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.

Alienation: Scott Affleck

One of our readers, Kris, who lives in the Philadelphia area recently informed me of an interesting artist who just opened a gallery in Lambertville, a small town in central New Jersey. She sent me a sample of his work which I felt was well done, but I did not give it too much thought. As I learned more about his work, I felt I had better take a more serious look. Scott Affleck (born 1972) specializes in figural painting and convincingly integrates the female figure into his scenes. His pieces are not mere pretty cliches but are strong expressions of social commentary.

Scott Affleck - Gentle Voice (2014)

Scott Affleck – Gentle Voice (2014)

The first image I was shown was actually an unfinished work titled Babel. This is a reference to the Biblical story and a boy is shown focusing on his sand castle (the tower). Apart from offering a lesson about hubris–the tower also standing in as a phallic symbol—the girl is holding her arms out, signifying vastness and futility. The artist states that the girl’s pose is intentionally Christ-like, heightening the contrast between the material and spiritual endeavors of the two children. Joseph Campbell used to say that if a work of art really speaks to you, no explanation is necessary but if an artist wants to be insulting, he will tell you what it means. However, given this age of literary and symbolic ignorance, I think it pragmatic and prudent for Affleck to describe his intention whenever a visitor asks for it.

Scott Affleck - Babel (in progress) (2014)

Scott Affleck – Babel (in progress) (2014)

Affleck discovered his passion for art while attending Hunterdon Central High School, where he participated in an arts program for the gifted. He later studied under the guidance of Valeriy Belenikin and received an Associate’s Degree in Fine Arts from Bucks County Community College. His influences include Sandro Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, Giorgione, Puvis de Chavannes, Ferdinand Hodler, George Tooker, Ken Kiff and Jock Sturges.

Even his choice of venue for the gallery was fortuitous as it is located in a small town just across from where an artist colony existed in the early 20th century. Participants included Edward Redfield, Daniel Garber and Roy Nuse—the last artist being well-known for his paintings of skinny dippers. The Grand Opening took place on November 8th and the artist sold two paintings that day—one of a cow and another of a tractor. He found that strange since he puts so much heart and soul into his figural paintings.

Many of his works are inspired by literature as in his interpretation of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Plato described a group of prisoners who lived chained in an underground cave all their lives. The prisoners spent their time watching a puppet show projected as shadows on the wall, which they mistook for reality. In Postmodern symbolism, dolls are used in place of puppets to reflect cynicism and the recognition of hypocrisy, as though objective values did not exist. In Affleck’s painting, an adolescent girl of about twelve enters the cave to free the prisoners—despite admonitions that she would be killed. Over time, the artist began to appreciate the significance of that age—when a girl reaches a level of consciousness that questions the hypocrisy of the world while still holding on to her idealism. Such sentiments tend to be mocked in contemporary art and Affleck believes it is an inevitable symptom of the greater level of alienation experienced during the transition from childhood to adulthood in the modern industrialized world. The girl stands in opposition to the values of this age and her nudity motivates self-honesty—casting off the empty honors of this world.

Scott Affleck - The Allegory of the Cave (2014)

Scott Affleck – The Allegory of the Cave (2014)

Affleck believes many of his figural paintings are a therapeutic response to today’s pervasive conditions of alienation. Postmodern theory denies this state, so the mood of his work stands apart from those of his peers. It was not his intent to be a contrarian, only to produce art that came naturally to him. Fascinated and influenced by the Symbolist movement of the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, he goes beyond the theme of youth as a metaphor for innocence but uses it to represent integrity instead. Perhaps Affleck’s clearest example is Resignation Is Liberation, inspired by George Orwell’s 1984. As a kind of homage to Sandro Botticelli and George Tooker, he painted it on wood.

Scott Affleck - Resignation is Liberation (2014)

Scott Affleck – Resignation is Liberation (2014)

He wasn’t sure if his ideas had any kind of validity until he found this poem written by a 13 or 14-year-old girl. It seemed to confirm his view.

You will never have a home again
You’ll forget the bonds of family and family will become just family
Smiles will never bloom from your heart again, but be fake and you will speak fake words to fake people from your fake soul
What you do today you will do tomorrow and what you do tomorrow you will do for the rest of your life
From now on pressure, stress, pain and the past can never be forgotten
You have no heart or soul and there are no good memories
Your mind and thoughts rule your body that will hold all things inside it; bottled up, now impossible to be released
You are fake, you will be fake, you will be a supreme actor of happiness but never be happy
Time, joy and freedom will hardly come your way and never last as you well know
Others’ lives and the dreams of things that you can never have or be part of, will keep you alive
You will become like the rest of the world–a divine actor, trying to hide and suppress your fate, pretending it doesn’t exist
There is only one way to escape society and the world you help build, but that is impossible, for no one can ever become a baby again
Instead you spend the rest of life trying to find the meaning of life and confused in its maze.
-Fiona Miller, c1987

He recently completed and posted his latest work; he got the idea of painting a trenchcoat on a woman encased in steel. Steel is a particularly potent symbol as it was one of the first materials to be mass-produced in the Industrial Revolution and effectively communicates a visceral reaction to a cold and impersonal age.

Scott Affleck - Progression (2014)

Scott Affleck – Progression (2014)

Official Gallery website
More on Resignation Poetry

Affandi and Kartika

Rarely did Indonesia’s most well known painter, Affandi, stray from his usual subjects: himself and the difficult lives of the ordinary people.

Affand – Affandi & Kartika (1943)

Affand – Affandi & Kartika (1943)

Indonesian artists were radically cut off from the outside world; there were no shows of modern art until the late 1930s.  And conversely, when Affandi toured in India, Europe, America, and Brazil in the ’40s and ’50s he was one of the few artists from his young country to show abroad.

Affandi – Kartika (1941)

Affandi – Kartika (1941)

Affandi did not work in a studio, but outdoors in the open and he was sometimes attacked by the same common people he chose as his subjects; on one occasion sand was apparently thrown at him and the villagers taunted him—calling his painting incomprehensible.

Affandi – Kartika (1943)

Affandi – Kartika  (1943)

Affandi eventually gave up using a brush and applied paint directly from the tube onto the canvass; he painted with his hands and mixed paint on his wrist.

Affandi – Potret met dochter (1939)

Affandi – Potret met dochter (1939)

Affandi had a very close relationship with his daughter from his first wife.  He traveled together with Kartika and began teaching her to paint from age seven.  In fact, Kartika went on to a career as an impressionist artist herself—also painting many self-portraits and the ordinary Indonesian people.

Affandi – Kartika menggambar babaknya (1943)

Affandi – Kartika menggambar bapaknya, “Kartika drawing father” (1943)

Affandi remarked on the topic of girls and his painterly motivations,

“One day an art collector looked in my studio and said he couldn’t select any of my paintings because the paintings he saw hurt his feelings. He asked me why I didn’t make paintings of beautiful objects: landscapes, girls, and so forth. I too like beautiful things, but they do not necessary provide inspiration for my work. My subjects are expressive rather than beautiful. I paint suffering – an old woman, a beggar, a black mountain … I do know the danger of doing paintings with this in mind. I have no intention of becoming a social propagandist, and I must be careful. One day, in India, visiting a village with my Daughter Kartika, I saw a dead body covered by a mattress.  Kartika said, ‘That’s a good subject for you.’ I felt very touched by what we had seen, but I told her I would not paint it. My next painting was of a flower, in reality very fresh, but which on my canvas lacked all life.”

Affandi – Kartika tidur, "Kartika sleeping" (1936)

Affandi – Kartika tidur, “Kartika sleeping” (1936)

Affandi’s legacy, not withstanding his works and his painter daughter who survive him, is his museum in Jogjakarta, which he designed himself in the later years of his life, here is the link to the Affandi Museum site.

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.

The Little Girl in Mark Ryden

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Ryden - Instagram; Queen Bee (2013)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; Queen Bee (2013)

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

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

Marion Peck - Peaceful Slumber (2007)

Marion Peck – Peaceful Slumber (2007)

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

Mark Ryden - Awakening the Moon (2010)

Mark Ryden – Awakening the Moon (2010)

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

Mark Ryden - The Apology (2007)

Mark Ryden – The Apology (2007)

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

Mark Ryden - Oak Tree Nymph (2006)

Mark Ryden – Oak Tree Nymph (2006)

Or from this series painted on wood slabs:

Mark Ryden - Girl Color Study (2006)

Mark Ryden – Girl Color Study (2006)

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

Mark Ryden - The Meat Train (2000)

Mark Ryden – The Meat Train (2000)

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

Mark Ryden - The Piano Player (2010)

Mark Ryden – The Piano Player (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Ryden - Instagram; Meat Dancer (2011)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; Meat Dancer (2011)

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

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

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

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

Mark Ryden - Instagram; The Creatix (2005)

Mark Ryden – Instagram; The Creatix (2005)

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

Mark Ryden - Saint Barbie (1994)

Mark Ryden – Saint Barbie (1994)

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

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

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

Mark Ryden - sketch for Pine Tree Nymph (2006)

Mark Ryden – Sketch for ‘Pine Tree Nymph’ (2006)

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

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

Or,

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

Mark Ryden - Sophia's Bubbles (2008)

Mark Ryden – Sophia’s Bubbles (2008)

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

Mark Ryden – From ‘Pinxit’ (2011); The Long Yak (2008)

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

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

Mark Ryden - Allegory of the Four Elements (2006)

Mark Ryden – Allegory of the Four Elements (2006)

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

Robert Williams - Pop Surrealism (2011)

Robert Williams – Pop Surrealism (2011)

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

Mark Ryden - Yak Dream (2008)

Mark Ryden – Yak Dream (2008)

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

Mark Ryden’s personal site

Half-Naked, Half-Dressed

The rhetoric about child nudity reminds me a little of the metaphor of glass half-full versus glass half-empty people; which are you? Like most people, I purchase things that appeal to me and I do not always understand why at first. This was the case with a decorative plate entitled Amber. Serious art critics might derisively refer to this as kitsch and pay it no heed, but the fact that a particular style gains popularity says something about our psychology and our society and should be examined. I eventually realized that what intrigues me about this piece is that on the one hand, the girl shows a lot of bare skin, but the parts that are covered are actually quite dressy: nice frilly panties and proper dress shoes and socks. Her golden hair is also impeccably groomed with ribbons neatly tied into bows. It is clear from this state of affairs that she is getting ready to go out and is only one garment away from being fully dressed. She simply needs her dress to be slipped on over her head.

Glenice - Amber (1982)

Glenice – Amber (1982)

This piece was released by R.J. Ernst Enterprises, Inc. as part of “The Yesterday’s Series” in 1982. The plate refers to the artist simply as Glenice but it is probably Glenice Moore, a renowned painter and instructor who has had her work appear on at least 35 collector’s plates to date. It seems Amber was especially popular which may have prompted the company to also produce a figurine based on that image.

Glenice - Amber figurine (c1982)

Glenice – Amber figurine (c1982)

Glenice - Amber figurine (c1982) (detail)

Glenice – Amber figurine (c1982) (detail)

There are at least three plates in this series but the quality of the online versions are too poor to show here. Anyone having good pictures of these plates is encouraged to come forward and share. All three deal with children in the intimate setting of their toilette in days past. Amber takes place at a time before indoor plumbing evidenced by the wash basin she is using. Elmer is about to pull the chain on one of those old-fashioned toilets and Katie has completed her bath in a metal tub strategically placed by a wood-burning stove. I would love to learn more about the story behind the commissioning of these pieces.

Silver Light: Dod Procter

Dod Procter (1890-1972) was born Doris Margaret Shaw and at age 15, she moved with her mother and brother to Newlyn in Cornwall, UK to study at the Forbes School. There, she met her future husband Ernest Procter and the pair were considered among the school’s star pupils. In 1910 and 1911, they went to Paris together to study at Atelier Colarossi and were influenced by the Impressionists, Post-impressionists and the artists they met there—most notably Renoir and Cézanne. In 1912, they got married and had a son a year later. They worked together many times, sharing commissions or showing their work together at exhibitions. Procter remained a lifelong artist even after the untimely death of Ernest in 1935. She traveled subsequently to the United States, Canada, Jamaica and Africa.

Starting around 1922, Proctor painted a series of simplified, monumental images of young women with whom she was acquainted. When her painting, Morning, was displayed at the 1927 Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, it was voted Picture of the Year and bought by the Daily Mail for the Tate gallery, where it now hangs.  Both the public and critics responded to its style claiming it evoked the west Cornish “silver light”. The model for the work was a Newlyn fisherman’s 16-year-old daughter, Cissie Barnes. The painting made her a household name of the day.

Dod Procter - Morning (1926)

Dod Procter – Morning (1926)

The subjects of her pictures were largely portraits and flowers. During her travels to Jamaica in the 1950s, she painted several works of children. The style and subject matter of Dod Procter’s later works changed considerably and included landscapes, paintings of children and still-lifes.

Dod Procter - Little Sister (1962)

Dod Procter – Little Sister (1962)

She died at age 80 and was buried next to her husband at St. Hilary Church in Cornwall. A book featuring her work, A Singular Vision: Dod Procter by Alison James, was published by Sansom & Co. in 2007.

Hans Baluschek and the Small Universe of European Art

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

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

Hans Baluschek - Dancing on the Roof Garden (1926)

Hans Baluschek – Dancing on the Roof Garden (1926)

Hans Baluschek – Lost (1920)

Hans Baluschek – Transient Workers (1926)

Hans Baluschek - The Locomotive (1921)

Hans Baluschek – The Locomotive (1921)

Hans Baluschek – Working Family (1920)

Hans Baluschek - Cologne in Summer (1909)

Hans Baluschek – Cologne in Summer (1909)

Hans Baluschek - Summer Night (1928)

Hans Baluschek – Summer Night (1928)

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

Hans Baluschek - Berlin Fairgrounds (1914)

Hans Baluschek – Berlin Fairgrounds (1914)

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

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

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

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

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

Hans Baluschek - Der Tod (Death) (1895)

Hans Baluschek – Der Tod (Death) (1895)

Wikipedia: Hans Baluschek

German Cards: Hans Baluschek