a flower.  But the monster winds up killing the girl accidentally by tossing her into the water, believing she will float like the flower the girl threw into the water. This becomes the lynchpin scene for Ana, the beginning of her obsession with the monster.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (4)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (4)

Frankenstein’s monster is one of the most complex in literature.  In the novel—a literary classic written by a 17-year-old Mary Shelley—the creature is a tortured being who can not only speak but has the soul of a poet and can wax eloquent about his own suffering.  He wants only to find his place in the world and people who will care about him, and when his creator refuses to help him to that end, and his own searches reveal only people who fear and despise him because of his monstrous size and hideous appearance, it is only then that he becomes a murderer.  By the end he has lost his faith in both humanity and himself.  But the movie monster was somewhat different.  Reduced to guttural grunts and growls, he is not the creature of great intelligence and sensitivity we meet in the novel.  He is slow, both physically and mentally, although he means well and his intentions are often misunderstood.  The best literary analogue is probably Lennie Small from John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (5)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (5)

Ana is terrified and spellbound. As a little girl herself, this scene really hits home for her. Torrent’s large expressive eyes help to sell what she is feeling as she watches the scene play out.  It should be noted that Ana Torrent was not given much preparation for this role and in fact was not even familiar with the script.  Erice wanted the children to behave as real children, and he fed them—or at least Torrent—a line at a time.  Thus, Ana’s confusion and terror in the film are often real.  Today we would probably consider this exploitative, but few can deny the power of Torrent’s performance.  Still, her experiences on the set of The Spirit of the Beehive were likely troubling to her father, who wanted to prevent her from acting after this film.  Luckily for her this did not wind up being the case, but we shall discuss her other films another time.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (6)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (6)

Although the scene in Frankenstein where the monster tosses the girl into the water was actually shot, it was excised from early cuts of the film because it was considered too violent.  It is rather tame by today’s standards, but at the time the censors thought it too frightening for audiences to see.  This small edit actually becomes important in The Spirit of the Beehive, because it leads to Ana’s confusion about what really happened to Maria.  First Ana sees Maria befriending the monster, and the next thing Ana knows, the girl is inexplicably dead.  The older, more experienced Isabel, on the other hand, knows exactly what happened.  Politically, you could say that Isabel has bought into the propaganda entirely.  Ana is a different story.  For her it is not initially clear what connection the monster has to the dead child, and in that sense there is still hope for Ana to see the monster in a more sympathetic light.  But she is uncertain.  Hence, her obsession. The monster will haunt Ana in a way it never can Isabel, who has already made up her mind about it. This is exacerbated by the fact that, although Isabel agrees to answer Ana’s question after Frankenstein is over, she never really does.

Later, when the girls are in bed, Ana asks again, but the jaded Isabel, who knows something about how movies are made, simply explains that it was all fake. Ana is, of course, unsatisfied with this answer because it does not address the issue that’s
troubling her. Indeed, Isabel only adds insult to injury by playing on Ana’s gullibility, telling her younger sister that the monster now resides in their own village. She adds that the monster is essentially a disembodied spirit who only comes out at night and can sometimes take corporeal form, which really enflames Ana’s imagination. Isabel even tells Ana how to summon the monster.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (7)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (7)

Fernando continues to wax philosophical about the bees, seeing only futility and soulless toil in their frenzied activity, ironically failing to see how he and his wife (and by extension, Francoist Spain) have become exactly like the bees.  His wife (who is significantly younger than her husband), by contrast, does get a sense of it, even if she can’t quite identify it for what it is, as she points out in one of her letters to her lover.  In that sense, husband and wife echo Isabel and Ana. Isabel, like her father, is a conformist at heart, whereas Ana yearns for something more, something she does not fully understand but sees represented in the form of Dr. Frankenstein’s creation. She is the dreamer. We get a sense that Isabel will survive just fine under Franco, but we worry about Ana, who stands in for a future democratic Spain. She is open and questioning, and therefore vulnerable.  At any rate, while Teresa finds her solace and distraction in writing letters, Fernando finds his in his work and in his routines like smoking cigarettes and taking his tea (both of which produce smoke of sorts, thereby tying back into the beehive symbolism).

In the Catholic girls’ school the sisters attend, they are faced with putting together their own sort of Frankenstein’s monster in the form of Don José, a puzzle of the human body where certain organs can be added and removed, used as a teaching tool by their instructor.   In a deeply symbolic scene, Ana is asked by the teacher to place the final missing piece: the eyes. With her dreamer’s soul, Ana offers the much-needed vision that her Francoist peers lack. This will foreshadow a later event in the film, when Ana has an honest to goodness hallucinatory vision.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (8)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (8)

Later that day, on their way home from school, the girls encounter an abandoned building with a well near it, which Isabel tells Ana is the home of the monster. Note how Ana stands on the mound here while Isabel is in the trench. Isabel runs to the well and then goes into the building while Ana, too afraid to approach, watches her. When Isabel emerges, the girls run home again. Later Ana returns on her own, repeating the steps of her sister: looking in the well first (even going a step further by shouting and dropping a stone into it) and then entering the building.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (9)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (9)

Then, we see the children mushroom hunting with their father.  Fernando explains to them that he always obeyed his grandfather (representing tradition), who instructed him on what to do if he encountered a mushroom he didn’t know: don’t pick it. The irony here is that, if no one had ever tried any mushrooms at all, they would never have discovered that some were good to eat.  When they encounter a mushroom Fernando knows is poisonous, he tells his daughters that, although this particular mushroom is young and smells pleasant now, when it begins to rot its true nature will be revealed.  Ana seems uncertain about this.

Look quickly for the honeycomb pattern in the seat of the horse-drawn carriage Fernando climbs into in the next scene.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (10)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (10)

The girls indulge in a little horseplay before school, jumping on their beds and pillow fighting (a scene somewhat echoed in the opening sequence of a later film, Du är inte klok, Madicken, which came out in 1979), and we hear Isabel repeat the universal refrain of children everywhere who are caught misbehaving: “She started it!”  Then, Ana plays in the soapy water her father shaved in earlier that morning, much to both girls’ amusement.  These scenes serve to remind the viewer that these are real fresh-and-blood children and not just walking, talking metaphors.  Scenes such as these help ground the film.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (11)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (11)

I haven’t much to say about this next scene, other than that I found it a particularly touching one.  Ana blows on the bees inside a wire mesh cage, perhaps attempting to agitate or stir them up, interrupting their usual pattern of behavior.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (12)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (12)

Next we see Isabel (whom, you’ll recall, represents the Francoists) displaying her tendency for cruelty when she throttles the family cat.  She is rewarded for her actions with a painful scratch on her finger.  Her own blood fascinates her, and she uses it to paint her lips darker red and admires herself in the mirror afterward, thus tying violence to sexuality.  Violence and sex . . . we are firmly in the realm of adulthood here, and thus we are getting a glimpse of the woman Isabel will likely become.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (13)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (13)

The violence against the family pet leads Isabel to another idea, and here is where she turns her tendency for nastiness against her sister.  Isabel fakes a violent attack against her person, pretending to be dead, which she knows Ana will interpret as an attack by Frankenstein’s monster.  She even breaks a potted plant and leaves the balcony windows open for effect.  The prank goes on far longer than it should, as Isabel continues to milk it for all its worth.

Finally, when Ana runs off to seek help and, not finding anyone, returns to the scene of the crime, she finds Isabel gone.  But alas, someone sneaks up behind her and grabs her, frightening Ana near out of her wits. It is of course Isabel, dressed in a heavy coat and men’s gloves. On one level, you have to admire Isabel—she is an artist of sorts, and this was her pièce de résistance.  Ana, who is already haunted by the idea of Frankenstein’s monster, will likely never forget this prank at her expense.  It’s no wonder she takes it to heart then.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (14)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (14)

Isabel, lit by the sun as it streams through the honeycombed windows, gloats over her accomplishment.  She looks utterly devious here.  I must say too that, while Ana Torrent certainly commands the screen, Isabel Tellería holds her own with Ana well enough.  Isabel is the perfect compliment to Ana’s generous and trusting nature, and there is just something inherently playful and puckish (and perhaps a tad sinister) about Tellería’s face.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (15)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (15)

This incident divides Ana and her sister, leaving Ana without anyone she can really trust and look up to.  Her parents love her, but they are emotionally distant, preoccupied with their own lives.  Isabel was Ana’s only real friend and confidante, but that trust is likely forever shattered now.  When Ana sees Isabel playing with other neighborhood girls afterward, running and jumping through the fire, she does not feel compelled to join in, merely to watch from afar.  One thing Ana Torrent has said about this scene is that she was awed by Isabel leaping through the fire, and that, while they were only a year apart in age, she always felt like her costar was much older than she.  These are the magnifications and exaggerations of childhood, when everything is fresh and new and slightly overwhelming.  It serves as a reminder that we should never underestimate a young child’s tendency to see themselves as small and inadequate in the face of a huge world ruled by much bigger people.

Later that evening, Ana sneaks out of the house by herself, not bothering to wake Isabel, her former partner-in-crime.  She finds the courtyard and surrounding woods spooky and foreign.  Ana’s loneliness and sense of betrayal are almost palpable here.  When she returns to her bed the next morning, waking Isabel, and her sister asks where she’s been, Ana refuses to answer.

    Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (16)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (16)

When Ana finds a wounded resistance fighter (arrived by train) hiding out in the abandoned building she and Isabel like to play in, she of course invests him with her own mythology.  This is where the spirit of the monster is said to lurk, so this must be a physical manifestation of the monster.  She offers him an apple, mimicking the scene in Frankenstein when Maria gives the monster a flower.  She continues to bring him clothing and food (including, notably, a jar of honey) and to help him in small ways like tying the shoe on his wounded foot.  In return, he entertains her with magic tricks.  These little acts of kindness by Ana help to restore some of her faith in mankind.  Of course, it is short-lived, as the fighter is caught and killed, and Fernando soon realizes what has been happening when his coat is found on the corpse. Torrent says she was particularly moved by this scene when she first saw the film herself, and felt quite proud of tying the soldier’s shoe!

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (17)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (17)

Ana returns to the building and finds the fighter missing, with copious amounts of his blood left behind.  When her father confronts her here, she runs away into the woods.  The death of her new friend feels like the ultimate betrayal to Ana, and she cannot bear it.  As luck would have it, she soon encounters one of the poisonous mushrooms her father warned her against picking.  It is unclear here whether she attempts suicide by consuming some of the poisonous mushroom her father told her to avoid, or whether the poisoning is accidental, but whatever the case, she begins to hallucinate, seeing the monster’s face in her own reflection in the nearby river.  Meanwhile, her mother burns a letter she intended to send to her absent lover, and we soon realize that her lover and the resistance fighter were the same person.  Now that he’s dead, it makes no sense to continue sending the letters.

A little later she has a face-to-face encounter with the monster, shivering in fright at the prospect of a repeat of the scene in Frankenstein.  In this case, because of the mushroom poisoning, the monster may very well represent the prospect of death here.  Ana passes out from fright from the encounter.  Torrent claims this scene had to be filmed numerous times because whenever the monster appeared, she would run away in tears, even though she was aware that it was a man in a costume.  Fear can sometimes overrule what we know to be true, and that probably goes double for small children.  After all, this was her first experience with film—she had no way to be certain if it was an entirely safe experience or if Erice (who was coaching her through the script) was telling the complete truth.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (18)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (18)

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (19)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (19)

A posse of townspeople, including her father, who have been searching for her all night find her sleeping near the wall of a demolished structure.  She continues to hallucinate even at home, but a doctor assures her mother that she will get over it.  His words are not terribly reassuring to Teresa, or to the viewer, for, although the hallucinations will surely end, the emotional scars are likely to persist for the rest of her life.

Later Isabel slips into the bedroom where Ana is resting.  The older girl seems to be genuinely remorseful for her actions which led to this state of events.  This is reinforced when she sees shadows moving on the wall and covers her head, offering her a chance to empathize with Ana.  It also contrasts with what happens with Ana at the end.

 Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (20)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (20)

The honeycombed windows look quite different in the moonlight. Seeing something from a different perspective can change one’s interpretation of it.  Ana has undergone a profound transformation, a revelation brought on by her psychedelic experience.  In the final shot of the film, Ana literally and metaphorically turns her back on the night—she no longer fears what she doesn’t understand, which means she might well become an active voice for change in the future, whereas Isabel, even though she should know better, is still frightened by shadows moving on the wall.

Víctor Erice - The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (21)

Víctor Erice – The Spirit of the Beehive (1973) (21)

Joshua Hoffine

Horror isn’t a common theme featured here on Pigtails, but when a talented photographer blends common childhood fears with the presence of young girls it deserves to be brought to the readers.  Joshua Hoffine, born in Emporia, KS in 1973 and graduated from KSU with a degree in English Literature, is currently a freelance photographer who started his career with Hallmark Greeting Cards as a photo assistant.  Hoffine then branched out from wedding photography to explore the darker side of humanity by creating a series of horror photographs featuring two of his young daughters in various nightmare type scenarios.  Hoffine’s elaborate sets have the look of a mini movie studio as he and his crew captured the essence of a frightening childhood world.  When asked why he used young girls in his photographs, he states “The little girl as an archetype represents innocence and vulnerability.”  Another reason he mentioned is practical because he has four daughters and no sons.  Using family and friends to portray the evil entity in the photographs, Hoffine reassures everyone that in no way were his daughters afraid of the sessions and that they compared it to playing “dress up.”  Featured below are several examples of Hoffine’s work from the series After Dark My Sweet; more can be found on his website with prints available for purchase in his store.


Joshua Hoffine – Closet (date unknown)


Joshua Hoffine – Wolf (date unknown)


Joshua Hoffine – Couch (date unknown)


Joshua Hoffine – Bed (date unknown)


Joshua Hoffine – Candy (date unknown)

Hoffine has recently taken a hand in filmmaking.  His first effort, Black Lullaby, stars his daughter Chloe and Bob Barber (as the monster) and can be viewed on Vimeo.

Joshua Hoffine Fan Page


Brothers Jake and Dinos Chapman began working collaboratively in the very early 1990s.  Their work then, as now, featured mannequins in dark and provocative scenes.  A number of their installations seem to deal with the subject of girls, despite denial by the artists.  The Chapman brothers’ art deals with some heavy ideas and during interviews they quote readily from Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein and Deleuze.  Jake has discussed being strongly influenced by Georges Bataille’s On Nietzsche, Tears of Eros, and Documents magazine.

Nietzsche had opined in Birth of Tragedy that art redeems life from the terrible truth that existence is a horror.  With the Chapman brothers’ art, this appears to be in a way reversed: something good and beautiful in reality is perverted by art into the horrible.

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged x 1000) (1995)

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged x 1000) (1995)

“There’s nothing we’ve done here that can rival the darkness of the imaginations of children. They aren’t the innocents that adults want them to be.” – Jake Chapman

The brothers’ alleged aim is to incite political dialogue through provocation, while at the same time acknowledging that transgressing boundaries in modern art is no longer possible.  (Jake Chapman on Georges Bataille: an Interview with Simon Baker.)

A number of critics speculated that Zygotic Acceleration (1995) or Tragic Anatomies (1996) were about the danger of the sexualization of girls: penises and vaginas attached to the faces of the girls and so on.  Despite the death of the author, the brothers nonetheless interjected in the discussion and denied that this is what their collections were about—perhaps sensing that that would truly have been a provocative topic and preferring to stay in the safe-zone of traditional patriarchal politics and sexual discourse as in Sex (2009), which is a scene of torture, or Death (2003) which is a pair of cheap sex dolls cast in bronze.  The brothers go so far as to claim that the life size models are not even girls.

“For example, a journalist said to us, ‘How can you dare do these things to small girls?’ So you think, well, hold on a minute, let’s just take that question apart – why is it a girl? So the journalist replies and says, ‘Well it’s got long hair and freckles.’ OK. When Jake was a little child he had long hair and freckles, does that mean that he was a girl then and now, miraculously, he’s turned into a man because he’s got short hair and his freckles have gone? He says, ‘No, no, you know what I mean.’ We’re like, no, we actually don’t know what you mean. You’re applying rules to something that they don’t actually apply to. This thing is inanimate, it’s made from resin and paint. It bears 90% relationship to a mannequin, and maybe less than 10% to things that you can buy in Ann Summers [a chain of sex-toy shops]. There’s no point at which you can say this is a child. It might look like a child from the back, but from the front it doesn’t. And then the idea that something with an erect penis on its nose could ever be female is also another problem… It’s an attempt to force people to take into account their bad thinking. ‘Zygotic acceleration…,’ for example, it doesn’t work if you say it’s a child or it’s children; I’ve never seen 20 children fused together with adult genitalia on their faces. […] With the full title of that work, ‘Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, de-sublimated libidinal model (enlarged x 1000),’ the final part tells you that this is not even a child-sized creature” (Jake & Dinos Chapman Interview, David Barett).

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Tragic Anatomies (1996)

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Tragic Anatomies (1996)

The Chapman brothers insist that Zygotic Acceleration or Tragic Anatomies are really about moral panic and this is expressed via the subject of genetic engineering (Press Release, Jake and Dinos Chapman: Explaining Christians to Dinosaurs).  Meanwhile, Jake and Dinos are aware that their works have gotten away from them, and Jake acknowledges that their Deleuzian-Guattarian collaboration could not have a single author, purpose or meaning (Jake Chapman on Georges Bataille: An Interview with Simon Baker).  And indeed, many critics recognized these girls as sexual.

“In relation to the mutant mannequins, we can also speak of the possibilities of a Bataille-like transgression that is closely tied to the experiences of sexuality and the overcoming of sexual taboos” (Press release, SLEPÝ VEDE SLEPÉHO).

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Tragic Anatomies (1996)

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Tragic Anatomies (1996)

“Shocking, no doubt, the piece is also a discomfiting representation of the sexualisation of children, possibly registering either sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or society’s fears about these crimes. Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged x 1000) is first and foremost a stark way of confronting an audience with a tremendously unpleasant image, alluding to science fiction and medical research and so implicating an aesthetic genre and scientific research in the production of these problematic images; science fiction and scientific research are, respectively, aesthetic and intellectual domains where the horrible and the unsettling become possibilities. Any audience is welcome to view this piece to consider what it says about childhood and sexuality in modern society, providing the audience is willing to see past the piece’s antagonistic visual pun on “in your face” art. […] They usurp childhood innocence with these grotesque hypersexualized plastic replicas, part fashion (mannequins, the signifying sneakers), part “biogenetic” and very disturbing” (John A. Walker and Sarah Chaplin. Visual Culture: An Introduction).

By denying the child sexuality implicit in their work, the Chapman brothers can maintain an artistic respectability and have shows at the Tate gallery, while other artists who have broached the subject of child sexuality and the sexuality of girls have had this possibility taken from them.  The following critic for instance observes how the hideous art of the Chapman brothers maintains its aesthetic value, while by contrast, the beautiful sexualized girls of Graham Ovenden must be bereft of significant value.

“There are a number of contemporary artists who work with controversial imagery, images that when compared to the work of Ovenden (before his conviction), appear much more graphic and overtly perverse. What is it that makes such an extreme form of art no longer suggestive of a lack of moral value? How is it possible that the image of a nude child by Ovenden is worse than a sculpture that at a glance, appears to depict several? Could it be that the extreme nature of works by artists such as Jake and Dinos Chapman cause us to no longer associate their work with the human condition, as their work appears so non-human, so detached from our own reality. Their 1995 work Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged x 1000) is often misread as the sculpture appears to depict nude, gender neutral children with facial deformations resembling genitalia. It appears particularly grotesque, a sort of macabre reoccurring joke between the two brothers‟ works. […] Zygotic Acceleration, Biogenetic, De-Sublimated Libidinal Model (Enlarged x 1000) has a higher value than say an image by Ovenden, as it is not about what you see initially, aesthetically, it is how what you see makes you feel; thus making it a better work of art in comparison. The higher the moral value, the higher the artistic integrity, the higher the merit of the artist and the better the work of art. […] In the past, there have been many instances where art has been deemed immoral and unfit for display, where it was put away, hidden from public view or completely destroyed. […] They were decisions made solely on what a group of people thought was either good or bad art. Questioning the moral value of art and the integrity of the artists who created it was in part responsible for the events that took place during World War II. The Nazis began to make their way into all levels of German society” (Tiffany Horan, Does Art Have Moral Value, and If so, Is Such Value Relevant to Its Assessment as Art?)

Another of the Chapman brothers’ projects that involved the defacing of girls was advertized to the public recently with this quote:

“Children are not human yet” (BBC, August 4, 2014).

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Minderwertigkinder (2011)

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Minderwertigkinder (2011)

One of the brothers’ installations was at one location, while the other brother showed at a different site, and it was left open as to who created which.  One visitor described the girls as follows:

“The Minderwertigkinder – inferior children (NTS) –  are dressed in black, hoods on, and their back are turned to the entrance. They face One Rabbit Contemplating the Moon (2011) a grimy painting of an extasied cartoon’ish rabbit. The middle of each children’s face is tore apart where a snout, a beak, a trunk bulges out as if in the process of a collective shapeshift. A swastika circled by the message ‘They Teach Us Nothing’ is printed on their jumper – one you can purchase at the entrance.  Up a flight of stairs, one of the Minderwertigkinder – mouse child sits on the ledge of the first floor window. It seems impossible to escape from debilitating dream” (Part #1, Hoxton Square, Jake?)

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Minderwertigkinder (2011)

Jake and Dinos Chapman – Minderwertigkinder (2011)

The animal feature is described variously as rupturing from the face of the girl or metamorphosing.  Some commentators saw a connection to fairy tales or horror films.  As with the 90s works, is there some redeeming interpretation possible alluding to the Deleuzian-Guattarian “becoming-girl”?  While the Chapmans reject any teleological interpretations of their work, their girl mannequin series might still be read not as an insult to or desecration of the girl, but as an evolutionary pathway through and even the transcendence of girls, who are never static but always in a state of becoming.

“[G]irls do not belong to an age group, sex, order, or kingdom: they slip in everywhere, between orders, acts, ages, sexes; they produce in molecular sexes on the line of flight in relation to the dualism machines they cross right through. […] The girl is like the block of becoming that remains contemporaneous to each opposable term, man, woman, child, adult. It is not the girl who becomes a woman; it is becoming-woman that produces the universal girl. […] The girl and the child do not become; it is becoming itself that is a child or a girl. The child does not become an adult any more than the girl becomes a woman; the girl is the becoming-woman of each sex, just as the child is the becoming-young of every age. […] It is Age itself that is a becoming-child, just as Sexuality, any sexuality, is a becoming-woman, in other words, a girl” (Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus).

The complete works of Jake and Dinos Chapman can be found at this link.

Alien Girls, Animal Spirits & Raisons d’Être: The Art of Lily C

I’ve received my fair share of fan mail for my work here, but something about the first excited email I received from a young lady named Lily C (named changed for her protection and privacy), who I’ve been conversing back and forth with over the last few days, really captured me, in part because it perfectly encapsulated part of Pigtails in Paint‘s raison d’être.  I am going to quote her first two paragraphs in full, because I think she deserves that.  She wrote:

I came across your site while looking for answers or comfort or acceptance. I started with Nabokov so many years ago and went all the way to Caravaggio and Carroll and Ovenden, then to your site. Let me explain. When I was around four years old, I was repeatedly sexually abused by a male family friend, who was twelve or thirteen and had been abused himself (and the cycle probably continued all the way up the line to Adam). When I was nine, it was a neighbor who was around forty, and when I was twelve/thirteen it was a few strangers on a few trains. As you can imagine, these events soiled my sexuality a good deal for it took away my right to explore it of my own accord. Truly, I feel that innocence isn’t lost with virginity, but instead when sex becomes carnal, forced, and fake– an apple made entirely of sugar, rather than the ripe, red fruit it should be. The boy treated me as if he loved me, the older man explicitly told me so, and the strangers on the train touched me blindly, without love. It confused me. I’m not sure if you believe at all in the concept of the nymphet (popularized by Nabokov but surely recognized well before then) but even if you don’t, I do, and I believe I was one.


After all that happened to me, I became hyper-sexual, which isn’t uncommon for girls in this circumstance, but I corrupted my sexuality near to the point of extinction because I was endlessly searching for a way to reclaim and re-explore it without the notions that were forced upon me. Then, just a year ago, I met a boy who saw the child and the nymphet in me and he nurtured it and now I’m regaining that small portion that was lost; what I call innocent sexuality. Indeed, I feel like a child and a woman all at the same time and I’ve found a beautiful balance and it feels so good to be this way. However, I am still traumatized, and ever since those events began I have struggled with child love. One of my darkest secrets, but one that I can share because I’m no longer afraid of it (though I am ashamed), is that in my young teenage years I became obsessively fascinated with child pornography. This, of course, stems solely from the personality split that occurred within me from the abuse, and I sought after children because I wanted badly to reconnect with the part of the child within who was lost. I’m still coming to terms with this loss. I disconnected myself from the porn after I had met my love, and indeed everything that dealt with themes of child love were thrown away or pushed out of my head out of fear. I still get pangs of heart-wrenching adoration for certain little girls, and it really confuses me in the moment. This past month I have been searching around the Internet for something that would satiate this need to connect, that wouldn’t be a simple cover-up as the child porn was– and the point of all this, really, is to say that I’ve found it on your blog.

When I founded Pigtails, it was first and foremost a way for me to process my own complex feelings about young girls through the endless manifestations of them embodied in art, and to recognize the nobler ideas behind artistic expression in a way that honored girls holistically without demolishing or changing their girlish nature.  As I’ve said before, Pigtails is itself an art project, and, as good art should, it has since come to represent many things for many people.  So, it meant a great deal to me when Lily explained what Pigtails was for her and how it soothed a need she felt in herself to recapture the feelings of being both innocent and sexually alive at the same time—in other words, to be the girl she would’ve been had her burgeoning sexuality not been corrupted and directed by outside forces.  With a wisdom surpassing her nineteen years, she managed to express what it means succinctly and artfully:

Innocence to me is a wonder and a curiosity free from construct and self-inhibition. Innocence is exploring without boundaries or insecurities (apart from those boundaries that keep one safe).

Notice that nowhere in this definition does she include the concept of utter sexual ignorance, for the truth is, kids are sexual beings.  The issue isn’t that sexual abuse “sexualizes” children, but rather that it swaps their free-form, still developing sexuality out for something artificial, fixed and forced, and therefore (to the child) something much less fun and interesting.  It is not dissimilar from an adult taking a child’s free-flowing imagination and shaping it to by coercing, guilt-tripping or pressuring the child to create only what that particular adult finds beautiful.  When this happens (as it frequently does), children tend to become disillusioned with their own creativity, and consequently, to lose interest in being creative.  For kids, the end product of creative expression is not generally the driving force behind it; it is, rather, the joy of creation itself.

Lily C - Empress (2012)

Lily C – Empress (2012)

Well, all of that applies to child sexuality as well, and therein lies the key to understanding it.  Society as a rule tends to either ignore, devalue or deny the existence of child sexuality altogether.  This is why we have consistently been so wrongheaded about how to deal with children and sex, and consequently, why I believe sexual abuse is still going fairly strong today even with the severe taboos and laws in place.  Society itself has effectively fetishized children’s innocence to the point where they now fail to understand what it really means, or the harm that this impossible standard often causes to children themselves.  With our prevailing concept of the perfectly asexual child, we have erected an image of the child which most real children could never meet, and that failure can bring shame and guilt on them, the very things child abusers often use to control kids and keep them quiet, and which can cause them to be victimized again and again.  On the flip side of that same coin, the innocence fetish has become attractive in itself to some people, and by extension, so does the prospect of violating that innocence, warping or corrupting it.

But I’m not here to talk about that.  I am here to discuss Lily’s art, which she sent me samples of in her second email, and which I immediately fell in love with.  This is real outsider art, folks—like the work of Henry Darger.  It is pure expression, motivated by a true creative instinct that isn’t necessarily aimed at an end goal, much like that of a child.  Lily says of her work,

It is rare for me to take pencil to paper with an idea in mind. Usually I will be fixated on some aesthetic form (e.g. the shape of the fingers, an eye, a nose, a word) at the time of drawing and I start with these things, but rarely does the attention awarded to that specific aesthetic point manifest as the focal point of the work. It’s very spontaneous; it just comes out of my fingers, really, and therefore it comes almost directly from my subconscious. In a way all my pieces are connected to the dream world. When I’m done drawing I look at the page in surprise, usually, at the ideas that have presented themselves to me through such an arbitrary method, much like waking from a dream.

Of particular interest to Ron were the animal/human hybrid pieces.  One is a type of centaur, an equine body topped by a human head. The ornate decorations she has given the centaur, including the hood, are all quite lovely.  The long distortions of the equine form call to mind Salvador Dali’s elephants and the horse from The Temptation of Saint Anthony.  The other hybrid is a lemur’s posterior topped by a human girl’s torso and head.  A strange choice for such a hybrid, and yet it works.  The addition of the wind gives the image a nice buzz of energy.  The lemur girl is busy, maybe storing fruit away for the winter, while the wind blows.  The image suggest autumn, which is, appropriately enough, a season of transition, great activity and preparation for the future, things that most teen girls are well acquainted with.

The meanings behind them are also quite personal for Lily and tie in to the childhood theme that recurs through her work:

The animal/human hybrids are directly sourced from who I am as an individual. I have a very strong connection to the child within myself, and indeed some parts of me are fully a child (if that makes sense). As I’m sure you and many of your readers know, children have the remarkable ability to attune themselves to animal spirits; they are simply closer to the Earth, closer to the essence of existence which can be found in its most complete form in nature. I embody this spirit in my paintings because my creative abilities are intrinsically linked to my childishness.

Lily C - Wounded Mouth (2010)

Lily C – Wounded Mouth (2010)

Lily C - Past Lives (2012)

Lily C – Past Lives (2012)

My favorite, piece, meanwhile, is a blue-skinned alien girl.  There exists a striking contrast between the exoticness of the alien and the prosaic nature of her expression, which embodies a common struggle of girls everywhere to forge their own identity and is spoken very much in the urban patois of a modern teen: “Can’t live like I wanna.”  Of course, since it is Lily expressing this sentiment through her art, it means much more than that.  Some might be tempted to ascribe a Postmodern irony here, but to do so I think would be to gravely misunderstand the artist.  Indeed, Lily herself has confessed that she doesn’t fully understand what is going on in this work and finds it troubling at times.

The words come from a song called ‘I Ate Your Soul’ by Grieves. This painting is from one of the hardest points in my life. I drew it when I was fifteen and kept it for a little while without color or words. At that point she was just the girl, and she was in a much more vulnerable position with her legs spread open and a pained expression on her face. I redrew it multiple times over the next two years, but it never seemed right to me. Usually I feel a sense of relief when a sketch or a drawing is finished, but not with her. When I was eighteen and in university I listened to a lot of hip-hop and I was fixated on the aforementioned track, listening to only this song over and over. I was in my dorm room one night listening to the song and very distressed because I hadn’t drawn anything for a long, long time. I had her in front of me and I looked at her and felt extremely disgusted by her, so I traced her yet again and scribbled those lyrics which had been stuck in my head, and she seemed more complete. She ignited my creativity in that sense again so I’m grateful for her, but she still scares me.

Lily C - Untitled (2011)

Lily C – Untitled (2011)

Her girls can also take on the semblance of clowns, with odd splotches of color over eyes, chin and cheeks.  Or bearing a jester’s cap and a protruding tongue.  But in short order one realizes that these are not cheerful characters.  They’re naked, for one thing, and it isn’t the carefree nakedness we usually see with children.  It is awkward, uncertain, defensive.  One girl, her body contorted impossibly and furtively away from the viewer, looks to be masturbating, a coil of poisonous green smoke wafting from the cigarette in her other hand.  The girl in the jester’s cap feels rather more devilish than comedic here, with her protruding tongue, her sharp claws and a piece of intestine snaking out of a slit in her belly.

The darker aspects of Lily’s art can of course be interpreted as a manifestation of her sexual abuse.  Lily herself frames it this way:

I use my art to explore all components of my existence, including my sexuality. My intense focus on sexuality in art started when I was around six years old and would draw crude genitalia on figures then quickly scribble them out for modesty. I don’t know if this interest stemmed from abuse or innate curiosity. My abuse started when I was as young as two (however, I only remember specific instances from when I was five), but I don’t remember everything because that is past the point where my memory can recall such trauma. A lot of what happened to me is not accessible, it lingers in my subconscious, so naturally it would eventually come out through my art; the only access point. The abuse affected me in a most confusing way so that I didn’t know what sexuality was or how it fit into my life or myself, and I began to explore it with nude figures of my own age and older engaging in sexual acts, and this began when I was twelve. As my work progressed the figures became younger and younger, and less sexually involved, until I was drawing fetuses in the womb! Through this, I was able to explore sexuality in the context of age. I found that the young girls I drew had a profound sexual energy that could not be expressed, that was actually on the very verge of being expressed but they did not know exactly how to do it because of their age or some other block. The babies had a sexual energy, but did not express it except through simply being (as all things do– even rocks have a minuscule amount of sexual energy which they exude only by existing in the world). The fetuses were fetuses and I could not really identify them. I remember one drawing in particular, made when I was fifteen. There was a fetus in a disembodied amniotic sac, about 50 days old, and a female off to the left side of the drawing who looked to be about eleven years old by her body proportions, screaming. At the top of the page was a cluster of female heads with hollow eyes, connected by their hair. On the next page was a female with a goat head, fourteen years old, bound in barbed wire and some poetry about serpents off to the right. Strange stuff. The connection between my childhood and my art is formed in many locations within me. It is formed through the subconscious by trauma, it’s formed by the inherently strong link to my imagination forged in childhood, and it’s formed by my innate tendency to express myself creatively on paper which I have been doing since before I can remember. But there’s a lot of weird stuff going on that I haven’t quite figured out yet, so I don’t doubt that some connections haven’t yet been discovered.

Lily C - Shelby (2010)

Lily C – Shelby (2010)

Lily C - Hunter (2010)

Lily C – Hunter (2010)

Lily’s images often swirl with text, some of it inexplicable but clearly channeled from her subconscious.  In Alien Boss, the text is as much the focus of the work as the imagery is.  In fact, text and imagery are so intertwined that they are nearly inseparable.  The words slither and writhe on the page, getting jumbled up so that one might read them in a variety of ways.  Before I was provided with the title of this work, I interpreted one line in the piece to read, “Boss, the alien is coming”—Lily rather intended it to read, “The alien boss is coming.”  Either one might be appropriate in the context, to say nothing of the possible double entendre in the word “coming,” given what is occurring on the page.

Lily C - Alien Boss (2010)

Lily C – Alien Boss (2010)

In another, green-hued girls and mechanical birds prance around while a disembodied infantile mouth commands the viewer to “Fuck ME.”  Confrontational?  Perhaps.  Necessary?  Quite.

Lily C - Untitled (2010)

Lily C – Untitled (2010)

But it’s not been all doom and gloom for Lily.  I will leave you with a hopeful note from Lily herself:

Apart from the abuse my childhood was a happy one. I spent most of my time alone, climbing trees and catching insects, building worm piles and playing with cars. I was happiest among the trees and the grass and the dirt, thinking about things. I felt powerful when I fell from a tall branch and scraped my arms up badly and did not cry. Also when I ate with the wasps, and let spiders crawl across my hands, and when I got so dirty I turned the bathtub black. When I was a little girl I didn’t restrain myself from anything, I did whatever I wanted without fear and I had a very strong moral code; I didn’t hurt anything or anyone, I helped wherever I was needed. This is a point I would like to reach again, and I’m not far away. If I could embody the spirit of myself as a little girl, this would be the utmost point of my spirituality and creativity.

Lily C - Warrior (2012)

Lily C – Warrior (2012)


Construction of Girl Identity

Diyan Achjadi spent her girlhood in Soeharto-era Indonesia before settling on the trendy Canadian West Coast as associate professor of visual arts at Emily Carr University.  Sometime in the early 2000s the idea for her Girl character came to her as an understated and ironic way of commenting on heavy issues.  Her first show set Girl in various hot-topic settings usually in play or where people were naive to the danger or seriousness of the subject.  Achjadi commented,

“I have been particularly interested in the potential of illustrated narratives, and in the ways the fictionalized environments have the potential to unpack real-world situations, and question and critique the world that we physically inhabit. I use a visual vocabulary borrowed from children’s media – toys, books, objects, and other forms of productions aimed at children – which often depicts the adult world in a miniaturized, simplified, and sanitized form, representing it under a guise of play, innocence, and harmlessness.”

Diyan Achjadi – See Girl, 2004

Diyan Achjadi – See Girl, 2004

Shortly thereafter, in the wake of the tsunami that wiped out coastal Aceh in northern Sumatra, Girl became a way for Achjadi to explore impressions of the way reports of disasters were covered far from her new locale.  Distanced from her homeland, Achjadi’s only connection with the enormous things happening in Indonesia was through the internet, television and telephone.  Her Girl works from 2007 through ’09 featured her signature character in the midst of invasions, bombings, tidal waves and volcanic eruptions.  Girl largely maintained her indifferent composure—maybe an allusion to the tidak apa apa resignation of Indonesians or the passive nature of the stereotypical little girl?

Diyan Achjadi – We Expected Hysteria (Hark! Listen), 2009

Diyan Achjadi – We Expected Hysteria (Hark! Listen), 2009

At the end of the decade, Achjadi’s use of Girl shifted again.  Now she began to play with the machinery informing identity.  Achjadi had grown up in a new nation, with shifting boundaries, and threatening to rip apart in violence.  The dictatorial government bombarded the people through every medium with nation-building propaganda.  Achjadi herself was made to participate in considerable flag raising, marching, “group calisthenics” and singing to the glory of her recently manufactured country during her school-girl years.  In retrospect she had a kind of fascination with the process.

Diyan Achjadi – Onward, fearlessly, 2007

Diyan Achjadi – Onward, fearlessly, 2007

As the series progressed, it became deeper, and took on a kind of eerie metaphysical character.  Achjadi writes,

“Girl is both singular and plural: she is a figure that exists in a world populated only by other Girls, seemingly identical in features and dress. Sometimes she is alone and isolated; other times she is multiplied into a perfectly uniform army, marching, saluting, and exercising in formation.”

Diyan Achjadi – Ceremony, 2007

Diyan Achjadi – Ceremony, 2007

Far from cute and innocent, the girl becomes something surreal as endless uniformed girls salute in allegiance to the image of themselves.  The following piece might remind one of the North Korean Mass Games.

Diyan Achjadi – Stadium, 2008

Diyan Achjadi – Stadium, 2008

This all culminates in her “The Further Adventures of Girl” show.  Critic, Malakoteron, wrote quite insightfully on this compilation of works,

“From wall to wall one encounters the face of the iconic ‘girl’ who is multiplied in each medium. She’s a flat and simplified medley of many of the cliches of girlhood rendered into an easy to swallow and mass produced form. Cartoons, posters, flags and little sculptures reminiscent of lawn ornaments all cross reference her figure in a series of reds and lush colours. Sometimes it feels like looking at Dora The Explorer filtered through a post-Superflat version of Maoist propaganda.

It starts out seemingly innocuous, like a little bit of children’s TV and, through its repetition and its re-articulation, gradually becomes obvious as a technique of aggression.

They’re attractive and decorative and this is self-consciously reflected in the work, with the girl waving flags of herself, perfectly enclosed in her own narcissistic paradise. As Momus once said in respect to certain trends in Japanese youth culture, it’s a celebration of ‘cute fascism’.”

Diyan Achjadi – Oboro gallery, 2010

Diyan Achjadi – Oboro gallery, 2010

By her later showings of Girl, it would be difficult for most to intuit a commentary on Indonesian national identity.  At face value, the show had evolved into an analysis of the coding of girl identity itself: the girlification of girls.  But Achjadi does not regard girls as made of “sugar and spice and all things nice”; instead, we are shown a process of violence, mass indoctrination, intimidation, superficial molds and robotic conformity.

And then like almost anything artificially impressed into the living body, it is rejected.  Girl finally screams, gesticulates, riots and rebels against herself; she fights herself, tears herself down and attempts to escape the Girl space.

Diyan Achjadi – Protest, 2011

Diyan Achjadi – Protest, 2011

Diyan Achjadi’s personal site is here,  while she delivers a thorough lecture on Girl at this link.  An animated assemblage of her Girl work is also available.

RanXerox: An Idea Whose Time Has . . . Gone

The late ’70s and early ’80s were a paradoxical time.  Crime rates, including violent crime, peaked in the United States, and films had become notably darker and more violent, as well as more sexually daring in some ways.  They had even started to address child and adolescent sexuality and child sexual abuse much more directly (and, it should be said, quite often controversially here in the states).  Pretty Baby (1978), You Are Not Alone (1978), The Tin Drum (1979), Beau Pere (1981) and Pixote (1981) had all come out in this period.  As you’ll note, all but one of these were foreign releases, and the exception, Pretty Baby, had a foreign director.

Meanwhile, the precedent for America’s treatment of these themes had been set by 1976’s Taxi Driver, it seems (ironically, a film about a psychotic man who is unable to process his own attraction to a 13-year-old prostitute–played by a young Jodie Foster—and consequently goes on a violent shooting spree.)  This film, perhaps more than any other, I think encapsulates the American mindset with regard to child sexuality.  In a very real sense America is Travis Bickle, and it isn’t surprising that Jodie Foster’s character from the film eventually inspired a very real Bicklesque lunatic, John Hinckley, Jr., to make an assassination attempt on President Reagan’s life.

But film wasn’t the only medium in which Europeans explored underage sexuality.  There were also a few European comics working in this territory.   Of course, they often came with about a metric crap-ton of qualifiers and subterfuge, so as to get around censors.  Although comics are really a much better medium for addressing this topic than live-action film (given the fact that no real children need be involved), in some ways it has been even more subject to taboo than film has.  This may be because comics had traditionally been thought of as a kids’ medium, which only began to shift after the Underground Comix revolution of the late ’60s.  It was also in the late ’70s—1978 to be specific—that Europe gave birth to one of the most outrageous examples of comics dealing with underage sex, Tamburini and Liberatore’s RanXerox.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (pg. 15 - splash)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (pg. 15 – splash)

I have already mentioned how these explorations often used subterfuge to get around the censors, and RanXerox is the perfect example, for, although certain female protagonists of the series—including one of the main characters, Lubna—claimed to be 18 years old, it is visibly obvious that they are in fact much younger.  Not that there aren’t extremely tiny, nearly flat-chested 18-year-olds in real life, but what are the odds that two of them would be friends?  What’s clear here is that Stefano Tamburini and Gaetano “Tanino” Liberatore were conspiring to pull a fast one over on their readership, and for the most part they succeeded.

RanXerox got it’s start in a small Italian publication called Cannibale in 1978, but it really didn’t become well-known until the American sci-fi and erotica magazine Heavy Metal picked it up in June of 1983.  Right from the get-go the series was controversial, not only because of its blatant sexual transgression and graphic violence but also because its original title, Rank Xerox, was a dead rip-off of a very real business entity.  Eventually the title was shortened to RanXerox of course, but again, this was just a sly way to get around what was actually intended by its creators.

The story is set sometime in the future and revolves around RanXerox himself, an ultra-violent, snub-nosed musclebound cyborg constructed from parts of a copier machine (hence the name) and his precocious drug addicted girlfriend, the aforementioned Lubna.  RanXerox is a Punk Age monster, a force of unchecked violence and rage, yet he is often mistreated by his young girlfriend, the only person he loves.  She is therefore the only one who can actually tame his violent tendencies, though mostly she exploits his talents to clear obstacles from her own path.  Richard Corben, another Heavy Metal alumnus, says it best:

RanXerox is a punk, futuristic Frankenstein monster, and with the under-aged Lubna, they are a bizarre Beauty and the Beast. This artist and writer team have turned a dark mirror to the depths of our Id and we see reflected the base part of ourselves that would take what it wants with no compromise, no apology – and woe to the person who would cross us. But it is all done with a black, wry, satirical sense of humor.

But why has Corben suggested that Lubna is underage?  After all, by the third page in the very first story arc in HM we are told that Lubna has recently turned 18.  One at first wonders why it was necessary to make this fact known so soon.  But the creators didn’t stop there; there are references to both Lubna’s age and the age of her friend Martine (who sleeps with Ranx after Lubna is separated from him for a time) throughout.  It’s possible the creators were overcompensating for their own insecurities about the youthful appearance of these characters, but it’s more likely some editor or publisher insisted on it.  Ironically, the constant references to the girls’ ages only serves to draw attention to the fact that physically they are nowhere near 18, and appear to be more in the neighborhood of 12 or 13, which was obviously Tamburini’s intended age for them.

But their youth isn’t simply gratuitous.  The point was to show a future based on projections of the social and criminal trends of the time, a future in which ever-younger kids fell prey to the corrupting lure of the drugs, casual sex and general misanthropy that dominated youth culture in the late ’70s.  To reinforce this point, an even younger girl—a child no older than 3 or 4—is often seen on the street corner that Lubna and her friends haunt; she wears outfits that expose her tiny undeveloped breasts and makes obnoxious comments to Lubna and others.  She’s a little Lubna in training, another sign of the growing inverse relationship between the age and worldliness of the characters in the RanXerox universe.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 17, panel 4)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 17, panel 4)

The story begins with Lubna on the prowl for another fix of “plasma” in her home city of Rome, Italy, as she begins to feel the ache of withdrawal.  They eventually wind up in the home of the wealthy, psychic (and psychotic) painter Rainier, who gets her high and then tricks her into shutting down her robotic lover and protector.  Afterwards, he and his compatriot dump Ranx’s inanimate body near the Colosseum and kidnap Lubna for purposes unknown.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 20, panel 4)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 4 (July, 1983) (page 20, panel 4)

As it turns out, Rainier has plans for both Ranx and Lubna, using the former (after tampering with Ranx’s head) to kill an entire club full of people, though the real target is an art critic Rainier despises who happens to be at the club at the time.  But there’s a notable scene just before the massacre where a small girl offers a rose for sale to Ranx, only to be met with a particularly brutal response from the still-malfunctioning robot, whose impulse control has been compromised.  It’s scenes like these that earned RanXerox its notoriety.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 51, panel 8)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 51, panel 8)

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 52, panel 1)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 5 (August, 1983) (page 52, panel 1)

It’s eventually revealed that Rainier has the notion to use Lubna as part of an art piece to be titled Cadaver of a Young Drug Addict.  But of course, Ranx comes smashing into his apartment and breaks his neck, even though Lubna isn’t there.  It’s striking that the first major villain of the initial story arc is a pretentious modern artist who makes ridiculous amounts of money off his meaningless art, and Liberatore, a mere comics artist in many people’s eyes, no doubt relished seeing Rainier meet his end at the hands of his and Tamburini’s creation.

With Lubna now missing and Ranx still hunting for her, he temporarily hooks up with Lubna’s friend Martine, who appears to be about the same age as Lubna.  They have sex at Martine’s place, and the girl, a student of Bioelectronics, at last repairs his busted brain.  It’s noteworthy that in some reprints of these stories this scene was heavily censored.  Particularly bothersome to the censors was the appearance of Ranx’s penis.  Their tryst is interrupted by the sudden intrusion of Martine’s insanely jealous and abusive boyfriend outside her door, but Ranx makes short work of him with a single well-placed punch . . . through the door.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 22)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 22)

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 23)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 23)

Later, as Martine is changing the battery in Ranx’s back, a group of street thugs make a particularly conspicuous comment about her age, with one of them mistaking her for a 12-year-old and another correcting him.  Later the group plans to gang rape the girl, with one of them commenting, “I bet she’s got an ass on her as tender as a filet.”  Ranx, of course, doesn’t go for that.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 25, panel 5)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 6 (September, 1983) (page 25, panel 5)

After several violent episodes and a lot of traveling around the city, Ranx eventually finds that Lubna is being held prisoner by a wealthy, leather mask-wearing man named Volare and goes after her, only to be captured by Volare, who intends to use the robot to stage a Fred Astaire routine as part of a retrospective on the famous dancing actor.  His speech to Ranx amusingly references Heavy Metal, the very magazine the story is running in.  It seems Tamburini was doing meta before meta was cool.  Meanwhile, Lubna is watching a cartoon with a bird character who proclaims, “Goddamn it!”  A quite prescient observation when one considers the popularity of shows like Family Guy, South Park and American Dad today.  (Remember, this series was published in the early ’80s.)  Here it’s just another sign of the decadence and social decline of the future.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 57, panels 1 & 2)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 57, panels 1 & 2)

By now Lubna has bought into Volare’s promises of wealth and fame and blatantly manipulates Ranx by appealing to his love for her (not to mention giving him a hand-job) as they fly to New York in Volare’s private plane!

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 58)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 58)

Ranx agrees to this as long as Lubna can stay with him, but Lubna betrays her robot mate by remaining with Volare while Ranx is training, ostensibly so as not to distract him but more likely because she is attracted to Volare’s wealth and power.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 59, panels 5 & 6)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 59, panels 5 & 6)

After 24 hours, which is all Ranx’s electronic brain needs to memorize Astaire’s entire song-and-dance oeuvre, Ranx and Lubna are at last reunited, with Lubna ironically behaving very much like a child.  Observant readers will note that she is listening to Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 60, panel 4)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (November, 1983) (page 60, panel 4)

In the final issue of the first story arc, Lubna seems to have age-regressed not only behaviorally but even physically.  She may be attracted to Volare, though more than likely it’s just the drugs talking.  While Ranx is performing in the show, she attempts to seduce her abductor in a scene that is likely to send shudders down the spines of anti-abuse and anti-human trafficking advocates everywhere.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 (December, 1983) (page 35)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 December, 1983) (page 35)

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (December, 1983) (page 36)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 8 (December, 1983) (page 36)

While Ranx is performing, Lubna attempts to seduce Volare; unfortunately for her, Ranx notices.  He stops the show and smashes his way to Volare’s balcony box.  Violence ensues.  The object of his hatred is destroyed, yet Ranx is profoundly affected by this last and worst of Lubna’s many betrayals and, atypically for him, stands up to her abuse in a humorously inappropriate way that symbolically acknowledges her true age: he gives her a bare behind spanking.

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox - Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 (December, 1983) (page 39)

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox – Heavy Metal, Vol. 7 No. 9 (December, 1983) (page 39)

For something so controversial, RanXerox has had its influence on other creators, most notably manifest in a surreal French fantasy film called La Cité des enfants perdus (The City of Lost Children), directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro, which really deserves its own article on Pigtails in Paint.  The physical resemblance of One and Miette to Ranx and Lubna cannot be overstated.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro - Ron Perlman and Judith Vittet in 'The City of Lost Children' (1995)

Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro – Ron Perlman and Judith Vittet in ‘The City of Lost Children’ (1995)

RanXerox is a role that was made for Ron Perlman, if it could ever be filmed.  Of course, it can’t.  Indeed, the environment is such today that even a comics magazine like Heavy Metal likely wouldn’t dare repeat it.  It’s a concept whose time has gone.  Or has it?  There have been sexually precocious minors in comics since RanXerox‘s time, though, to my knowledge, rarely without some built-in moral consequence, where bad things befall the child and/or the adult involved with them, or they are clearly the product of sexual abuse.  Yet, in its way, RanXerox may be the most moral story of all of these, for I imagine few people can read it without being repulsed by the characters’ behavior somewhere down the line.  These are not people we would likely ever want to meet, and that may be Tamburini’s point.  When you imagine a future filled with these blatantly immoral folks, you can see that Ranx and Lubna’s world is a true dystopia, one created not by government oppression but by gradual desensitization and moral erosion of the populace.

Tamburini might’ve believed this was where we were headed as a society.  Of course, he was wrong.  Reality never follows so straight a path.  As for Tamburini himself, only three short years after the first run of RanXerox in Heavy Metal (1986) his lifeless body was discovered in his apartment in Rome.  He had apparently died from a heroin overdose.  He was 30 years old at the time of death.

In addition to the HM runs, this series has been collected into books (three major volumes) and translated into several languages.  Here is the cover for one of them, RanXerox 2: Happy Birthday, Lubna.

Tanino Liberatore - Ranx 2: Happy Birthday, Lubna (cover)

Tanino Liberatore – Ranx 2: Happy Birthday, Lubna (cover)

And a cover for the Spanish comics magazine El Víbora (The Viper), featuring Ranx, Lubna, Martine, the toddler girl from the street corner (who Lubna sometimes babysits and whose name I do not know), and another girl I don’t recognize.

Tanino Liberatore - El Víbora, No. 47 (cover)

Tanino Liberatore – El Víbora, No. 47 (cover)

An unidentified image of Lubna working on Ranx:

Tanino Liberatore - RanXerox

Tanino Liberatore – RanXerox

And just for the hell of it, let’s throw in an illustration of these characters by Paul Pope.  You’ll note that Pope also did a tribute illustration to Moebius’s short story The Apple Pie.

Paul Pope - Ranxerox and Lubna

Paul Pope – Ranxerox and Lubna

You can read the entire first story arc and a handful of the other RanXerox issues (as well as most of the early issues of Heavy Metal) at this site.  The first story arc runs from issue v07 #04 (July 1983) through issue v07 #09 (December 1983); there’s also a great interview with Liberatore in that December ’83 issue.

Further Reading:

Wikipedia: RanXerox

URBAN ASPIRINES: RANXEROX: By Tanino Liberatore and Stefano Tamburini

Comic Vine: RanXerox (Character)

Advent of the Attack Ad

In the United States, tomorrow is an election day. A couple years ago, I saw this interesting ad featuring a little girl. It was a scare tactic to get voters to vote for President Johnson in the 1964 election. His principle opponent, Barry Goldwater, was regarded as a warmonger and expressed a willingness to use nuclear weapons. It was designed to impress upon voters the gravity of their decision during a period of nuclear brinksmanship.

Tony Schwartz - Daisy Ad (1964)

Tony Schwartz – Daisy Ad (1964)

What I did not realize at the time was its historic importance as a landmark in political elections and that many believed it was responsible for Johnson’s landslide victory. Although the Johnson campaign staff was condemned for airing this powerful but indirect ad hominem attack, some commentators credit it for opening the door to the more vicious examples we see today. The ad was aired only once on September 7, 1964 and featured two-year-old Monique M. Corzilius counting the petals on a daisy before cutting to a missile launch countdown. You can read more on the “Daisy” Ad on Wikipedia where you can also view the entire ad.

Marcel Marlier: Lifetime with Martine

Marcel Marlier started his artistic career with the Belgian Board of Education, illustrating a school reader called Michel et Nicole.  His work caught the eye of publishing director Pierre Servais, and in 1951 he joined Casterman.  He initially illustrated classic stories like Beauty and the Beast and the works of Alexandre Dumas.  Soon, he paired up with poet and author Gilbert Delahaye to create the first Martine story which came out in 1954.

Marcel Marlier – Martine est malade (1976)

Marcel Marlier – Martine est malade (1976)

Martine is the story of a sugar-sweet and proper girl and her many adventures together with her small dog Patapouf.  The stories are generally conservative and contain moral messages such as the value of honesty or environmental protection as in Martine se déguise or Martine protège la nature respectively.

Marcel Marlier – Debbie learns to dance (1972)

Marcel Marlier – Debbie learns to dance (1972)

The series eventually grew to include sixty titles; the first was Martine à la ferme and the final book was Martine et le prince mystérieux.  Martine was translated into sixty languages; she became known as Debbie in English, Anita in Galician, Ayşegül in Turkish, Tini in Malay and so on.  As time passed, Marlier created fresh illustrations for some of the books; Martine à la ferme was reissued with new art at least three times.

Marcel Marlier – Martine, drôles de fantômes! (2005)

Marcel Marlier – Martine drôles de fantômes! (2005)

Unfortunately, in 1997 Gilbert Delahaye passed away prematurely and Marlier’s son, Jean-Louis, took over as writer.  Marlier lived to an old age and continued to illustrate Martine until his passing in 2011.

Marcel Marlier – Martine à la fête des fleurs (1973)

Marcel Marlier – Martine à la fête des fleurs (1973)

All together there have been one-hundred-million Martine books sold—that’s a little more than Pippi Longstockings and somewhat less than Nancy Drew.  A great deal of Martine merchandise is produced today including special editions, comics, DVDs, websites and a video game in which she is called Emma.

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie découvrent la mer (1969)

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie découvrent la mer (1969)

Martine was not Marlier’s only project with Casterman.  Starting in 1969, he began both writing and illustrating his own series: Jean-Lou et Sophie.

Marcel Marlier – Martine petit rat de l'opéra (1972)

Marcel Marlier – Martine petit rat de l’opéra (1972)

Michael Jackson was apparently a great fan of Marcel Marlier and Martine.  Michael came across her image on a puzzle game while in Germany and then contacted the artist.  Marlier did not know who Michael was and bought some DVDs to familiarize himself with the pop-star.  Michael and Marlier met three times.  Michael was reported to have been extremely excited during his visit which initially surprised Marlier who nonetheless warmed to Michael’s personality.  Michael offered to purchase Marlier’s entire portfolio, but Marlier declined and instead supplied him with a sketch. (“Michael Jackson était comme un enfant”, Bernard Libert, SudPress.)

Marcel Marlier – Martine au zoo (1963)

Marcel Marlier – Martine au zoo (1963)

But not everyone loved Martine.  Her widespread influence on young impressionable readers together with her orthodox ladylike manner made her the subject of 1980s French feminist critique for whom she was labeled “docile”.  (“Marcel Marlier, l’illustrateur de Martine est mort”, Charlotte Pudlowski, 20 minutes.)

Marcel Marlier – J’adore mon frère (2007)

Marcel Marlier – J’adore mon frère (2007)

Most recently, Martine became a Web meme when a program went online to modify the title of the text, for example to “Martine – first space cake”, “Martine – desperate housewife” and so on.  Casterman did not feel the web site was in the spirit they envisioned for Martine and politely asked the site owners to take down their project and they obliged. (Alice Antheaume, “Martine s’offre une seconde jeunesse sur le Net”, 20 minutes.)

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie en Bretagne (2002)

Marcel Marlier – Jean-Lou et Sophie en Bretagne (2002)

The Martine illustrations were created over a lifetime and by so talented an artist as Marcel Marlier that many of the works are really art, expressing social commentary about the time or seem to include deep and religious themes in the symbolism.  Even for those not so interested in children’s stories, Martine would be a joy to open.

Martine on Casterman

Martine has appeared once before on Pigtails in Paint here.