There Is No Order in the Law

A legal expert has examined this post and has some amendments about what I have said here.  To avoid confusion for those who have read this before, those amendments will be in italics.

I originally decided to share this tidbit as an update in the last Maiden Voyages post and then I realized I had access to both the images in question and, whenever possible, we like to bring these things to you, the readers, to judge for yourself.

Although Graham Ovenden was tried, convicted and is serving his sentence*, there is still the matter of the disposition of the materials confiscated by the police.  In a recent hearing, the police were compelled by the court to make a small concession. Although they have been implying in the press that taking a picture of a nude child is illegal, they confirmed that the act, in itself, is not technically indecent and so not necessarily illegal.

The bizarre twist to this hearing has to do with two images. First of all, they want to destroy one of Ovenden’s paintings.

Graham Ovenden - Elinore 1982/83

Graham Ovenden – Elinore 1982/83

One of the problems of U.K. law is there is no distinction given to art. It does not matter if a work is produced with skill by a reputable artist; if it is deemed indecent, it is illegal. The strange thing is the police were surprised to discover that this piece appeared in Ovenden’s monograph published by Academy Editions in 1987. It seems they have not done even the most rudimentary research about the images they are referring to. This piece was also on exhibit at the Tate Modern and was reproduced in a number of newspapers in the 1990s, some in color. It is estimated that approximately 3.5 million people have seen this image in published form with little substantial comment. On the other hand, nude reference photographs of this same model were not slated for destruction.

This seems counterintuitive since, to take a photograph, a child would have been made to participate while a painting could plausibly be the product of the artist’s imagination. There is hope, however, because of the judge’s decision regarding another image.

Graham Ovenden - North Kensington, 1959

Graham Ovenden – North Kensington, 1959

This image was also published, in Graham Ovenden’s Childhood Streets (1998) which documented his photography of the London streets in the late 1950s when he was a young man. This girl is shown lifting her skirt to show her private parts to the public. In fact, this is a bona fide photo of child prostitutes. Ovenden learned later that that particular saloon was well-known for such traffic at that time and that this girl’s display was a form of advertising. The strange thing was that the judge would not allow its destruction. Why? Because it is documenting something of historical significance.

The decision not to destroy this artifact turns out to be solely at the discretion of the judge. There is no basis of historical significance to protect these pieces either; the judge simply wanted to offer her explanation for the decision.  Therefore, the strategy mentioned below will have no legal justification but might still be used to persuade another judge in the next hearing.

This judgment may open the door to saving the painting as well.  Perhaps a similar argument could be made about a painting published in hard copy form and exhibited in museums.

*I am told that some readers have misunderstood about Ovenden’s sentence.  He is currently serving the probationary period of his sentence and is not actually in prison, but his activities are still restricted.  Upon completion of sentence, he will be at full liberty again.

The Girls of Summer, Pt. 1

Well, it’s high summer here in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means young girls are out playing in the water, on the beach, or in the yard.  In some parts of the world they are even doing so (gasp!) partially or fully nude.  Others are wearing swimsuits or thin summer outfits.  The beauty and innocence of a child frolicking under a blazing summer sun, free of guilt and bodily shame, is a sight we could all use more of, frankly.  And so, in honor of those children who are out there enjoying the rays this summer, here is the first in a three-part series featuring little girls doing precisely that, all perfectly captured by an assortment of painters and photographers from around the world.  So look at these images and smile, because someday, if the morality thugs and environment polluters continue to have their way, it may be a rare thing to behold.

The first image is in honor of the holiday Americans just celebrated, the Fourth of July.  I don’t recall where I obtained this image, and a search of the artist’s name reveals nothing.  It may have been mislabeled at the site I got it from; that kind of thing happens a lot on the internet, unfortunately.  I also wish it was a wee bit larger, but this will have to suffice.  I intended to post this on the Fourth but didn’t get it out in time.

Carol Lauren - (Title Unknown)

Carol Lauren – (Title Unknown)

The next image is from Indian journalist and photographer Sebin Abraham Jacob, who goes by Sebinaj on DeviantArt.  It’s called Rejoice, and I can’t imagine a better title.  I love the texture of the stone walkway behind the girl and how nicely it contrasts with her softness.  I also love her fancy shoes, which seem almost out of place and slightly too large for her feet.

Sebinaj - Rejoice

Sebin Abraham Jacob – Rejoice

DeviantArt: Sebinaj

Karl Jóhann Jónsson is an Icelandic painter, primarily of portraits.  I really like the unique perspective on this little girl, Emilia.  There are other paintings of the same girl, whom I presume is his daughter, on his site, so take a look around.

Karl Jóhann Jónsson - Emilía í sundi

Karl Jóhann Jónsson – Emilía í sundi

Karl Jóhann: Portrett og fleira (official site)

These next two pieces are actually English travel posters from early to mid-20th century.  The first is for Burnam-on-Sea, a coastal town in Somerset, England.  All I was able to glean from the web on the artist is that his last name is Durmon.  It looks to be from about the 1940s.  If anyone else can provide more information here, it will be greatly appreciated.  Although there is no text provided, the second image is a poster for another English coastal town, Clacton-on-Sea, dating from 1953, with art by Mervyn Scarf.  I’ve included these for the express reason that they both demonstrate that it wasn’t that long ago when the English followed the general European trend for little girls’ bathing costumes.  As you can see in both examples, the little girls are topless.  There are other examples out there showing the same, but these two should suffice.

Durmon - Burnham-on-Sea (poster)

Durmon – Burnham-on-Sea (poster)

Mervyn Scarf - Clacton-on-Sea (poster) (1953)

Mervyn Scarf – Clacton-on-Sea (poster) (1953)

This next photograph is by Sally Mann.  Although I have a couple of Mann’s books, this image was actually taken from a small compilation volume I have called Love and Desire.  That is, of course, Mann’s daughter Jessie striking the pose on what appears to be a boogie board of some sort.  I have never seen this image in any other source, so I was quite happy to discover the book had a Mann photo in it.

Sally Mann - Venus Ignored (1992)

Sally Mann – Venus Ignored (1992)

Sally Mann (official site)

This image is by the painter Rafael Concilio and dates from 2001.  That’s really all I can tell you.

Rafael Concilio - A Toy Ship (2001)

Rafael Concilio – A Toy Ship (2001)

Here is a photograph by Oleg Itkin.  I do not recall where I pulled this from, probably a Russian photography site.  Such sites were a goldmine of beautiful images of children back in the early ’00s, and I discovered a lot of fantastic new photographers this way.  This piece reminds me a lot of the work of Jock Sturges in its simplicity.

Oleg Itkin - Vintage

Oleg Itkin – Vintage

And speaking of Russian photographers, one of the best is Dolphine (a.k.a. d’elf), who mostly shoots images of little girls (and occasionally little boys) doing gymnastics.  If you are interested in child gymnastics, you will find more images than you could ever want at Dolphine’s website.  Be sure to check the links at the bottom of her page for more beautiful work.  Here are two pieces from Dolphine.

Dolphine - Small Pantheon

Dolphine – Small Pantheon

Dolphine - Summer 2

Dolphine – Summer 2

d’elf (official site)

This next one is somewhat different from the theme of this post, but I quite like it and wanted to include it anyway.  It is a painting by Jimmy Lawlor called, appropriately enough, The Height of Summer.  Lawlor has several lovely surrealist/fantasy paintings featuring children, so don’t forget to peruse his site!

Jimmy Lawlor - The Height of Summer

Jimmy Lawlor – The Height of Summer

Jimmy Lawlor (official site)

Wai Ming is an Asian painter of some renown, noted for his beautiful and sensitive portraits of children, especially girls.  Here is a perfect example.

Wai Ming - The Lovely Summer

Wai Ming – The Lovely Summer

Wai Ming (official site)

Nikolai Filippov is yet another Russian photographer who tends to focus his camera on the young girl, though his specialty is ballet.  This image of a nude boy and girl walking down the beach is all kinds of charming.

Nikolai Filippov - Game Beside the Sea II (1972)

Nikolai Filippov – Game Beside the Sea II (1972)

And now we move on to Russian painters.  Anna Lebedevna (not to be confused with Anna Ostroumova-Lebedevna) is a contemporary academic painter, and that’s about all I know of her.  She doesn’t seem to have much of a presence online, unfortunately.

Anna Lebedeva - Summer (1999)

Anna Lebedeva – Summer (1999)

Svitlana Galdetska is a contemporary Ukrainian painter who specializes in paintings of her own daughter.  This image is one of several lovely ‘girl on beach’ images from her series Space Around Me.

Svitlana Galdetska - My Summer

Svitlana Galdetska – My Summer

Svitlana Galdetska (official site)

Contemporary photographer Frank H. Jump mostly focuses on vintage and decaying signs and murals, but here he trains his camera on an adorable little girl at the beach.

Frank H. Jump - Girl on Beach, Ft. Tilden, Queens (2002)

Frank H. Jump – Girl on Beach, Ft. Tilden, Queens (2002)

Fading Ad Campaign (official site)

I don’t know the photographer of this next image, but it is a page taken from the magazine Marie Claire Italia.  I do know that the adult woman in the image is French actress and model Laetitia Casta.

(Photographer Unknown) - Marie Claire Italia, June, 1995

(Photographer Unknown) – Marie Claire Italia, June, 1995

Stanley Goldstein is a modern painter with a photo-realistic style.  There are some beach and other outdoor images at his site that could’ve easily fit here, but I preferred this painting of children frolicking in a water fountain.

Stanley Goldstein - Fountain I (2008)

Stanley Goldstein – Fountain I (2008)

Stanley Goldstein (official site)

Here’s an unusual photo by Luiz Cavalcante, whose work I have featured here before.  This little girl looks like she’s having a blast, doesn’t she?

Luiz Cavalcante - Little Jumping Girl

Luiz Cavalcante – Little Jumping Girl

Our final piece is by Shannon Richardson.  I’ve posted this once before, but I want to post it again.  Ah, what was better when you were a kid than playing outside while eating ice cream, eh?

Shannon Richardson - Grass Skirts

Shannon Richardson – Grass Skirts

That’s it for this batch.  Stay cool out there, people.

Shannon Richardson (official site)

Thomas Cooper Gotch: A Golden Dream

Thomas Cooper Gotch began his professional life in the boot and shoe business.  Then it happened that in his twenties he enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art in London.  There he was friendly with Henry Scott Tuke; Tuke is distinguished for having almost his entire oeuvre consisting of nude boys.  Tuke, Gotch and fellow Slade student and Gotch’s future wife, Caroline Burland Yates, became associated with the Newlyn art colony, first visiting in the late 1870s and residing there during the late 1880s.  The Newlyners were mostly Methodist teetotalers and are remembered for their en plein air realist rural style.  Gotch, however, is not remembered for his Newlyn period works despite being an associate of James Whistler and one of the founding members of the New English Art Club.

Gotch and his wife relocated to Florence in 1891 which had a significant effect on his style.

Thomas Cooper Gotch – The Child Enthroned (1894)

Thomas Cooper Gotch – The Child Enthroned (1894)

Gotch then began to compose in the manner for which he is best known: called by Pamela Lomax “imaginative symbolism” in her book, The Golden Dream.

“His new combination of symbolic female figures, decorative Italian textiles and the static order of early Renaissance art finally brought him recognition.” (Betsy Cogger Rezelman)

Together with the other Pre-Raphaelites, Gotch was inspired by Medievalism as is evident in his Alleluia (1896).

Thomas Cooper Gotch  – Alleluia (1896)

Thomas Cooper Gotch – Alleluia (1896)

Gotch’s daughter Phyllis appeared in several of his paintings, as well as modeling for the Newlyn-associated artist Elizabeth Forbes.  The Gotchs traveled extensively, not only in Italy, but France, Belgium, Austria, Denmark and Australia and South Africa too.  Gotch was fortunate to have enjoyed recognition during his lifetime.  In his older years he continued to paint children in an increasingly textured style.

Thomas Cooper Gotch – The Flag (1910)

Thomas Cooper Gotch – The Flag (1910)

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

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

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

Joshua Reynolds – Penelope Boothby (1788)

Joshua Reynolds – Penelope Boothby (1788)

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

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

Henry Fuseli -The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby (1792)

Henry Fuseli – The Apotheosis of Penelope Boothby (1792)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Everett Millais – Cherry Ripe (1879)

John Everett Millais – Cherry Ripe (1879)

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

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

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

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

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

Rosemary Mitchell concludes:

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

References:

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

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

Album Cover Art – Spring 2015 Edition

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

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

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

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

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

Artist Unknown - Nightwish - Ever Dream (single cover)

Artist Unknown – Nightwish – Ever Dream (single cover)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artist Unknown - Tangemeenie - The Gilded Age (cover)

Artist Unknown – Tangemeenie – The Gilded Age (cover)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one I’ve been meaning to share for ages and just never quite got to it.  But here it is now.  This is the cover image for The Enchanter Persuaded album by Sinoia Caves (a.k.a. Jeremy Schmidt), an electronica musician.  I quite like this album, especially the songs Through the Valley and Evil Ball.  The photographer is Dewitt Jones, and the photo originally appeared in the April 1976 issue of National Geographic as part of a story on the poet Robert Frost (a big thanks to one of our readers for providing this information!)

Dewitt Jones - Sinoia Caves - The Enchanter Persuaded (cover)

Dewitt Jones – Sinoia Caves – The Enchanter Persuaded (cover)

Dewitt Jones (official site)

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

Artist Unknown - Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband (cover)

Artist Unknown – Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband (cover)

Southern Blossoms: Pati Bannister

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

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

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

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

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

Pati Bannister - Chapter One (1989)

Pati Bannister – Chapter One (1989)

Pati Bannister - The Dollhouse (1992)

Pati Bannister – The Dollhouse (1992)

Pati Bannister - Enchanted Evening (1998)

Pati Bannister – Enchanted Evening (1998)

Pati Bannister - The Swing (1999)

Pati Bannister – The Swing (1999)

Pati Bannister - Scent of Summer (2001)

Pati Bannister – Scent of Summer (2001)

Pati Bannister - Swan Lake (2002)

Pati Bannister – Swan Lake (2002)

Pati Bannister - Dogwood (2003)

Pati Bannister – Dogwood (2003)

Pati Bannister - Peony (2004)

Pati Bannister – Peony (2004)

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

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)

 

Akiane, Indigo Child Prodigy

Akiane Kramarik was born in 1994 in Mount Morris, Illinois.  Her American father and Lithuanian mother identified themselves as atheists; and then surprisingly, their daughter began to have intense spiritual visions in which she would meet God “face to face”.

Akiane Kramarik

Photographer Unknown – Akiane: Her Life, Her Art, Her Poetry (book cover) (2006)

This was not initially easy to accept as her mother Forelli remembered, “At first I thought it was a nightmare.” (Evening Magazine.) Her father Mark was also caught off-guard, “It sort of took me aback because we never read the Bible and didn’t have any kind of spiritual connection.” (CNN)

Photographer Unknown – Painting 'On My Knees' (2005)

Photographer Unknown – Painting ‘On My Knees’ (2005)

Akiane began having spiritual visions at age three; the following year she picked up art tools to express the things she was experiencing.  “I was just so surprised at the impeccable images I had in my head that I just had to express them in some sort of physical matter.”  (Sally Lee, Daily Mail, January 30, 2015.)  She quickly progressed from sketching to pastel by five, then to acrylic at six, and finally to oil.

Akiane Kramarik – On My Knees, 2005

Akiane Kramarik – On My Knees, (2005)

Her mother speaks of this process as follows,

It wasn’t just art that was happening. Simultaneous with art was a spiritual awakening…. It all began to happen when she started to share her dreams and visions. … We didn’t pray together, there was no discussion about God, and we didn’t go to church. Then all of a sudden, Akiane was starting to talk about God. … We were with the kids all the time, and so these words from Akiane about God didn’t come from the outside—we knew that. But there suddenly were intense conversations about God’s love, His place [in our lives], and she would describe everything in detail.” (Marry Berryhill, Today’s Christian, July/August 2004.)

Akiane’s parents soon joined the church, while she herself remains spiritual but does not consider herself a member of any denomination or religion despite frequent Christian references in her art.

Akiane’s family did not have an artistic character.  Akiane describes her painterly education thus, “I am self-taught. In other words, God is my teacher.” (In5d, Indigos, April 26, 2011).  Nonetheless, she was soon recognized as a prodigy.  In a few short years she appeared with Oprah, CNN’s Lou Dobbs, ABC’s Peter Jennings, Katie Couric and  Diane Sawyer on Good Morning America, Craig Ferguson of The Late Late Show, and Robert Schuller on the Hour of Power.  Her paintings sold for upwards of fifty-thousand dollars, and hung in locations such as the U.S. embassy in Singapore.

Photographer Unknown – Painting 'My Sight Cannot Wait for Me' (2002)

Photographer Unknown – Painting ‘My Sight Cannot Wait for Me’ (2002)

Akiane is highly dedicated.  She paints six days a week, rising at three or four a.m. and paints for as many as fourteen hours a day; some works take months and hundreds of hours to complete.

Akiane Kramarik – My Sight Cannot Wait for Me (2002)

Akiane Kramarik – My Sight Cannot Wait for Me (2002)

Akiane’s art can mostly be described as either realist or surrealist.  Often times, she herself does not know the meaning of the images she has seen in visions and feels compelled to paint.  She said, “God gave me more ideas I don’t even know what the meaning is, like pyramids, I really don’t even know that meaning….” (CNN)  Her mother said of these fantastic dream images,

“When she was talking about these galaxies and intergalactic experiences and God, I knew whatever she was seeing, something was really there for her.”  (CNN)

Akiane Kramarik – Faithfulness (2010)

Akiane Kramarik – Faithfulness (2010)

As a girl artist who often made a girl the subject of her work, she might be doubly interesting to Pigtails readers.  In fact, many times that girl subject was a self-portrait.  Described as an indigo child and dedicated to God and love, it’s probably appropriate to find girls and particularly one so angelic as herself in her paintings.

Photographer Unknown – Painting 'Turquoise Eyes' (2005)

Photographer Unknown – Painting ‘Turquoise Eyes’ (2005)

Akiane has traveled to thirty different countries and is currently residing on the Gold Coast in Australia.  She is fond of animals and since the age of twelve, her compassion for other living souls has motivated her to practice veganism.  She is home-schooled and studies largely only what is interesting to her personally.  Akiane speaks five languages including American Sign Language and has contributed significant funds to children’s charities.

Akiane Kramarik – Turquoise Eyes (2005)

Akiane Kramarik – Turquoise Eyes (2005)

Akiane’s painting and the publication of two books have earned her millions of dollars.  Rich, beautiful and genius, she has quite a lot going for her.  Despite all that, she remains humble and committed to sharing what she’s been given.  “I really love sharing my gift with others. At the same time, I’m just a normal kid having fun and that’s what life is all about—having fun at the same time as helping people.”  (rememberwhoweare, October 20, 2011.)

Photographer Unknown – Painting 'Innocence' (2006)

Photographer Unknown – Painting ‘Innocence’ (2006)

Akiane has occasionally faced criticism.  Some people accused her of being a fraud; others called her technical proficiency lacking, and some were offended by the religious content.  She recalls, “People wanted to burn all my works when we tried to display them in public.” (Sally Lee, Daily Mail, January 30, 2015.)

Akiane Kramarik – Innocence (2006)

Akiane Kramarik – Innocence (2006)

Akiane had some profound insights on art and children,

“Portals of divinity are everywhere. I believe that children may enter these divine portals easier, because they are seeking for answers in the purest way.” (In5d, Indigos, April 26, 2011)

“Infinity imagines curiosity from the wild abyss—Only the child makes a swing-set view of the worlds upside down. Unwatched truth is the enchantment of childhood.  And we never grow out of it…” (rememberwhoweare, October 20, 2011)

Akiane Kramarik – Co-Creation (2005)

Akiane Kramarik – Co-Creation (2005)

Akiane has a personal site online which can be found here.

Lucas Cranach: Charity

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) was a German Renaissance artist. He was the court painter to the Electors of Saxony for most of his career and is known for his portraits and nude subjects drawn from mythology and religion. I find it interesting that Cranach was close friend of Martin Luther (the leading figure of the Protestant Reformation). Because he is also regarded as an innovator for his nudes, Kenneth Clark commented that “Cranach is one of those rare artists who have added to our imaginative repertoire of physical beauty.”

Lucas Cranach - Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1504)

Lucas Cranach – Rest on the Flight into Egypt (1504)

The playful almost comic mood of Cranach’s paintings gives his work an appeal not found in the work of most of his contemporaries: Albrecht Durer, Mathis Grünewald and Hans Holbein with the exception of Hans Baldung. The earliest large work by Cranach is The Rest on the Flight into Egypt of 1504. Behind Mary and Joseph stands an old fir tree and birch tree that would more likely be found in Germany than in Egypt. Busy angels who make music, bring water and offer the Christ Child birds take the form of cherubs and child nymphs. To the left of Mary’s feet sits an angel in gold that plays the flute; the style of the gown appears to be that of a girl’s because of the style of the sleeve.

Lucas Cranach - Venus Standing in a Landscape (1529)

Lucas Cranach – Venus Standing in a Landscape (1529)

Cranach seldom painted the nude beauties he is known for until the late 1520s—well into the Reformation. Of the standing Venus paintings, this seems to be the most famous; her slender form, tiny breasts an narrow hips, the rounded forehead, are the physical characteristics of an adolescent girl or young woman. We tend to think of the ideal as a busty beauty but that was not the case until the mid-twentieth century. Nudes in the German tradition drew their inspiration from Gothic art which had a juvenile air. Cranach’s innovation was that he took the stiff figures of Gothic art and gave them the grace of Botticelli.

Lucas Cranach - Portrait of Martin Luther as Junker Jörg

Lucas Cranach – Portrait of Martin Luther as Junker Jörg (c1522)

Cranach was a close friend of Martin Luther from the beginning of the Reformation.  Luther was godfather to Cranach’s daughter Anna and Cranach in turn became godfather to Luther’s first-born son, Johannes. This special relationship with its founder enabled Cranach to chronicle the Reformation. At the time of the above portrait, Luther was regarded as an outlaw by the Roman Catholic Church. Luther is shown with the beard he had grown to disguise himself as the nobleman “Junker Jörg”. He was in hiding at the Wartburg, a strong fortress at the top of a mountain, under the protection of the local prince. In a small study in the castle, he translated the New Testament from Greek into German. To providence, Cranach owned the only publishing house in the area. Cranach illustrated and published Luther’s first translation of the Bible into German, which was the first time that the scriptures were translated from the Latin to be made available to the public.

Lucas Cranach-Charity Standing

Lucas Cranach – Charity Standing (1530s)

Cranach is known for conveying Lutheran religious concerns in his paintings, but I believe the influence of the Reformation on his series of Charity paintings has not yet been recognized. Charity is the foremost of the three theological virtues “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity” (I Corinthians 13:13) The word “love”, is a closer definition to the modern ear because the word “charity” has the implication of giving to the needy. The fourteenth century Italian sculptor Tino da Camaino was the first to represent Charity as a loving mother with three or more children. Italian Renaissance artists followed the Graeco-Roman convention of depicting children as only boys.  The Italian masters appear to have been caught in a “patricentric box of language”. In Cranach’s interpretations of Charity, one of the children is represented as a little girl which is likely the first nude of this kind in western art. I believe Cranach broke with convention for a reason.

Cultures have been structured according to two principles: patriarchal and matriarchal. The priority of matriarchal principles is unconditional love: a mother loves her children regardless of whether they are good or bad; they are loved because they are her (or another woman’s) children. The essence of this love is mercy and compassion. In contrast, the priority of patriarchy is conditional love: a child needs to work to be respected by the father. The essence of this love is justice.

Lucas Cranach - Charity Landscape (1830s)

Lucas Cranach – Charity Landscape (1830s)

In the course of the Reformation, Luther ended the devotion to the Virgin Mary, which resulted in the elimination of the matricentric principle that existed in western culture. Erich Fromm recognized the profound influence the removal of the matricentric principle had on the development of society.

“Luther established a purely patriarchal form of Christianity in Northern Europe that was based on the urban middle class and the secular princes. The essence of this new social character is submission under patriarchal authority, with work as the only way to obtain love and approval. Behind the Christian facade arose a new secret religion, ‘industrial religion,’ that is rooted in the character structure of modern society, but is not recognized as ‘religion.’

The industrial religion is incompatible with genuine Christianity. It reduces people to servants of the economy and the machinery that their own hands build. The industrial religion had its basis in a new social character. Its center was fear of and submission to powerful male authorities, cultivation of the sense of guilt for disobedience, dissolution of the bond of human solidarity by the supremacy of self-interest and mutual antagonism. The ‘sacred’ in industrial religion was work, property, profit, power, even though it furthered individualism and freedom within the limits of its general principles.”

The Virgin Mary was a predominant figure in Renaissance art—about 1 in 4 paintings of the period represent her. I suspect that Cranach sensed the dangers of the elimination of the image of the Holy Mother and I believe his Charity paintings were intended to compensate because the image of the mother ultimately represents the principle of what ought to be. Traditionally,the father would support the family by going out into the imperfect world; he would deal with objective reality with a focus on prosperity. The mother would remain with the children in the bonds of human solidarity which better reflects genuine Christian principles because they can be compromised in an antagonistic environment.

Lucas Cranach - Charity (1830s)

Lucas Cranach – Charity (1830s) (1)

In all of Cranach’s Charity paintings, one of the children is a little girl. In some works, it is difficult to tell because only a tiny pigtail indicates the child’s gender. In two of the paintings, the girl holds a doll as her role model; the mother holds an infant. Cranach’s paintings are the only Charity paintings I know of that include this iconography. Feminine nature was to be valued and respected. Matriarchy has found expression in humanism and natural law: the idea of the sacredness of life and human equality.

Lucas Cranach - Charity (1830s)

Lucas Cranach – Charity (1830s) (2)

Art that follows the tradition of the Charity paintings has fallen out favor due to a patriarchal view that regards such work as regressive. While the Reformation had some positive points to the Protestant work ethic, it had the effect in atomizing society. Our perception of human interactions has changed due to loss of the matriarchal perspective. Nudity is interpreted from a subtext of self-interest and mutual antagonism which often leads to misinterpretation. It makes a great difference whether the body is viewed as a commodity or from the perspective of a loving mother who appreciates the sanctity of life. In the past, the matriarchal perspective colored the perception of even sensual subjects, as in Cranch’s Venus paintings; the figures reflect a gentle eroticism. I believe much of contemporary feminism is at fault in being compromised by the values of industrialization. It is actually patriarchal in it’s values; it takes part in what Fromm called the, “industrial religion.” Many artists from the beginning of the 20th century sensed the tendency of alienation and created work that embraced the bonds of human solidarity to counterbalance (eg. Lotte Herrlich, Ida Teichmann and Sally Mann), but the current barely exists today.

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.