The Hyper-Realistic Art of Annie Murphy-Robinson

Annie Murphy-Robinson is an artist that creates hyper-realistic charcoal based drawings. She rarely exhibits her work outside of her home state of California, as such it is hard to find much information online about her art, career or how she creates her artworks.

The artist was born in Sacramento, but her family was constantly moving so she ended up pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Southwestern Louisiana; she graduated in 1994. The first images that she created were still-life acrylic paintings of objects she had or could easily find, usually clothing, cans, bottles, sheets and bones. After graduating she went back to Sacramento, to be closer to her family, got married and had her first daughter in 1996. The artist applied to the Master’s program at California State University but was refused entry. Therefore Annie focused on painting for two years, in addition to taking some college art classes, then reapplied for the Master’s program and was accepted. She now dedicates her life to creating artworks. For a short time she continued to paint with acrylics, before switching to drawing with charcoal. One of these charcoal based drawings, titled Flower Girl, won first place at a student purchase show; this was her first award. She graduated from the Master’s arts program in 2002.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Flower Girl (2001)

After graduating she went to an artist’s opening and met Troy Dalton, who became her mentor. He allowed the artist to use his studio and also encouraged her to experiment with sanding the charcoal into the paper, a technique that she has continued to use throughout her career. Annie’s first solo show was held at a local community college in 2005. She continued exhibiting at various non-profit galleries before receiving her first sale for profit show at the B. Sakata Garo Gallery, held in 2006. It was at this show that she sold every drawing that she exhibited.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and Emily Tutu and Stockings (2006)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and the Quilt (2008)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and the Owl (2008)

Annie’s studio is a small sectioned off area within the garage of her home, within it you find print making paper, various grains of sand paper, a belt sander, cleaning rags, erasers and large amounts of charcoal. Most of the artist’s drawings are of her children, however she also creates self portraits, does commission work and also draws still-lifes. A significant portion of her drawings are created using charcoal, rarely using pastels as the dust is dangerous to breathe in and she dislikes wearing face masks. In many of the early drawings of her daughters they were depicted with minimal coverings, this was done to show their vulnerability, the beauty of innocence, as well as the beauty of their bodies, a message that could not have been conveyed if they were fully clothed.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey and the Red Ball (2008)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Emily and the Eggshell (2011)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Trophy (2011)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Dragonfly Eyes (2011)

The artworks featuring her children are drawn from photographs, not from real life. The photographs are increased in size so that they are the same size as the final artwork and placed beside the canvas she is working on. She first outlines the image with compressed charcoal and then blocks in the light and dark. Secondly she uses 400 grain sandpaper to hand sand the entire image, this grinds the charcoal into the paper and sands off the sizing on the surface of the paper. Next she starts to fill in the details and sands them into the paper. Finally the rest of the details are then drawn onto the canvas, a process that can take weeks. She draws every day and averages twenty-five hours of drawing each week. In the comments of her Instagram account she hints that she teaches, therefore I presume she has a part time job teaching somewhere, in addition to devoting time to creating her own artworks.

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Casey the Damned (2013)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Holly’s Three (date unknown)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – The Wedding Dress (2014)

Annie Murphy-Robinson – Theodora (2014)

As mentioned above there are limited details online about the artist so I can’t say how often she sands her works, maybe it is only the two times I mentioned, or maybe more. There are several places where Annie describes how she creates her artworks, one place is an article for Artists on Art, which also shows progress images of one of her drawings. Another place to find this information is the artist’s Instagram feed, again also showing works in progress. Annie Murphy-Robinson is currently represented by Arcadia Contemporary.

Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 2

In the second part of our series (you can read the first part here; if you haven’t already, I recommend doing so now) we’ll be looking at a few more of the common traits to this work. Let’s get to them, shall we?

(5) Partial or full nudity – As I’ve said before, it may be difficult for Americans to comprehend, living as we do in a society where casual nudity even of very small children is considered highly taboo, but nudity and sexuality are not always coincident. America is actually an anomaly in that regard. We have fetishized nudity by regarding it as inherently sexual, which creates undue problems when it’s a child that’s nude. Thus, nudity in the context of subversive girl art is more potent than it would be otherwise, as these artists are certainly well aware. There are so many good examples of this sub-category that I simply couldn’t limit it to three or four.

Aleksandra Waliszewska – (Title Unknown)

Flickr: Aleksandra Waliszewska

Carmen Roig – Untitled

Chamber Art: Carmen Roig

Much of the work of Cornelia Renz—again not a Lowbrow artist, but a sister in arms, so to speak—reminds me in some respects of Henry Darger’s stuff. This piece is a bit unusual for her in that it’s dominated by a single central figure.

Cornelia Renz – Hobby Horse (2007)

Cornelia Renz (official site)

Cristina Vergano is not a Lowbrow artist per se, but much of her work would fit naturally into that movement. Incidentally, the Latin phrase at right of the image reads something like “Sweet laughing petty Venus and envious bitch.” The goddess Venus being recast as a child is not new (I’ve done it myself) but it’s always interesting and provocative, given that she is essentially a sex goddess.

Cristina Vergano – Untitled

Cristina Vergano (official site)

Mark Ryden – Pet Yak

Mark Ryden (Official Site)

Dariusz Skitek is another artist I’ve featured before on Pigtails.

Dariusz Skitek – Seven Sleepers

Deviant Art: Dariusz Skitek

Mike Cockrill – Electra (2006)

Mike Cockrill (official site) – Cockrill’s website also appears to be getting an overhaul, but for now it’s still available.

There are no angels in her underwear, proclaims the title of this next piece. Well, it’s really no wonder, since she doesn’t appear to be wearing any!

Nils Karsten – No Angel in My Underwear

Nils Karsten (official site)

(6) Aliens or monsters; references to alienness and monstrosity – This goes back to the idea of monsters being the Evil Other, the great existential threat symbolized in strange and terrible forms. In associating them with the eroticized child, the artist is clarifying the danger in following this mental thread too far, and the fear of becoming the monster themselves: the socially reviled pedophile. By projecting it into their work, they effectively distance themselves from it. These images and all their associated weirdness stand in direct contrast to the accepted paradigm. Monsters in themselves define the natural paradigm by being rare and antithetical to it. As the essay What is a monster? at the Cambridge University site makes clear:

It might seem counter-intuitive, but beasts that seemingly mixed the characteristics of different natural groups were not troubling. Rather, they reinforced categories by clarifying the defining criteria for these groups. By transgressing, they helped to determine boundaries. To define a deviant form, such as a ‘deformed’ baby or calf, or a ‘monstrous’ exotic creature, you have to define ‘normal’.

Pedophilia, whether carried out or not, is the consummate modern monster, the most unnatural and deviant of sexualities in the collective consciousness. The desired children must therefore be shown in context with all that we find detestable, including monsters . . .

Jana Brike – Girl and a 7-Headed Hydra

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Alex Kuno – The Miscreants of Tiny Town – Sally and the Serpent

Alex Kuno (official site)

Candice Tripp – My Favorite Monster

Candice Tripp (official site)

Mark Ryden – Abominable

. . . even if that means the children themselves become the monsters.

Ana Bagayan – Reptilian Hybrid

Ana Bagayan (official site)

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Dangerous Liaisons

Nicoletta Ceccoli (official site)

Cristina Vergano – Lisbon, July 1652 (Their Voices)

Deidre L. Morton (Peemonster) – (Title Unknown)

(7) Acts of violence or suggested violence – Violence has a long tradition of being a stand-in for sex in art and media. Stabbing in particular can symbolically represent an act of rape. But any violent act can be a means to end unwanted sexual desires, as violence serves as both a psychological mechanism for the desirer to emotionally distance himself from the desiree (lashing out violently at the desired person or persons sharply and instantly alters one’s emotions, as well as removing the object of desire, temporarily or permanently) and, like monsters, a way of associating that which repulses us with something we wish to be more repulsed by. Little girls are both the agents and recipients of violence in these images; it’s tough to decide which is more disturbing.

Alex Kuno – The Miscreants of Tiny Town – The Grisly Discovery (2009)

Caleb Weintraub’s work is filled with an apocalyptic vision in which children become agents of chaos and perpetrators of violence against adults. He slyly references the popular childhood game of Operation in this next piece, but it doesn’t take long to realize this is actually a cannibalistic feast. Notice the genital mutilation of both the man on the table and the woman lying on the floor at right, as well as the snack being munched on by the girl in the green checked shirt. These references cannot be accidental.

Caleb Weintraub – (Title Unknown)

Caleb Weintraub (official site)

In Carmen Roig’s Happy B-Day, a little girl who looks distressingly like Marlier’s Martine is pierced through by several swords. Recall what I said earlier about stabbing and rape, and notice the clergy paper doll outfits to either side of the girl. There are exactly nine swords in the image. Anyone passingly familiar with the Tarot will immediately see the implication: many Tarot experts consider the Nine of Swords to be one of the worst cards in the deck, a representation of mental anguish, feelings of worry and guilt. Taken all together, these clues seem to add up to a commentary on sexual abuse by priests. The priests then are appropriately headless and faceless, not individual abusers but symbols of a much larger problem.

Carmen Roig – Happy B-Day

On the other end is Jana Brike’s The Cain Complex, the title of which refers to a psychological phenomenon of extreme hatred and jealousy of, and rivalry with, a sibling, usually a brother. This is of course based on the story of Cain and Abel in the Bible. That the aggressive sibling in this image is a female is interesting, and there is an unmistakable sexual implication in the nudity and positioning of the figures.

Jana Brike – Book of Taboo – The Cain Complex

Mark Ryden – The Cloven Bunny (2003)

trevor-brown-bloodsucker-forbidden-fruit-1996

Trevor Brown – Bloodsucker (1996)

Baby Art (Trevor Brown official site)

(4) Twins and doppelgängers – Twins, doppelgängers, mirror image characters or otherwise very similar figures appear frequently enough to be notable. Twins and lookalikes can be cultural markers of the strange or alien (think of the Grady twins from The Shining).  The appearance of creepy twins in art and media is frequent enough to have become a trope.  In the context of this erotic (or perhaps anti-erotic is a better descriptor) girl art, it is simply yet another element of the uncanny being coupled with the desired to render them undesirable.

Cristina Vergano – I Love and I Hate

Jana Brike – Milk and Blood – Weavers

dariusz-skitek-my-little

Dariusz Skitek – My Little Hell

LostFish – (Title Unknown)

LostFish (Official Site)

Triplets count too, even if they are much rarer.

Jana Brike – The Day When Time Stood Still

Mark Ryden – The Piano Player

Drawn Into Fantastic Worlds: Brian Partridge

Brian Partridge – Drawing Book Title Page (1986)

Every so often, I come across an artist that strikes me as exceptional. And although the artist in question may have gotten some recognition for his work, his or her fame and success does not seem in accord with his talent. In the medium of pen-and-ink, Brian Partridge is just such an artist. Consider what kind of world we would have if great artists were recognized and nurtured at a young age. At the very least, our man-made world would be one of much richer beauty.

Brian Partridge was born in 1953, in the small village of Silverstone on the edge of the Cotswolds. Adopted into a service family he travelled extensively, leading a peripatetic lifestyle until the age of twelve years. He had no formal art training, and astonishingly in view of his now apparent talent, he did not begin drawing seriously until he was twenty-five years old.

Meanwhile, he had discovered the world of secondhand book shops and developed a love for Victorian book illustration including John Tenniel’s drawings for the Alice books. Shortly afterwards he acquired Illustrators of Alice (1972) by Graham Ovenden and John Davis and found himself fascinated by the widely differing interpretations of Carroll’s stories by 20th Century artists around the world.

Brian Partridge – Sir John Tenniel (1993)

Brian Partridge – Alice in Escher Land (1997)

While visiting a postcard dealer friend of Partridge’s in Bath, he noticed a magazine for sale in a shop window called The Green Book, edited by Keith Spencer. It had an intriguing piece inside about the Ruralists so he bought it. As it happened, it was issue number one and there was a request from the editor for artists to send in black-and-white work. Partridge’s submissions were warmly received and many were published including several frontispieces. This was his first experience at being published. He became familiar with specific Ruralists such as Graham Ovenden through his Illustrators of Alice book, David Inshaw from a magazine article and Ann and Graham Arnold who knew of his work from The Green Book. Partridge was introduced to Ovenden for the first time in 1982 when he went to Barley Splatt for a long weekend in the company of Spencer. Later, he and Ovenden even invested in the magazine for a time.

Brian Partridge – Up Lazy Thing (1993)

In 1984 he became involved in an amateur production of Alice at Cheltenham’s Children’s Theatre. Besides designing and helping to build the sets, he found himself acting as stage hand, program seller and jack of all trades. This production had a profound effect on his development as an artist, and after the show’s finale, he began drawing Carroll-related themes for the first time.

Brian Partridge – Alice’s Rivals (1994)

By 1984, he had direct involvement with professional artists in the Brotherhood of Ruralists and exhibited for the first time that year through that organization. Impressed by Partridge’s latest inspirations, Ovenden suggested they collaborate on a book and together they came up with a concept for an edition of Alice in Wonderland. Ovenden would provide the photos for Alice which would be set in a ‘wonderland’ drawn by Partridge. This project was ultimately abandoned but the two did work together on the Acrostics which was handled in a similar vein.

Brian Partridge’s drawings are delicate and dramatic. They juggle with luminosity … Behind many of these pictures is a shape-shifter’s imagination like the Celtic. Women change into trees, saplings spring from their mouths. A girl’s body has a bird’s head, pinions for fingers. And is it ribbon or candle-smoke or tendril that winds among the trees? -Graham Ovenden, Inkscapes, Garage Press, 2018

Brian Partridge – Forever (Lilith) (1997)

At this stage, Partridge knew he was not skilled at drawing human figures and began to remedy that shortcoming in earnest. At first, Ovenden contributed some of his photographs of Samantha Gates for studies—even if it was necessary to trace them at first. One model, Gemma—just a chance acquaintance, borrowed for half an hour and then sent on her way—was used to produce a lot of the Alice drawings, mixed in with others, for another Alice project, this time drawn completely by Partridge. The artist considered the resulting efforts his first success at a believable likeness of a young girl. Lamentably, these fine images were not published at the time, but when a Japanese woman making a new translation of Alice saw the drawings, she wanted them for a book published in 2006. The cover, incidentally, is not one of Partridge’s designs.

Cover, Alice’s Adverntures in Wonderland, Ronso Fantasy Editions (2006)

Brian Partridge – Alice Remembering (1994)

In time, the artist had a portfolio of his own photographs so that any references to Ovenden’s photos is rare. A striking case in point is a drawing that has the unmistakable countenance of Samantha Gates, later turned into a Christmas card.

Brian Partridge – “I’m sure I can’t be Mabel” (1994)

The next image was colorized and turned into a birthday card to celebrate Ovenden’s 75th birthday earlier this year.

Brian Partridge – Domino Girl (1993)

This business of building a portfolio of model studies then took a dramatic turn. Some photographers are fortunate enough to have their own darkrooms to develop their images without prying eyes, but others with lesser means often depend on local vendors to process their film. Perhaps inevitably, the presence of nude child figures caught the attention of an overzealous technician who decided to inform the police. Partridge was subsequently arrested and charged. One of the bizarre consequences of these events is that communication between him and Ovenden was legally cut off due to Ovenden’s recent parole conditions. Fortunately, Partridge had not changed his address since 1994 and a couple of years ago, they were in touch again collaborating once again on new additions to Acrostics and other projects with Garage Press.

He also delights in irreverent portrayals of politicians as Wonderland characters; Michael Hesletine as the Hatter, Peter Mandelson with the Millennium dome on his head as the Duchess, William Hague as the Baby and Tony Blair as a manic Cheshire Cat. But he is also fond on loving tributes of worthy artists such as composers Edward Elgar and Claude Debussy. The Elgar drawings were done for a Ruralist Touring Exhibition of the same name. The Debussy drawing is considered another early success at including convincing child figures which are not to be seen in the Elgar drawings.

Brian Partridge – Claude Debussy (Children’s Corner) (1989)

Other loving tributes included Princess Diana and Shirley Temple.

Brian Partridge – The Queen of Hearts (2007)

Brian Partridge – Shirley (2000)

Until recently, Partridge had worked almost exclusively in pen and ink, producing drawings which were amazingly detailed, delicate and yet startlingly dramatic. When Tony Linsell first saw examples of his work at a Brotherhood of Ruralist’s exhibition in 1989, he immediately realized that this was the artist he wanted to illustrate his book, Anglo-Saxon Runes. It took Partridge more than two years to complete the thirty-one pictures for the book, but his drawings perfectly reflected the spirit of Anglo-Saxon folklore and tradition. A more recent book, Honeycomb, with poems by Pauline Stainer—a more modest project in size—contains fifteen of his superb drawings.

Brian Partridge – Figures in a Landscape (for Pauline Stainer) (1988)

A series on the Zodiac is one of his color examples. They were designs for postcards published by P.H. Topics. Each design included a portrait of a girl in front of a stained-glass window. The colors, images of the plants and animals and a little roundel, are all symbols associated with each star-sign. The originals were watercolors with ink to lend definition.

Brian Partridge – Sagittarius (1997)

But undoubtedly his most remarkable work to date is his complete set of illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and a series of stunning drawings of Lewis Carroll, Alice Liddell, her sisters and other real people associated with the famous author. The artist’s affinity with the Alice books is instinctive. He has been a member of the Lewis Carroll Society for years, and the Society has specially commissioned work from him, including the jacket designs for its most prestigious publication to date, Lewis Carrolls’ Diaries. His work is avidly collected by members of the society, and those who cannot afford his drawings, collect his postcards and was onetime voted favorite postcard illustrator in a survey organized by The Picture Postcard Annual.

Brian Partridge – Alice Liddell (1993)

A selection of his illustrations including the Alice in Wonderland book, the more recent work based on Through the Looking-Glass and many other examples are now featured in Inkscapes, a hand-printed edition published by Garage Press. More accessible to the general public, however, are two key commercial productions: Drawn Into Wonderland (2004) which gives a behind-the-scenes overview of his Alice-themed work and the aforementioned Japanese version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Brian Partridge – Drawn Into Wonderland (Cover Design) (2004)

Brian Partridge – Frog King (1987)

Partridge’s work has appeared in a wide variety of magazines and journals and he was kind enough to provide a complete bibliography. Now that he and Ovenden have rekindled their collaboration, the artist has the chance to display his singular wit and imagination through storytelling. His latest project is a ghost story called A House Best Avoided (2018) which he believes could turn out to be one of his better efforts. The intent is to include about eight new drawings, a design for the cover and incidental ornamental work as needed. Upon completion, he plans to reciprocate for this opportunity to publish by illustrating a book of nursery rhymes for Ovenden. This is an excellent new creative outlet for the artist as the challenges of making drawings becomes increasingly onerous.

Brian Partridge – Unicorn (2003)

Ed: Until such time that the Garage Press page is established, serious collectors interested in purchasing any of the Garage Press, hand-produced volumes including Inkscapes should express their interest through our contact page and your message will be forwarded to the order fulfillment department. -Ron

A Selected Bibliography
ILLUSTRATED BOOKS

    • Honeycomb, Pauline Stainer, Bloodaxe 1989
    • The Gardener’s Song, Lewis Carroll, Redlake Press 1990
    • Calendar (with Sue Cave), Simon Rae, Redlake Press 1990
    • Sold with All Faults, Graham Ovenden, unpublished 1990
    • Anglo-Saxon Runes, Tony Linsell, Anglo-Saxon Books 1992
    • Skeffington Hume Dodgson, Edward Wakeling, Lewis Carroll Society 1992
    • The Celtic Year, Shirley Toulson, Element Books 1993
    • Anglo-Saxon Mythology, Migration & Magic, Tony Linsell, Anglo-Saxon Books 1994
    • The Angel With The Hawklure, Pauline Stainer, Privately Published 1997
    • Acrostics, Graham Ovenden, Artist’s Choice Editions 2003
    • Drawn Into Wonderland, Brian Partridge, P H Topics 2004
    • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll, Ronso Fantasy Collection, Japan 2006
    • Inkscapes, Garage Press, 2017
    • The Mysterious Reappearance of Abigail Thistlewaite, Brian Partridge, Garage Press 2017
    • A House Best Avoided, Brian Partridge, Garage Press 2018

ILLUSTRATIONS AND COVER DESIGNS

    • Nine poems, Eve Machin, Ruralist Press 1987
    • Great Tew, Simon Rae, Ruralist Press 1989
    • Secret Garden, Ruralist Press 1989
    • The Orange Dove of Fiji, Edited by Simon Rae, Hutchinson 1989
    • Some thoughts on Alice, Ruralist Press 1990
    • Little Egypt, Pauline Stainer, Ruralist Press 1992
    • Anglo Saxon Riddles, John Porter, Anglo-Saxon Books 1995
    • First steps in Old English, Stephen Pollington, Anglo-Saxon Books 1996
    • The Diaries of Lewis Carroll (in ten Volumes), Lewis Carroll Society 1993–2007
    • English Country Lanes, Elisabeth Chidsey Smith, Settle 2002
    • Thalia, Privately Published, Leeds 2003
    • Life & Work of Phillip Dodgson Jaques, Lewis Carroll Society 2004
    • Diana in Art, Mem Mahet, Chaucer Press – Pop-Art Books 2007
    • Emblem of My Work, Laurence Sterne Trust 2013

ARTICLES AND REPRODUCTIONS

    • The Continuing Tradition, David Paul, Gallery Chichester 1985
    • Other Worlds Exhibition Catalogue Bearnes, Torquay 1989
    • Graham Ovenden Monograph, Academy Editions 1987
    • The Ruralists Art & Design, Academy Editions 1991
    • “On The Spot”, Article by Roger Moss Create March 1993
    • The Other Alice, Christina Bjork Douglas & Mcintyre / Raben & Sjogren Books 1993
    • The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction & Fantasy Art Techniques, John Grant & Ron Tiner, Titan Books / Running Press 1996
    • “Phantasmagoria – an Appreciation of Brian Partridge’s Work”, Pauline Stainer, Inkscape Magazine 2001
    • The Ruralists & Brian Partridge, Kimie Kusomoto Mischmasch, Japan 2006
    • Ancient Landscapes – Pastoral Visions Exhibition Catalogue, A C C Editions 2008
    • Living Next Door to Alice – the Postcard World of Brian Partridge, Picture Postcard Annual 2010

Maiden Voyages: September 2018

Exorcising Demons: Public relations is hard work! Just as I was congratulating Pip on his latest installment about Surrealist Art, I had to field a number of concerns about the content of that post. It should be understood that not every art form involving little girls will be everybody’s cup of tea. Also, the presentation of these images should not be interpreted as some kind of endorsement. Pip is performing an important service of educating us on why artists are so compelled to create these contentious images and why they are appealing to many people. Despite some of the images’ fetishistic themes, it does not necessarily imply a disrespect on our part for girls or women or even on the part of the artist involved. And part of the point is how the ambiguity of the age of the subjects pushes our emotional buttons. It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, but I am afraid the impact of these images has overwhelmed the points being put forth. For those sensitive souls who were shocked by what they saw, I do sincerely apologize, but we at Pigtails are committed to delving into virtually all portrayals of little girls, regardless of how uncomfortable it may make us. Be forewarned that this series will continue and appreciate that Pip has put a lot of thought into it and is not making frivolous conjectures for the sake of sensationalism.

Everybody Gets Naked: Regarding the difficulties parents have in explaining the facts of life to children, it is apropos that one of our biggest fans came across an excellent article regarding the use of nudity in a children’s book. The title of the article pretty much sums it up: “Nudity in kids’ books is nothing to worry about.”

At Least They Are Starting to Talk: I have been recently grilled by a couple of members of a child-advocacy organization about the justification for the kind of images we publish. Instead of making assumptions about content they don’t quite understand, they made sincere inquiries about why we do what we do. This is a hopeful step in the right direction. For a long time, I have had in mind that the real problem with the internet is the new level of access and relative lack of privacy that can result. I was told about an interesting video bringing public awareness to the problems of overexposing a child’s private life on the internet. Although a legitimate issue, the video’s key point seems to play on latent fears that images are being used in the sexual fantasies of strangers. This kind of fear-mongering does make one question their real motives and backing and casts doubts on the movement’s grass-roots credibility.

Another Piece of the Puzzle: When one begins a new project as Pip did with Pigtails in Paint, there is no notion about how successful or popular it will be. Therefore one tends to be cavalier about keeping track of source material for site artwork. Fortunately, over the past few years, various contributors have dug out the details and so we have been able to bring them to you. Pip just reported that he identified a piece of art he used for the second Pigtails banner, the one with the yellow background. The piece is called Anita by Jesus Blasco and as with all the other banner art, can be viewed on our Third Anniversary post.

Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 1

I said in my post on Arwassa that I would do a series on Lowbrow artists with a focus on young girls, and I have every intention of honoring that. However, I’ve been mulling it over on how best to approach this, and I’ve decided that rather than focus on individual artists who fit within that movement, I’m going to do this another way, at least for the first few posts (the Arwassa post aside). What interests me most about this type of art, and art in a similar vein, is that there are several recurring elements and themes throughout, and I propose that they are ultimately in service to an important psychological phenomenon currently proliferating through Western culture. To put it euphemistically, now that it’s been well-established that children and sex don’t mix very well, what do we do with the sexual insecurity caused by the inappropriate feelings towards children that I believe almost all adults are prone to from time to time?

Now, please note that I am not suggesting that nearly everyone on the planet is a pedophile or potential pedophile. Pedophilia is a medical designation with a fairly specific set of criteria, and it clearly doesn’t apply to most people. But it is my contention that nearly everyone has had the occasional thought, fantasy or impulse to be sexual with someone who is physically and/or emotionally immature. Despite what detractors may say, human sexuality is primal and complex, with a lot of gray areas, unplanned quirks and latent motivations we don’t always understand, and these deep-rooted devils can result in some fairly convoluted mental gymnastics to repress or deny to ourselves what we have felt. I think such feelings, as much as they may disturb us when we face them head-on, are fairly common and normal. Nevertheless, they are obviously not discussed in the open and give rise to psychological phenomena such as projection and sublimation, including into artistic expressions.

But given how controversial and taboo such feelings are in today’s world, we rarely see these expressions presented as is. What happens instead is that these impulses are somewhat disguised or transmuted into safer or less objectionable representations, or they are thematically linked with other things or events which thoroughly repulse the artist (and by proxy the consumers of his or her artistic output), a bolstering of the desired reaction to such a verboten concept. This is not a new occurrence, of course, but it’s ongoing—and rising—popularity, despite its fringe nature, can only be explained as a growing awareness of the ways in which a phenomenon built on the back of a moral panic is processed both by individuals and by society as a whole, so that the feedback loop becomes self-reinforcing, which is how I imagine an otherwise marginal movement becomes mainstream, or at least no longer on the social periphery.

At any rate, having examined a huge range of this art, I have determined that there are twenty-one recurring themes that link this “movement” (like Symbolism, the erotic girl-child in modern surrealism is not so much a movement of its own as it is mainly a trans-movement that happens to be largely contained within a movement yet is not limited to it), and I shall present examples of each from an assortment of artists over the course of several posts. This is not to say that individual artists will not get their own posts. Some will, particularly those with a large range of applicable pieces and important artists in the pop surrealist movement overall. But it’s important, I think, to familiarize ourselves with the common symbols and themes that link these images, and to examine their relevance with respect to my thesis.

One last thing: I am not at all saying that these trends are always a conscious goal to sublimate unwanted pedophilic desires. In fact, I suspect it rarely is, and it’s entirely probable that the artists are barely aware of the instincts they may be sublimating. That does not, however, decrease their power. Alright, so let’s get started.

(1) References to sexuality or sexual acts – It’s essential in comprehending this work that we recognize that not all of the sexual features of this art are entirely rendered into symbolic or allegorical form. Indeed, it is our first and foremost clue as to what purpose the art serves for its creators and fans. Thus . . .

An eye can become uncomfortably vulvic if arranged perpendicular to its normal orientation, especially if said eye isn’t paired with another. Speaking of eyes, Ana Bagayan’s works fits comfortably in the big-eyed waif/baby doll tradition, but we’ll get to that.

Ana Bagayan – Vega

Ana Bagayan – Fae

Ana Bagayan (official website)

Children confronting adult sexuality shows up occasionally in this work. There is an interesting connotation here. Could “Sebastian” be a homosexual who was persecuted by the 50s-style father, who has turned his children against LGBT folks as well? In any case, the resemblance of the nude male to Michelangelo’s David is unmistakable, and the Amors caught in the crossfire of the little archers suggests love is also a casualty of this execution.

Scott G. Brooks – Sebastian of the Suburbs (2008)

Scott G. Brooks (official website)

Stu Mead – Bedroom Dance (1998)

Stu Mead (official website)

Often it is animals that bring attention to the girl’s sexuality, either as harbingers of it or as direct participants.

Jana Brike – Book of Taboo – Five Sins of Amelia

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Notice the cherries on the ground here:

Rene Lynch – Icons – The Messenger (2006)

Rene Lynch (official site)

Fetishistic outfits and accoutrements become satirical when worn by children.

Jana Brike – The Wet Dreams

trevor-brown-bondage-bear-rubber-doll-2005

Trevor Brown – Bondage Bear – Rubber Doll (2005)

Baby Art (Trevor Brown official site)

There is also a male companion piece by Taillefer for the little female cherub below. You can see him here. Incidentally, an oenophile is a lover of wine. I have no idea what that has to do with the image though, other than a suggestion of general hedonism.

Heidi Taillefer – Oenophile

Heidi Taillefer (official site)

(2) Humor and satire – But most of the child sexuality in these works isn’t nearly so overt and confrontational. That it surfaces directly from time to time is perfectly understandable. Sexual instincts are messy. But even when such blatant eroticism makes its way into these works, it tends to be packaged as satire, as is the case with all of the above images. Without its most provocative side showing, much of this young girl art remains satiric in nature, and we can therefore add this as the second of our common characteristics.

Ron English’s clown kid art is the prime example. Clowns serve basically two purposes in modern culture: as satire and as fodder for horror. English embraces the former by presenting clowns as children who indulge in adult pursuits like drinking, smoking and gambling. Sex is merely subtly implied (by the extremely short dress worn by the girl clown in this image).

Ron English – Clown Kids Smoking

Ron English’s Popaganda (official site)

On the other end of the spectrum (but no less absurd) is Mike Cockrill’s clown-murdering Lolitas. Underlying this theme is the pervading fear of many modern parents that they are little more than ineffectual clowns in the face a society where their children are becoming increasingly more worldly and empowered, and the kids will eventually replace all of us hidebound fuddy duddies with their New World Order.

Mike Cockrill – Gossip Girls (2010)

Mike Cockrill – Target (2009)

Mike Cockrill (official site)

Another satirical angle is the adoption of light pop culture elements like cartoons and classic comics juxtaposed against general weirdness. This style was of course exemplified by Robert Williams, founder of pop surrealism, but as his work rarely features little girls, we will instead focus on the work of KRK Ryden (older brother of Mark Ryden, who may be better known, but KRK, ten years Mark’s senior, became an artist well before Mark did). Both brothers’ work is laden with little girls, but for different reasons. In KRK’s work they serve as the moral and spiritual center of an otherwise out-of-control culture, though they certainly aren’t spared KRK’s satiric touch.

KRK Ryden – Rendevouz (2007)

KRK Ryden – Shitzville

KRK Ryden (official site)

(3) Cartoonish body exaggerations, particularly of the head, face and eyes – This leads naturally into our third common trait. You should have realized by now that much of this art features more than one of these traits, but of them all, this may be the most universal. Of course, not all of the figures in the art have this trait, but a solid majority appears to. Cartoons are cute and nonthreatening, and that’s partly the point here. Does it become more troubling when the cartoon girls are behaving more humanly? More… grown-up?

Audrey Kawasaki – Lick Face (2005)

Audrey Kawasaki (official site)

LostFish – My Melody Dolly (2011)

LostFish (official site)

The references to Orwell and the modern surveillance state gives this next piece even more relevance in light of our thesis. One common fear among those who have had erotic thoughts about the underaged is that if they aren’t careful and pursue the thoughts too far on the internet, they might be exposed and labeled for life. Overcompensation is common, but these fears still manage to be expressed in symbolic ways, even if several steps removed from their original aspect.

Mario S. Nevado (Aégis) & Liran Szeiman – Big Brother (2013)

Aégis Strife (Mario Nevado official site)

Liransz (Liran Szeiman official site)

Mark Ryden’s name has of course become synonymous with this style.

Mark Ryden – St. Barbie

Mark Ryden (official site)

(4) Girl-women; actual age or maturity level of figures difficult or impossible to discern – And finally for this post, another recurring theme in this work is the girl-woman, a being not quite child and not quite woman but something in-between, and not necessarily adolescent either, but rather an almost alien or mutant form that could be either but feels almost ageless. The cultural value here is similar to that of the kawaii concept in Japan: it is the ability to give anything, including adult sexuality, a sheen of child-like innocence and cuteness without surrendering entirely to a pedophilic instinct. Not that it would be a problem for most people anyway, if only they accepted it for what it was and moved on. But as a species we seem doomed to never move beyond our sexual hangups. How fortunate for fans of subversive art!

Audrey Kawasaki – Horsegirl (2006)

Jana Brike – Parallel Lives – Beekeeper’s Bride

Pay attention to the details of this John John Jesse piece:

John John Jesse – Petit Lapin

Instagram: John John Jesse

Kukula – Wind-Up Girl

Kukula (official site)

Most of these artists will appear again in future installments of this series.

Random Images: Anna Kournikova

A Russian woman has recently gained some notoriety for a photo she published of herself on Instagram.

This photo has triggered some discussion in Russian social media. The contributor of this news item found it interesting that people are making a fuss even though it is a 20-year-old image which still brings delight to the now adult subject. But more importantly, it vividly illustrates the symbolic importance of nudity. The assumption today has become that it is somehow sexual, a matter of shame and that having it posted like this is an invasion of privacy. The reality is, at least in this case, that it represents a kind of giddy freedom and a moment of happiness so rarely experienced in life. Who among us could resist sharing such an idyllic memory?

People literate in Russian and English are encouraged to share some of the more cogent points that may have been shared on that site.

Album Cover Art – Summer 2018 Edition

I will get to the next post in the Lowbrow Art series next time, but let’s do something that’s quite overdue: an album art post!

First up is one of my favorite covers from my youth. I believe the child on Bad Company’s Dangerous Age is meant to be a boy. Sure, it could be an image of a boy who happens to have longish curly hair, but I’d lay dollars to doughnuts that this is actually a little girl. In my opinion the album was not one of Bad Company’s better efforts, but it did help to get the band back on track after the previous album, Fame and Fortune, which fared poorly.

Photographer Unknown – Bad Company – Dangerous Age (cover) (1988)

Again, I cannot verify that the child on the cover image of CYNE’s Pretty Dark Things is a girl, but if it were a boy, at this angle there’s a strong possibility that his testicles would be partially visible. Little girl infants are often used for nude photos like this one for precisely that reason. Now, when you look at this image, what do you think? If you’re a white person, you are likely to think, aw, that’s sweet—a black man cradling a white baby. It’s all about racial harmony and a world where everyone is colorblind, right?

But that is not, in fact, the message being conveyed here. According to the band, this image was actually inspired by former member Akin Yai’s reflections on his reading of Martinican political activist and poet Aimé Césaire’s provocative and controversial 1950 essay Discourse on Colonialism, one of the strongest repudiations of European colonialism ever published up to that point. The image is to demonstrate how colonized peoples—usually people of color—begin to accommodate and acclimatize to the presence of the white European colonizers and think of them as innocent when in fact they are certainly not. Moreover, the colonized become like nurses or caretakers for the selfish, needy colonizers, who demand and take from the colonized but offer nothing substantial in return. There could be other layers of meaning here too that I’m not picking up on, but the point is, when you begin to look at this seemingly innocuous image through the eyes of the colonized black, brown, yellow or red man, it takes on a much more sinister tone than we might be inclined to perceive outside of that context. It’s a powerful and thought-provoking image for that reason.

Photographer Unknown – CYNE – Pretty Dark Things (cover)

Along the same lines is the cover for Congregation, the third album by the Afghan Whigs, and there is no question that the infant this time is a girl. I’ve seen two versions of this cover, the main one being the one below. The other version, which I think may have been used for the re-release of the album, shows both the baby and the woman looking upward at the camera.

Photographer Unknown – The Afghan Whigs – Congregation (cover) (1991)

Since we’re doing the Afghan Whigs, we might as well put up the cover for Gentlemen, which was their breakthrough album and my introduction to the band. This is another great example of an image which is only provocative in context. The image features a shirtless boy sitting on the edge of a double bed while a girl lies on the bed across from him. Given the themes tackled on the album—troubled relationships between men and women—the suggestion here is quite evident. The back cover depicts the same boy dressed in red overalls standing in a hallway. I no longer have the actual album to verify, but as I recall, there were one or two interior images with the boy and girl together as well. This image is almost iconic now, so much so that it has been parodied more than once.

Photographer Unknown – The Afghan Whigs – Gentlemen (cover) (1993)

Now, the tiny toddler on the cover of the Thompson Twins album Here’s to Future Days is most definitely a girl. Since she appears with the band, I assumed she was the daughter of one of the band members, but that does not appear to be the case. Good album art photos of a band often have at least one wild card element, something that makes it stand out from others of its type. A mysterious naked toddler definitely qualifies as such a wild card.

Photographer Unknown -Thompson Twins – Here’s to Future Days (cover) (1985)

The same little girl appears again on the cover for the album single King for a Day, in the arms of Tom Bailey, the band’s lead vocalist. She does not look very happy in either of these images, which hints at a strong probability that she had never met any of the band members before this photo shoot.

Photographer Unknown – Thompson Twins – King for a Day (single cover) (1985)

And now we move on to one of my favorite bands ever, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. If you know anything about Nick Cave, then you know his music tends to be pretty dark. His sixth album, The Good Son, took a slightly different turn, being full of lighter ballads. Well, light for Nick anyway. And the cover is a nice reflection of that, featuring a fresh-out-of-rehab Cave spiffed up in a white tux and playing a grand piano for a bunch of little girls, all identically clad in delicate white dresses. In and of itself it’s not a provocative image; it’s only the presence of Nick Cave (whom many parents would hesitate to leave alone with their precious little darlings based on his appearance alone) that might cause us to look askance at it.

I’ve seen two versions of this cover floating around as well. The main one features red lettering, while the less common one features white lettering. I will post the former (as well as the back cover, which shows an image of three girls from the same photo shoot beating on a drum).

Photographer Unknown – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Good Son (cover)

Photographer Unknown – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Good Son (back cover)

Additionally, the music video for the album single The Ship Song echoes the same imagery as the album cover:

Here’s another group I really like. It’s not easy to sum up the sort of music Piano Magic makes in a few words, but if pressed to do so, I would say it is dark ambient pop. This cover is for the single release of Speed the Road, Rush the Lights, which comes from the album The Troubled Sleep of Piano Magic. I can’t quite tell if this is a photo, a painting, or some combination of the two.

Artist Unknown – Piano Magic – Speed the Road, Rush the Lights (single cover)

Bauhaus was an early goth rock band featuring the fabulous Peter Murphy on vocals. They never had any major hits, but they are perhaps best known for their nine-and-a-half minute epic Bela Lugosi’s Dead. After the short-lived band broke up in 1983, Murphy of course went on to a solo career, while two other band members formed Tones on Tail (I shared one of their covers in the Spring 2017 edition of my album art series.)

Photographer Unknown – Bauhaus – Kick in the Eye/Searching for Satori EP (1982)

And last but certainly not least is a cover suggested to us by one of our followers (thank you!) This is the beautiful—and rather provocative—cover for Mea Kulparik Ez by Imanol Larzabal, a folk-style singer of Basque origin. I know little about him beyond that, other than that he fought as part of the Basque separatist group ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) for a time in his youth. I searched for a high-quality version of this cover, ultimately downloading six different versions, none of which I was entirely happy with. I finally narrowed it down to two and have opted to post both. The first is closer to an ideal version of the image, but it isn’t quite as in-focus as I’d like and is a touch too dark. The second version is lighter and larger, but it is also somewhat weathered. Between the two I think we can get a pretty good idea of what this should look like.

I also found the image for the cassette tape of the same album. It features the same girl in the same setting but in a different pose. Unfortunately, it is heavily scratched up and quite small. I could find no other copies of this image online, not even bad ones, but it is still worth sharing. If someone could do some research into this covert art, perhaps find out who the photographer was and even what the title translates to, maybe it will lead to better versions of these images.

Photographer Unknown – Imanol – Mea Kulparik Ez (cover)(1)

Photographer Unknown – Imanol – Mea Kulparik Ez (cover)(2)

Photographer Unknown – Imanol – Mea Kulparik Ez (cassette cover)

Random Images: Mocked and Reviled

A reader came forward with this picture of a sculpture in his home town of Boston.

Robert Shure – Boston Irish Famine Memorial (1998)

It is one of two groups of sculptures installed in The Boston Irish Famine Memorial,  a memorial park located on a plaza along The Freedom Trail. Sculpted by Robert Shure, they were supposed to commemorate the contrast between an Irish family suffering during the Great Famine of 1845–1852 (‘The Potato Blight’) with a prosperous family that emigrated to America. The park was opened in 1998 and received scathing reviews earning it the moniker of “the most mocked and reviled public sculpture in Boston”. The statues are also accompanied by eight narrative plaques. The criticism lies mainly in the fact that the figures are portrayed in an outdated and cloyingly stereotypical manner.

Our contributor found this statue particularly interesting because of the little girl’s mourning pose and her ripped clothing which reinforces mainstream stereotypes.

Maiden Voyages: August 2018

Graham Ovenden’s Official Website: Now that the hype about the Ovenden case has receded somewhat, the artist felt it was time to show that he has not simply retreated into the background. The lack of internet presence in the past turned out to be something of a blessing because it meant that the prosecution could not make a case for the trafficking of pornography over the internet. Even today, Ovenden rarely communicates by email and only to a small circle of friends and trusted associates. However, he has been keen on establishing his own website the past few years and perhaps a forum for telling his side of the story. A couple of weeks ago, the official website (designed by Rainbow Digital Media and the artist himself) was launched. Viewers will discover that, far from being idle the past few years, Ovenden has finished a number of very new paintings (landscapes and portraits) and digital graphics projects. Also present is a sample of his photography (both documentary and model studies), architecture and literature (largely inspired by his recent experiences with the legal system). There is also a page for an Afterword which will offer updates about the latest legal actions, issues and comments by the artist when such information will not compromise his position on pending countersuits. Because of all the negative press, there will be no comments section or a place to send a message to the artist. Instead, Pigtails in Paint has been asked to serve in a public relations capacity and help field inquiries and orders for Garage Press materials (more on this later). In other words, the target audience for this new site are museums, libraries and serious collectors. Take a look!

More on Balthus: In the hype about the recent exhibition of the Balthus paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there is often the assumption that the only issue is what voyeurs should legally be able to get away with. Often overlooked, is the experiences of the model and why such girls might be interested in participating in the work. Lauren Elkin wrote an interesting piece that offers a rare perspective. I think the author does needlessly equivocate but it is important, particularly for male readers, to understand the young girl’s attitude and motivations.

The Happiest Two Kids on Earth: Pip shared an interesting item: video footage of a special tour Walt Disney gave two children (a boy and a girl) of Disneyland just before its grand opening in 1955. The interesting thing is how much more attention Disney seems to have given the little girl. If memory serves, Disney himself had two daughters so perhaps these interactions were simply more natural for him.

Thought Police? On a peripheral subject, a man serving time for the possession and distribution of child pornography had his term extended when sexually-explicit images and stories produced by the prisoner were found by authorities. The circumstances of this case does offer some fodder for debate about the limits of personal thought.

Dutch Maserati-Girl

One day there was this Dutch girl, Floortje, who got an “internship” at the company ‘Italy in the Polder’, selling Italian cars and scooters in Holland. A polder is a phenomenon peculiar to the Netherlands referring to land that has been reclaimed from the sea and low-lying rivers. ‘The Polder’ has also become a term to indicate the Netherlands generally. This was what Floortje did and thus sold her first Maserati within 4 hours. This second video’s title is ‘Floortje verpatst Maserati’. ‘Verpatsen’ is the typical Dutch way of saying that something is very easy to sell—almost too easy!

(Unknown photographer) – Floortje (2018)

The context of this first video is unusual in that it is not strictly a proper commercial. It may simply have been Floortje’s audition performance. Actually selling a Maserati in this fashion, as can be seen in the second video, is a news item about the unexpected continuation of that performance. The story is essentially this. There was this guy, Sam, who is the entrepreneur of ‘Italy in the Polder‘. And Sam also has creative ambitions of making videos and singing in them and so makes commercials he also calls ‘Italy in the Polder’. His neighbour girl Floor asked him several times whether she could act in one of them.

(Unknown photographer) – Floortje and Sam (2018)

In her first clip, Sam tells her that she has a very interesting approach but how does she expect to sell a car? Floor answers that the car will sell itself! In the second clip Sam comments that there is a whole shop dedicated exclusively to these cars but to sell one in 2018 one needs to do something special. Floor put together these dances probably from things she has seen before. In answering a question from a reporter, she simply explained that she did some kind of shuffle and something called ‘swish swish’ and then she danced (as if the shuffle and swish swish were not dances themselves). Here is an example of shuffle which begins at the 31 second mark. The swish swish comes from the so-called ‘Backpack Kid’ which is connected to Katy Perry. I was able to find some girls doing these two dances and even found one that combined both. But what the originals may have looked like must be left to the imagination, as I could not find any clear example on YouTube.

After being questioned about making a sale in just a few hours Floortje says only, “we have sold it!”, in a tone of surprise. She did not think that the clip would have been watched by so many people.

So, it is quite possible to drive a Maserati over the Dutch dikes. And one day Floortje herself may drive one, if ‘the Polder’ can manage to stay dry until then.