Fear Has Big Eyes: Jan Švankmajer

What little I know about stop-motion animation is that it takes great patience and discipline. As a result, the results are usually quite imaginative; otherwise, why bother? In the course of reviewing Illustrating Alice (2013) by Artists’ Choice Editions, I found an interview of Czech animator Jan Švankmajer in which he shares how the works of Lewis Carroll have influenced him.

Švankmajer was born in Prague in 1934 and studied at the Institute of Industrial Arts and the Marionette Faculty of the Prague Academy of Fine Arts in the 1950s. He began experimenting with filmmaking after becoming involved with the mixed-media productions of Prague’s Lanterna Magika Theatre and produced his first short film in 1964. Always in the back of his mind was the idea of making a feature-length film based on Alice in Wonderland. He has persevered despite persistent efforts by Czech authorities to ban or undermine his work. He has been a member of the Prague Surrealist Group since 1969.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (1)

Lewis Carroll’s Alice is rooted firmly in my mental morphology. To me, she’s not someone who stands apart from me. And since I have worked throughout my entire life in the fashion of a dialogue conducted with my childhood, I have also been in dialogue with Lewis Carroll. -Jan Švankmajer, Illustrating Alice, 2011.

The animator’s first venture into Carroll’s material was in 1971 with the short film Žvahlav aneb šatičky slaměného Huberta based on Carroll’s poem, “Jabberwocky”. According to Švankmajer, this video collage was an expression of the history of his childhood up to the moment when he first rebelled against his father. After each scene, a black tomcat representing the animal subconscious, disrupts the carefully arranged setup and, in the end, is locked up in a “cage of domestication”. The the only spoken words are an introductory recitation, by a young girl, of Carroll’s poem which appeared in Alice Through the Looking-Glass. The voice in the Czech version was done by his own daughter, Veronika, who was nine at the time. In Czechoslovakia, the film was banned because the censors said it contained political allegories. He proceeded to make the English version which travelled the world as an American film through Weston Wood Studios. After 1989, the proprietor of that company generously transferred the rights to the film to Švankmajer and thus, after a delay of 16 years, it was finally shown in Prague.

Jan Švankmajer – ‘Jabberwocky’ (1971) (1)

Jan Švankmajer – ‘Jabberwocky’ (1971) (2)

His most autobiographical film was also inspired to a degree by Alice. Do pivnice (Down into the Cellar, 1983)¹ tells of a little girl (Monika Belo-Cabanová) sent to the cellar to fetch some potatoes and what befalls her down there. Like other filmmakers such as Carlos Saura, Švankmajer decided to portray himself in the feminine person perhaps giving the viewer a stronger sense of the child’s vulnerability. In its fantastical sense, it is much like Alice but, compared to the later film of that name, gives a relatively straightforward linear account of a child seized with terror in a giant grown-up world.

Jan Švankmajer – Do pivnice (1983) (1)

Jan Švankmajer – Do pivnice (1983) (2)

Jan Švankmajer – Do pivnice (1983) (3)

In Czech there’s a saying, “Strach má velké oči” (Fear has big eyes). The saying is meant to convey the idea that our fears tend to overwhelm our willingness to take risks. In reality, the dangers are often much less than we imagine and Švankmajer’s life exemplifies this point perfectly. It is a testament to his tenacity that he followed through with his projects. He says his excursions into the underworld played a major role in developing his imagination. Do pivnice also ran up against the censors and was locked away for a number of years. The film had to be produced in a studio in Slovakia and the studio there demanded changes that the artist was unwilling to make. The concern was that it might cast a negative light on Slovakian life when viewed by an international audience. They also objected to the fact that there was no clear distinction between scenes taken from reality and those taken from the child’s imagination. Only after those first two films did Švankmajer dare to attempt a “complete” Alice.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (2)

Alice thought to herself, “Now you will see a film made for children, perhaps—but I nearly forgot—you must close your eyes otherwise you won’t see anything!” -Jan Švankmajer, Alice, 1988.

This is a strange introduction for Něco z Alenky (1988), a film about to offer the viewer a visual spectacle. But once one understands the filmmaker’s intent, it is clear that he is setting the stage for a kind of lucid dream peppered with nonsense.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (3)

The filmmaker understood that he was embarking on well-trodden territory with countless film adaptations having come before.

… in my belief film-makers will never stop coming back to her [Alice], since the book’s oneiric imagination cannot fail to inspire and cries out for ever new interpretations. Yes, it is written as a dream-record and, just like the dreams of any of us, it is in code … with Carroll there are two forms of his Alice: one, the ‘manifest’ form that doesn’t change, and the other, the ‘latent’ form that mutates according to the age at which we happen to be reading it. -Jan Švankmajer, Illustrating Alice, 2011.

Most adaptations of Alice try to force it into the genre of a fairy-tale, but Švankmajer believes that doing so deprives it of the free flow of dream. There is no real moral message to a dream and it refuses to conform to socially acceptable criteria. In that respect, the animator has tried to stay true to the experience without presuming to interpret Carroll’s musings.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (4)

Dream may be regarded as the domain of the fantastic and yet it is grounded in mundane reality. Švankmajer takes those things with which Alice would be most intimately familiar—the things found in her own little room—then expands them into the vast landscapes of her imagination. In the film, we are taken into the world of imagination through a desk drawer. One of the amusing running gags of the film is that every time Alice pulls the handle, it comes off in her hand and she then has to pry her way in.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (5)

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (6)

The artist realized that one must constantly resist the urge to tell a chronologically ordered tale and, indeed, there is no feeling of continuity between discrete scenes.

All the objects, props, dolls, toys, costumes and Alice herself (Kristýna Kohoutová)—the only live actor—are practical elements and not specially crafted for the film. Švankmajer says this is important because, “After all, nothing in our dreams ever astonishes us, since anything that makes up our dreams seems utterly natural.”

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (7)

An interesting convention in the film was to use a doll as a stand-in for Alice whenever she was in her “small” form.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (8)

Another running gag is whenever a character is “injured”, there is a short pause in the action while sawdust is replaced and tears in the fabric sewn up. Because dreams are inherently autobiographical, the only voice heard throughout the film is Alice’s (Camilla Power), even when “doing” the voices of the other characters.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (9)

No Czech state studio showed any interest in the film and so all financing and resources came from out of the country. This was a major hindrance since after World War II, the film industry was nationalized and the Czechoslovakian government held a monopoly. The help of institutions such as Artcentrum were enlisted to give the project legitimacy and to avoid running afoul of the law. Another parallel with Saura was the use of restored, discarded cameras in the filming and editing process.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (10)

The point of my film had been apparently modest: to bring some attention back to dream, which modern civilisation had ceased to lay much store by, which society had tossed on the scrapheap of our psyche. After all, the last serious scholarly work on dreams, Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, was almost a hundred years old! … Until we begin once more to tell fairy-tales and ghost-stories at bedtime; and to recount our dreams on waking up, there is now nothing to be hoped for from modern Atlantic civilisation. -Jan Švankmajer, Illustrating Alice, 2011.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (11)

In 2006, Švankmajer was asked by a Japanese publishing house to illustrate both of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books. An excerpt from that Foreword elucidates the artist’s core philosophy:

Lewis Carroll’s Alice is one of the basic books of this civilisation, one of those we should take with us to a desert island, just in order to survive. It has taught dozens of generations of ‘atectonic’ children. I am no exception. And it’s not just a book for children. On the contrary, it is evidence that no specific ‘art for children’ actually exists, and that that notion is just commercial flimflam. We may only argue over whether this or that book (picture, film) is appropriate for children. Carroll’s Alice can be read at any age.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (12)

The artist concludes that Alice continues to be an inexhaustible source of inspiration (as does his own childhood). Those creations that did not come from these sources have never left him fully satisfied and he feels that he must sit down in peace and quiet, pick up a pencil and start once again.

And so whenever in the course of our lifetime we pick the book up, it is, each time, a different book, a book with different contents, and yet it remains the Alice of our childhood. This is a miracle to be observed with only a tiny fraction of all the books ever written. -Jan Švankmajer, Illustrating Alice, 2011.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (13)

In 1990, a BBC documentary was aired called The Animator of Prague. It describes some of Švankmajer’s influences—such as Bohemian ruler Rudolf II—and how Surrealist art is much more developed in Central Europe than in the West.

Jan Švankmajer – Alice (1988) (14)

*All quotes taken from Illustrating Alice were copyrighted and translated by David Short.

¹ In the interview, Švankmajer says the title of the film is Do sklepa which means roughly the same thing with a slightly different connotation. Interestingly, this error reflects his point that our perceptions of memories, stories and phrases change with time and we may find ourselves translating our ideas into our current context.

A Little Art Deco Beauty from Volkstedt Porcelain

I found this wonderful little nude in a general Google search in some broad category (something like “little girl sculpture”), which I do from time to time. Often I get these little objets d’art in such searches as they are up for auction on some site or other. The artist for this piece was not provided at whatever site I took these from, but the manufacturer was given as Volkstedt Porcelain, a company based in Rudolstadt, Thuringia, Germany and founded in the 1760s by Georg Heinrich Macheleid.

This piece is a simple and elegant portrait of a young girl between ages 10 and 13, with delicate facial details and a graceful pose. No color, no bells and whistles here, but she doesn’t need it. This is simply a well-executed piece that any owner could be proud of.

Artist Unknown (Volkstedt Porcelain) – Mädchenakt (1920) (1)

Artist Unknown (Volkstedt Porcelain) – Mädchenakt (1920) (2)

Artist Unknown (Volkstedt Porcelain) – Mädchenakt (1920) (3)

Artist Unknown (Volkstedt Porcelain) – Mädchenakt (1920) (4)

 

 

Wilhelm Reich: The Psychology of Fascism

A few weeks ago my friend Chris recommended Wilhelm Reich’s The Mass Psychology of Fascism. I didn’t know of the book but Reich’s name sounded familiar. I looked on my bookshelf and found Reich’s Character Analysis that I had inherited from another friend who had passed. I had not read the book yet, but once I started, I became fascinated by his work. Reich’s psychology challenges the trends in culture which deny the wholeness of the person; mind, heart and body. Friedrich Nietzsche recognized the modern asceticism when he wrote, “To the despisers of the body will I speak my word. I wish them neither to learn afresh, nor teach anew, but only to bid farewell to their own bodies,—and thus be dumb.”

Wilhelm Reich (1897–1957) was an Austrian-born student of Sigmund Freud’s. He was one of the most radical and controversial figures in the history of psychiatry. He coined the term “sexual revolution” and it seems his writings were at the height of popularity during the 1960s. Reich used Freud’s framework for the development of his theories. However, Reich did not accept Freud’s assumption that a child’s impulses were primarily anti-social which were in need of repression in order to maintain social stability. Reich came to the conclusion from his treatment of his patients that the mechanized organization of civilization was the main cause of the psychic disturbance in modern society.

 

Burning The Mass Psychology of Fascism

Reich worked in Germany in the early 1930s as the Nazis came to power. Although Reich was active in socialist organizations in Germany, he thought Marxist analysis was not adequate to account for the rise of Fascism. I believe Reich’s understanding of fascism is his most important contribution. Fascism should not be regarded as a political party which had formed authoritarian states in Germany and Italy, rather fascism is the manifestation of the irrational attitude of the suppressed individual in machine civilization. What is of great interest, is the cause of the neurotic fascist character. Reich was certain that the sexual repression of the child destroyed the individual’s ability to resist authoritarianism. Reich wrote:

When the patriarchal organization of society began to replace the matriarchal organization, suppression and repression of genital sexuality in children and adolescents were the principal mechanisms used to adapt the human structure of the authoritarian order. The suppression of nature, of “the animal” in the child, was and has remained the principal tool in the production of mechanical subjects. Society’s socio-economic development has continued its mechanical course until today in an independent way. The basis of all ideological and cultural formations developed and branched out hand in hand with the socio-economic development: “Away from geniality” and “away from the animal.”

I felt the need to bring attention to Reich’s work to the Pigtails community, without being aware of it, Pigtails has challenged the collective superego of fascism. The psychodynamic mechanism of repression caused the Nazis to project their self-hatred onto the Jews. The projections of the contemporary corporate culture are more directly related to the source of its repression, since the neurotic culture projects its hatred onto the new shadow monster: the pedophile.

Reich’s view of sexuality was not the only radical position he held. He also thought that cancer was caused by the neurotic repression of libido energy he called “orgone”. In 1940 he began to build “orgone accumulators,” for his patients to sit in which he claimed were “definitely able to destroy cancerous growth.” The FDA did not agree, Reich was accused by the government of being a medical fraud. His orgone accumulators were seized and destroyed and six tons of his books, journals and papers were burned. Reich died in a prison cell in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania in 1957. In his will, he established the Wilhelm Reich Infant Trust to safeguard his legacy and ensure access to his work.

William Steig – illustration for Listen, Little Man! (page 80) 1948

William Steig – illustration for Listen, Little Man! (page 60) 1948

Before I was able to find a copy of the The Mass Psychology of Fascism, I checked out Listen, Little Man! from the library. Reich wrote the text in the summer of 1946 to express his grief over the state of the “little man” but had no intention to publish it. However, his supporters recognized the value of Listen, Little Man! for the understanding of Reich’s philosophy. Below is a passage from the book, such frankness today is regarded as simply politically incorrect:

Little woman, if without any particular vocation you drifted into teaching merely because you had no children of your own, you’re doing unconscionable harm. You’re supposed to be bringing up children. The rearing of children, if taken seriously, implies the correct handling of their sexuality. In order to handle a child’s sexuality correctly, one must know from one’s own experience what love is. But you’re built like a tub, you’re awkward and physically repulsive. That alone is enough to give you a bitter, deep-seated hatred for every attractive, living body. Naturally I don’t blame you for being built like a tub, or for never having experienced love (no healthy man could have loved you), or for failing to understand love in children. But I do blame you for making a virtue of your affliction, of your wrecked, tublike body, of your lack of beauty and grace and your incapacity for love, and for stifling love in children. That, you ugly little woman, is a crime. Your existence is harmful because you turn healthy children against their healthy fathers, because you treat healthy childlike love as a symptom of a disease, because, ugly little woman, not content with looking like a tub, you think and teach like a tub; because instead of withdrawing modestly into a quiet corner of life, you do your best to imprint all life with your ugliness, your tub-like ungainliness, your hypocrisy, and with the bitter hatred that you hide behind your phony smile.

I’d love to read the above passage in a feminist studies program but if I dared to, I would certainty need to wear full riot gear! Reich’s idea of education seems to reflect the view of Plato and Rousseau, they thought that education should flow through the sense, the limbs and muscles, and not primarily through the faculty of abstraction. As Sir Herbert Read put it,”education must be through arts, through gymnastics, through creative play of all kinds; it must be under the patronage of Dionysus rather than Apollo.”

Reich recognized that children should be allowed to express their innocent sexuality, otherwise the repression would likely be distructive to their ego. Today, the alienation from human nature has progressed to the point that a 9-year-old boy may face sexual harassment charges for passing a love note in class. I believe Reich hit on the neurosis of many postmodern feminists, since many of the troubled souls have never experienced genuine romantic love, they take vengeance in political and aesthetic forms of sadism. The little women ban Valentine’s Day in school but claim it was done in respect to political correctness. They remove a painting of nymphs from a museum and claim it was done to “prompt conversation”. Estranged from their biological core, the little women certainly hate pigtails.

Wilhelm Reich – Children

I wish Reich had not used the term “sex” so much in his writing since it led to a vulgar misunderstanding of his intentions. I believe Reich was endorsing an environment for children to nurture a love of life in which sexuality would be included since it is a part of life. Reich did some painting as a hobby, his picture Children reflects a reverence for life.

I was writing an article on the artist Mary Cassatt when my friend recommended Reich’s book to me. The cold academic indifference to Cassatt’s warm paintings of mothers and children prompted me to apply Alice Miller’s insights in child rearing and alienation. Miller was a Swiss psychologist who had a profound understanding of the “soul murder” of the child in the authoritarian state, her account of the psychology of fascism parallels the work of Reich. My article “Mary Cassatt: Nurturing the Soul” can be found here.

Although I appreciate Susan for bringing this philosopher-psychologist to the readers’ attention, I feel it important to inform readers that Pigtails in Paint does not espouse the ideas of Reich in full.  Reich, like many of us at Pigtails, trusted his instincts that there is something neurotic about society and that one of the keys to that is the bizarre way we indoctrinate children regarding their sexuality.  The flaw in Reich’s pedagogy, apart from his lack of tact and oversimplification, is how strongly he adhered to Freudian theory.  Freud is a problematic character; on the one hand, he was a kind of genius, but in his rational explanation of his ideas, he comes off as a kind of crackpot.  He did not realize, as Carl Jung did, that the subconscious mind does not conform to rational explanation.  What we should be advocating is a balance between our animal spirits and our reasoning mind.  The two should work in accord to mitigate the pressures that lead to neurosis and psychosis, both individually and in civilized society as a whole.  Healthy men and women both need a way to express their humanity that is not dependent on their presumed reproductive imperatives.  -Ron

Maiden Voyages: April 2018

More Growing Pains: Readers may have noticed that the site was down one day last month. I was informed by our technical crew that due to updates that are not upwardly compatible, we have to switch over to some new software and applications. When this change is put into force, the site will be shut down for a short time and I will try to give readers advance notice. The ironic part is that this recent shutdown was due to the interaction between components that were no longer compatible and the problem was not noticed right away.  We apologize for any inconvenience and readers are reminded that any major issue will be reported on the Pigtails Facebook page.

Trouble with Broken Links: One of the complaints by search engines about our site is that with all the broken links, it registers as a “junk” site and is not routinely indexed.  Apart from errors updating from .com addresses to .org address, there were still over 150 links to review. I can announce that they have been cleared up. Unfortunately, it was impractical to find suitable replacements, so most were just deactivated. In some cases, sites were access protected due to content and privacy concerns. Therefore, readers are requested to recommend new links that should be added to existing posts.

Patience Pays Off: For months now, Bing (a leading search engine) had not “crawled” the Pigtails site so that those using that engine would not be able to find legitimate references to this site.  I was just informed that Bing has finally done so. The feeling was that they were censoring us but trying to pass it off as a bureaucratic delay.

Breaking a New Record?  According to a television program that Christian saw, a Picasso painting called The Little Girl with a Basket of Flowers will be sold at auction. The painting has been hanging in a private home for 50 years and speculation is that it could beat the record for a Picasso which currently stands at $1.7 million. Ed: This is embarrassing! I guess I misunderstood the meaning of the figure; perhaps it was the amount the painting sold for decades ago. An associate thought the amount was too low and so did some digging. Picasso’s Les femmes d’Alger sold for $179 million. An article on the Young Girl with a Flower Basket sale online says the painting is estimated to sell for $90–120 million. There are more details on the auction to take place in May in Christian’s comment below as well as a link to a larger version of the image.

A Crushing Blow for the Crush: An associate recently informed me of a news item (not sure how current) about a 9-year-old boy told that he might face sexual harassment charges by school authorities if he passed any more love notes. An examination of the notes reveals that they are what one would expect from a boy this age and are in no way sexually explicit. The notes came to the school’s attention after the boy had been teased by classmates for writing them. A sound bite from the mother shows just how ironic and absurd this has been, “My 9-year-old doesn’t even know what sexual harassment means.”

Egon Schiele’s Mädchen mit Federboa

I have said before that exploring the concept of the erotic child in art is not necessarily pornographic, and the work of German Expressionist painter Egon Schiele is a good example of what I mean. Though he generally focused on adult women in erotic poses, he did sometimes paint young girls as well. Even at the time his work was controversial, and pieces like the following have only solidified the controversy.

I must confess that I do not generally like Schiele’s work. With their sharp angles, garish colors and attention to unpleasant details, his portraits frequently border on the grotesque. But Mädchen mit Federboa, despite its shocking content, is actually somewhat artistically restrained for Schiele. The colors are still bright, but other than the borderline clownish crimson smears at her cheeks, they don’t feel out of place or overdone. And the little girl is properly proportioned and not overly angular nor posed obscenely. Some have called this a masterpiece. That might be pushing it, but I do think it’s one of Schiele’s better pieces.

This painting, which was estimated to sell for somewhere between $660,000 and $880,000, went up for auction at the Ketterer Kunst in Munich, Germany in 2015. If anyone can track down how much it actually sold for, I would be appreciative.

Edit: A reader has generously responded with an answer to my query. (Thank you, Patricia!) The final sale price appears to have been around €625,000, which is approximately $770,000. So right smack in the middle of the estimate range. Nice! – Pip

Egon Schiele – Mädchen mit Federboa (1910)

Akai Kutsu, the Little Girl with Red Shoes On

Artist unknown – Little Girl with Red Shoes On, Yamashita Park, Yokohama (1)

One of the most famous songs in Japan is the nursery rhyme Akai Kutsu (‘Red Shoes’), written in 1921 by the poet Ujō Noguchi, with the music composed in 1922 by Nagayo Motōri. Here is its translation in English:

A young girl with red shoes
was taken away by a foreigner.

She rode on a ship from Yokohama pier
taken away by a foreigner

I imagine right now she has become blue-eyed
living in that foreigner’s land.

Every time I see red shoes, I think of her
And every time I meet a foreigner, I think of her.

In the following video from YouTube, one can listen to the song sung by little girls:

There are several other versions, for instance this one sung by an adult woman. There are also variants for the text.

Most people agree that the song is based on the true story of a little girl, Kimi Iwasaki, who died at age 9.

Kimi was born on July 15, 1902, from a single mother, Kayo Iwasaki, in a village at the foothills of the old Shizuoka prefecture. Later they moved to Hokkaido and Kayo married Shiro Suzuki. When Kimi was 3, her parents lived in hardship in a socialist collective farm; then through Kayo’s father-in-law Sano Yasuyoshi, they entrusted the girl to two American missionaries, Charles Hewitt and his wife. The pair intended to return to America with the little girl, but Kimi contracted tuberculosis, which was incurable at that time. Fearing that she would not survive the long ocean voyage, they left her in the care of the orphanage at Toriikazu Church in the Azabu-Jūban section of Tokyo. Unable to meet her mother again, Kimi died at the orphanage on September 15, 1911. During her entire life, Kayo believed that Kimi had gone to America with the Hewitts, not knowing that she had in fact died of tuberculosis at an orphanage in Tokyo.

After the failure of their socialist farming experience, Kayo and Shiro moved to Sapporo, where Shiro found a job in a small newspaper publishing company. One of Shiro’s colleagues was the famous socialist poet Ujō Noguchi, and they told him how Kimi had been taken to America by missionaries (they were unaware that the girl never left Japan). So Noguchi wrote the song.

In 1973 Shiro and Kayo’s third daughter wrote to a newspaper stating that “My sister is the girl from Akai Kutsu”. Then Hiroshi Kikuchi, a reporter for Hokkaido Television Broadcasting, started an investigation of 5 years, which revealed the true story of Kimi; in 1978 a documentary entitled Document: The Girl in the Red Shoes aired on HKB. After that Kikuchi released a non-fiction book titled The Girl in The Red Shoes.

This narrative has been contested by the author Shousuke Ai. He claims that the Hewitts never had any contact with Kimi, that their adoption of the little girl was a lie told by Kayo’s father-in-law Sano Yasuyoshi in order to comfort her; in reality, Sano gave the child directly to the orphanage in Tokyo. Moreover, he thinks that Kayo and Shiro were not really close to Noguchi, who just related to Shiro as a colleague, so they could not have told him the story of Kayo’s illegitimate child Kimi and her adoption.

Other interpretations have been given for the song, in particular for the colour red: that it reflects Shiro and Kayo’s frustrations about the failure of utopian socialist farming, or Noguchi’s disappointment with socialism, in particular with the Soviet Union.

At several places in Japan one finds statues of Kimi Iwasaki, who is affectionately called Kimi-chan (in Japanese, the suffix ‘chan’ is a term of endearment). The oldest and best known is the one in Yamashita Park in Yokohama, erected in 1979.

Artist unknown – Little Girl with Red Shoes On, Yamashita Park, Yokohama (2)

Artist unknown – Little Girl with Red Shoes On, Yamashita Park, Yokohama (3)

In February 1989 a statue of Kimi was erected in the Azabu-Jūban section of Tokyo, near the orphanage where she died of tuberculosis. On the day it was first unveiled someone left 40 yen at its feet, thus a coin box was put there, and millions of yen have been collected and donated to childcare charities.

Artist unknown – The Little Girl in the Red Shoes, Azabu-Jūban, Tokyo

Plate for The Little Girl in the Red Shoes, Azabu-Jūban, Tokyo

There is a statue of Kimi and her mother, erected in 1986 in Nihondaira, Shizuoka Prefecture, near the place were the girl was born:

Artist unknown – Girl in Red Shoes, Nihondaira, Shizuoka Prefecture

There are several statues of Kimi in Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island, where Kayo Iwasaki married Shiro Suzuki. First the one in Unga Park, Otaru (2007):

Artist unknown – Akai Kutsu, Unga Park, Otaru, Hokkaido (1)

Artist unknown – Akai Kutsu, Unga Park, Otaru, Hokkaido (2)

Then the one in Hakodate (2009):

Artist unknown – Akai Kutsu, Hakodate, Hokkaido (1)

See the same statue with its base covered by snow in the winter:

Artist unknown – Akai Kutsu, Hakodate, Hokkaido (2)

As a token of friendship between the Port of San Diego and the Port of Yokohama, and to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama, in 2010 a statue of “The Girl in Red Shoes” was erected at the tip of Shelter Island, San Diego, next to the Friendship Bell:

The Girl in Red Shoes next to the Friendship Bell, Port of San Diego

The girl holds a rose and a carnation, representing the two towns of Yokohama and San Diego.

Munehiro Komeno – The Girl in Red Shoes, Port of San Diego (1)

Munehiro Komeno – The Girl in Red Shoes, Port of San Diego (2)

Finally, I show a Kimi doll, from the Yokohama Doll Museum:

Artist unknown – The Little Girl with Red Shoes, Yokohama Doll Museum

Many thanks to ‘Tina Willis’ for drawing my attention to Akai Kutsu, Kimi’s story and her statue in Yokohama.

References:

E. Gertrude Thomson, Lewis Carroll’s Other Illustrator

Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has had hundreds of illustrators since its initial publication, but for most readers the book will forever be linked to John Tenniel, its first illustrator. Despite the fame that Carroll’s book achieved in his lifetime with the help of Tenniel’s fantastic illustrations, Carroll and Tenniel never maintained anything but a working relationship. That cannot be said of E. Gertrude Thomson, the illustrator for a collection of poems Carroll had published in 1898, the same year he passed away, and most famously the designer and illustrator for the cover of The Nursery “Alice”, a revised edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland aimed at infants and toddlers which was first published in 1890, a fully twenty-five years after the original.

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Nursery Alice (cover)(1898)

Carroll had long been an admirer of Thomson’s illustrations of fairies for Christmas cards (it may seem an odd juxtaposition to have fairies on holiday cards, but let’s not forget the Victorian obsession with the fair folk, which Carroll certainly possessed), and later of one of his favorite books, William Allingham’s The Fairies—A Child’s Song, which can be viewed and read in its entirety at the Archive site.

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Fairies – A Child’s Song (1)(1883)

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Fairies – A Child’s Song (2)(1883)

E. Gertrude Thomson – The Fairies – A Child’s Song (3)(1883)

We have, in fact, an account by Thomson of her first meeting with Carroll, and it’s steeped in charm and authenticity:

A little before twelve I was at the rendezvous, and then the humour of the situation suddenly struck me, that I had not the ghost of an idea what he was like, nor would he have any better chance of discovering me! The room was fairly full of all sorts and conditions, as usual, and I glanced at each masculine figure in turn, only to reject it as a possibility of the one I sought. Just as the big clock had clanged out twelve, I heard the high vivacious voices and laughter of children sounding down the corridor.

At that moment a gentleman entered, two little girls clinging to his hands, and as I caught sight of the tall slim figure, with the clean-shaven, delicate, refined face, I said to myself, “That’s Lewis Carroll.” He stood for a moment, head erect, glancing swiftly over the room, then, bending down, whispered something to one of the children; she, after a moment’s pause, pointed straight at me.

Dropping their hands he came forward, and with that winning smile of his that utterly banished the oppressive sense of the Oxford don, said simply, “I am Mr. Dodgson; I was to meet you, I think?” To which I as frankly smiled, and said, “How did you know me so soon?”

“My little friend found you. I told her I had come to meet a young lady who knew fairies, and she fixed on you at once. But I knew you before she spoke.”

If that wouldn’t win one an immediate lifelong friendship, I don’t know what would. As it so happened, it did precisely that. In fact, Thomson and Carroll became such close friends that Miss Thomson, as Carroll generally referred to her, was one of the few people he invited to witness his photographing of children, even in the nude. Thomson was known to be present during several of these sessions with the Henderson sisters, for example, subjects of one of the few surviving nudes Carroll produced before he gave up photography for good in 1880, likely because of the rumors that had begun circulating about his passion for photographing little girls sans habillement.

From these sessions Thomson made several sketches which almost certainly became drawings for Three Sunsets and Other Poems (available in full at Project Gutenberg). These drawings bear a simplicity of execution and lack of background detail that allows the plump and innocent allure of the figures to shine.

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (cover)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (1)

Carroll originally intended for all of the fairies to be female, owing to his revulsion to the male form. As he said to Thomson after seeing early versions of her drawings for the book:

If you would add to the hair, and slightly refine the wrist and ankles, it would make a beautiful girl. I had much rather have all the fairies girls, if you wouldn’t mind. For I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures. They always seem to me to need clothes: whereas one hardly sees why the lovely forms of girls should ever be covered up!

There is certainly more than a touch of that old Victorian sexism in this confession, something that might have irked Miss Thomson. Given it was Carroll’s project for which Thomson was creating her illustrations, one can see why she would concede to his requests.  Nevertheless, several of them still do retain traces of more boyish fairies, including the image Carroll was commenting on here, the so-called “bower illustration,” the final version of which can be seen below.

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (2)

Most of the fairies, however, are undeniably feminine.

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (3)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (4)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (5)

E. Gertrude Thomson – Three Sunsets and Other Poems (6)

Resources:

Allingham, William, The Fairies – A Child’s Song

Carroll, Lewis, The Nursery “Alice”

Carroll, Lewis, Three Sunsets and Other Poems

Cohen, Morton N., Lewis Carroll: A Biography

Cohen, Morton N. and Edward Wakeling, eds., Lewis Carroll & His Illustrators: Collaborations and Correspondence, 1865-1898

Collingwood, Stuart Dodgson, ed., The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (Rev. C.L. Dodgson)

Maiden Voyages: March 2018

The end of February does seem to sneak up on us.  There is actually very little to report at the moment.  But there is one item from our technical crew.

Yet Another Form of Censorship? We have been through a lot over the years: all kinds of tactics to shut us down. The past few months, I have been getting reports from readers about search engines not producing results from Pigtails. Part of the problem was the switch to the .org domain name and clearing out the old legacy links, but the problem persists.  It took many weeks to get Google to actually index the site, but as yet Bing is still showing the main site map as ‘Pending’ from last year.  Since this is an automated process, it seems this could only be due to censorship which they are denying. “It just takes time”, they say. Since this blog has been around a while, there are now a lot of dead links which is another complaint from the indexers.  I am now working on removing or revising those. There seems also to be some tampering with the indexing system itself.  For example, a blog should only have its individual posts or pages indexed, but both Google and Bing are showing index pages such as ‘tag’ and ‘category’ and then complaining about duplicate content! It does not appear that any other site using the WordPress software is encountering this difficulty. Currently, our technicians are manually putting in ‘no follow’ links on those trouble areas so that only the individual articles appear.

A censored deer and balloon. Or was it the red hair…? A comparison of four Dutch Female Photographers

The last few years, I visited expositions of some Dutch (female) photographers that have in common the theme of the portraiture of girls. For the most part, they are in a kind of quiet, intimate, minimal, unstarched style, in natural light, intended to portray the girl herself. There was no idea of deep meaning beyond the fact of the model—however valid a deeper expression may be. So we are speaking of a simple portraiture of the girls—within the bounds of the photographer’s creativity. There is none of the emphasis on light and darkness, symbolism, mythology, etc. This is quite different from the work of say, Jan Saudek or Irina Ionesco: no touch of heaven or purgatory. Consequently, it does not really matter whether the photos were taken “en plein air” or in a studio.

One of them, Vivian Keulards, has been censored for two bare portraits (or was it the red hair?). This case seems to be a matter of the eye of the beholder. Judge for yourself, along with a few other examples of her work and the work of three others. Originally, I had only wanted to write about Keulards because I read in a newspaper that two of her portraits—including one of her daughter—has been removed from an expo in the Art Gallery in the WTC, The Hague. A similarity with some other photographers came to mind. This was a good occasion to show something that was going on that had nothing to do with whether there was some kind of typically Dutch style of photography. This question might be better discussed in another post.

Photographers like Ata Kandó, who died only last September, whose work—at least her books with her children Dream in the Forest and Kalypso & Nausikaä—might be called fictional, fairy tale-like, mythological—apart from it being a kind of fashion photography with her children. That is to say, there are moments of reality that appear unexpectedly. In that ‘light’, what happened to Keulards is a repetition of ‘darkening’ history. In an interview Kandó tells (translated from Dutch):

There was actually no money for it, but I felt that my children were entitled to go on vacation, and that’s why we went hitchhiking. I like to photograph children, because they are photogenic and sweet. In prudish Paris they didn’t want to publish Dream in the Forest. The girls had no breasts yet, but stood on the picture with bare upper-body and the French media found that it had to do with sex. I was very angry about that, for me that work was totally poetic and innocent, like in a fairy tale.

Here two pictures from Dream in the Forest. I tried my best to find a ‘decent’ and an ‘indecent’ one.

Ata Kandó – Dream in the Forest ‘Madeleine and Thomas Kandó’ (1957)

Ata Kandó – Dream in the Forest ‘Ferns’ (1957)

Here the two images of Keulards, who would not have been censored without bare upper torso, with other work by her, who could have been censored as well, if these had also showed bare torsos.

Vivian Keulards – Dear Noortje (2010-2013)

Vivian Keulards – Marc Anthony (c2013)

Vivian Keulards – Taryn & Olivia (2013)

Vivian Keulards – Eimear (2014) [Bookcover of Flaming Grace, 2017]

Vivian Keulards – Eline (2013)

Vivian Keulards says about her series and book:

For years now I’ve been fascinated by red-headed children. In 2007, I made the first portraits in the series ‘Flaming Grace’. Until today I’ve photographed many red-headed children, not only in The Netherlands, but also in the US and Ireland. Why? Simply because I think they’re breathtakingly beautiful! I find these children mystical and magical and they push my creativity to the max. They’re visual poetry to me! Along the way I learned a lot about the red hair MCR1-gene and heard many stories and myths. Some people say redheads will likely be extinct in the next 100 years. This is because the gene is not dominant enough to survive. I don’t know if it’s true, but if so, I might even have written history.

The other artists did not focus on red-headed children, but I found a few examples and added them at the end—excepting Kandó whose work is mainly in black and white.

Rineke Dijkstra – Kolobrzeg, Poland (1992) / Sandro Botticeli – The Birth of Venus (c1483)

Rineke Dijkstra – Marianna (The Fairy Doll) (2014)

This is a film still from a video installation I saw in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, in a ‘black box’ rather than a ‘white cube’.

Rineke Dijkstra – Marianna And Sasha Kingisepp, Russia (2014)

Rineke Dijkstra – Coney Island, NY USA (1993)

Pip Starr commented on this last image by Dijkstra:

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

Most of Rineke Dijkstra’s portraits are poses like this. Seriously, whether topless or not (with or without red hair), Dijkstra created a whole series of child and adolescent portraits, in bathing suits at the beach. Some seem to be topless and would have been more usual on a Dutch beach. About her models she said:

With young people everything is much more on the surface—all the emotions. When you get older you know how to hide things.

Hellen van Meene – Untitled (2012 – 2014)

Hellen van Meene – Untitled (2014)

Hellen van Meene – Untitled (1997)

Hellen van Meene has worked with many models, but I choose to present here two of the same model, with dogs and one earlier work with a red-haired girl. Maybe she is the least unstarched, compared with Keulards, Dijkstra and Bouma—though also with natural light. In comparison, van Meene is more dreamy, like Kandó, but more awake. Maybe even a kind of sweet, dry humour, with her series on ‘Dogs and Girls’ in mind. There was some biographical basis for this: as a child, she had been bitten by a dog. The decision to embark on this series featuring dogs came as a surprise even to her.

Here is some more about her work and one of her books, The Years Shall Run Like Rabbits. Here van Meene mentions that she does not find it important to identify her models, therefore her work is mostly untitled. Her careful staged images seem to want to capture moments in time, but with a sense of timelessness. Indeed, these girls (and dogs) are without a clear sense of time or place. The girls, though, can be different on another day, especially when they are in-between and growing up. I experience these portraits as portraits of the girls themselves—modelled, yes, but after themselves.

Aline Bouma – (Title unknown) (c2016)

Aline Bouma – Eva (c 2016)

Aline Bouma – Marjolein (c2016)

Dimitri – Exposition Aline Bouma in the City Theatre Utrecht (2017)

Aline Bouma, 25, had an exposition titled Twelve in the Utrecht City Theatre. It was her exam project as a documentary photographer.

Here is a comment about it that, unfortunately, can no longer be found online:

12 / 24 – What goes on in the world of twelve-year-old girls? Are they already having their first crush? Or are they climbing to the top of the tallest trees? When Aline Bouma reached this fascinating age, her mother passed away, causing all these fleeting memories of being twelve to become a giant blur. Her father had stopped taking photographs, and so there is no visual account of this period of her life. The only things that remain of these memories are small diary fragments that she kept as a girl. What she must have looked like back then is a mystery, with just her imagination and memories that have been warped throughout the years as all she has left to go on. With this project, Aline brings you into the, for her, unknown world of twelve-year-old girls. By photographing them, she creates an indirect self-portrait in which she tries to rediscover the year that had been lost to her.

Why have the two portraits of Vivian Keulards been taken away? Was it because the boy holding a balloon in front of his head was topless with a bare torso—or perhaps it was the red hair? The hair of the girl, holding deer antlers on her head, also topless, was red as well—or rather dark blonde. Someone or ones unknown working at this WTC took offense of it. Whoever it was, I assume what plays a role is, that this is a gallery within the context of this WTC. In the Netherlands there are a few such WTCs, roughly modelled after those in New York.

Now that these actions have taken place, one’s gaze can now be thought of as “spoiled” when it would not otherwise have been. Why should one’s gaze be tainted by looking at a serious but playful picture of this girl holding her deer antlers—bare and topless notwithstanding? Come on! Maybe one thought it would be a distraction. Can we no longer allow these portraits to speak for themselves or are business interests so paramount that these companies dare not risk losing commercial clients? Now it is impossible to say what my first impression would have been, now that these have been taken away from the display. On the other hand, without it, I might not have heard about it and seen it at all. My best guess is that my first impression would have been that it is merely a girl with deer antlers and would have pondered the mysterious mixture of her playful yet serious gaze. Is there something about her pose or her physical appearance that is supposed to be erotic? In truth, I do not even find it really sensual; and even if it were, what of it? An artist contributes to her cultural paradigm and should not be taken away assuming it has not been produced by abusive means.

None of this was ever the photographer’s intention. Keulards shares her own account of what happened (translated into English):

Last weekend, I got a phone call from WTC The Hague Art Gallery that they took two of my portraits off the wall. Since October 19th, two photo series hang on the walls of the gallery: “Flaming Grace” (portraits of red-haired children) and “Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe” (documentary portraits of my time in the US). Business people walk by my work daily as the gallery is located within a commercial environment. An international company, renting an office within the WTC, complained that they think two images in my exhibition are offensive. It concerns portraits of two children with bare upper bodies: a red-haired little boy and the other one is my own daughter. The gallery has decided, after consultation with the WTC Executive Board, to take these images off the wall. They said they had no choice, they needed to respect the decisions of WTC.

The entire weekend I was upset because of this action. Of course, photography and art are a matter of taste, you’ll find something beautiful, or not. But to qualify my work as offensive? That’s a comment I heard for the first time. I became emotional after hearing about this, but it took very little time to discover where this feeling came from. These portraits, that I made from the heart, where I tried to show beauty and innocence, have become infected. That makes me sad. Who on earth looks at these portraits this way? At my own child? What goes around in these viewers’ heads? That’s what gives me the chills!

That what these viewers see, and what I have intended to capture, are miles apart from each other. Through my eyes there’s nothing, absolutely nothing sexual or offensive in these portraits. The fact that someone sees something totally different says a lot about this person. To let this issue pass me by silently felt very wrong. I have to stand up for myself and my work. In fact, I also need to stand up for our community of professional photographers. Creative freedom suffers when we do not speak up. Where do you draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not? A difficult discussion in these times, but I do know that I find the vision of this company heavily exaggerated, hypocritically prudish and narrow-minded. When I made this portrait of my daughter in 2010, she was six years old. She was like a fish in water in the nature of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Together with a friend they were pretending to be deer, holding the antlers to their heads. As a mother, I found this touching to watch. I saw my fragile girl happy and confident again in this outdoor setting, and this after a difficult time as a preschooler in the Netherlands. That’s what I put in this portrait and nothing else! My images often leave room for interpretation. In fact, it cannot be otherwise, because everyone looks at images with their own filter, their own luggage filled with experiences, education, upbringing, standards and values. However, I find it insulting that my images are found offensive. I simply don’t understand. This just happened in the Netherlands, where we still had a high standard of openmindedness and tolerance. Which is exactly why I want to share this story. If we do not raise our voices on these kinds of issues, against this censorship, even coming from a commercial, business world, we create a ridiculous taboo. This is not what we want.

Maybe the artist should have taken away the rest of her art from this gallery; the artist deliberately left her pictures there with two empty places till the end of the expo. I went there to find the two empty spaces on the wall where the photos once hung. At least I found most probably one.

Dimitri – Empty place in the spotlight (2017)

These pictures come from two series. ‘80349, Bloody Mary and Sloppy Joe’, about her time starting in 2010 in America. The second is ‘Flaming Grace’, portraits of red-haired children, compiled in a book of the same title. The series was originally titled ‘Elusive Beauty’.

Keulards writes that her portraits are staged. Probably that is what I see in them: serious, deep gazes. Sure, they are posed, but not merely so. It is as if the photographer was waiting until she could see a kind of drama—an elusive grace. Although the artist’s daughter does not actually have red hair, two souls with ‘flaming grace’ were taken away from this expo, and therewith its soul; for who might have walked by wondering about the white, empty parts of the wall that could not handle the weight of such portraits. Rather silly for a wall, don’t you think?

The Hyper-Realistic Art of Kevin Peterson

Kevin Peterson was born in 1979 in Elko, Nevada. The artist’s family moved around a lot during his childhood before finally settling down in Sherman, Texas, where he studied art and psychology at Austin College. He received degrees in Fine Art and Psychology in 2001 and after graduating pursued a career in social work. However, drugs and alcohol soon became part of his life, which lead to his arrest and the loss of his job. It was during his time in a drug and alcohol treatment facility that the painter rediscovered his interest in creating art and decided that it would be his new career.

Kevin Peterson – Bricks (2014)

Most of the paintings that Kevin creates feature a child set within a broken urban landscape, which is in various states of decay. While a smaller number of images focus solely on the animals or other features located within these cities. His early works were more portrait like, with the focus being almost entirely on the child. The background and surrounding landscapes, in these early paintings, lacked detail and in many artworks the subject was standing in front of a wall.

Kevin Peterson – Old Wall IV (2009)

Kevin Peterson – (Title Unknown) (2009)

As his work progressed over the years the backgrounds started to become more detailed, the animals appeared and the child became less of the focus. Additionally, all his years of experience show through as the images go from merely looking realistic to looking hyper-realistic. You also notice that a narrative occasionally appears within the newer paintings, for example, in the Funeral you can see a child holding a funeral for a dead bird.

Kevin Peterson – Funeral (2016)

The pairing of an innocent, yet strong, child with a dark and broken landscape is a deliberate choice for the artist. The artist describes this on his website…

My work is about the varied journeys we take through life. It’s about growing up and living in a world that is broken. These paintings are about trauma, fear and loneliness and the strength that it takes to survive and thrive. They each contain the contrast of the untainted, young and innocent against a backdrop of a worn, ragged, and defiled world. Support versus restraint, bondage versus freedom, and tension versus slack are all themes that I often visit. My work deals with isolation, loneliness and longing teamed with a level of optimistic hope. Issues of race and the division of wealth have arisen in my recent work. This work deals with the idea of rigid boundaries, the hopeful breakdown of such restrictions, as well as questions about the forces that orchestrate our behaviour.

 

Kevin Peterson – Lion, Lion (2015)

When Kevin creates his paintings he uses photographs as a reference and has a large stockpile of images, mainly featuring urban landscapes. The artist also has a collection of images for the humans that appear in the artworks, most of which have been photographed in his own studio. He then uses Photoshop to piece these individual images together to get the look of the final artwork and then it is just a matter of painting it on the canvas. A process that takes many hours and layers of painting with many works taking about 100 hours over several weeks.

Kevin Peterson – Holy Fuckin’ Puke War (2015)

When I first looked at Kevin’s early images I soon got the feeling of familiarity, especially with this painting.

Kevin Peterson – Old Wall II (2009)

I soon found the original photograph that was used as the model for the artist’s image.

Anna Palma – Vogue Bambini Cover (2008)

So it appears as though the artist was using magazine images to model his early paintings on, probably because he had no money to pay for models and no friends with children who could voluntarily model for him. It is also possible that he really liked the photos and simply wanted to show his appreciation to the original photographers by making his own interpretations of their images. I think he has made some good decisions when choosing what images he uses. Anyone recognise this?

Kevin Peterson – Timmy and Kathy (2009)

The original image happens to come from one of my favourite movies.

Le Renard et L’Enfant Movie Poster (2007)

I have not contacted the artist so it is not known if he has received permission, to use these images, from the original creators. If he hasn’t there may be some copyright implications depending on which law you attribute to them. There are many possible laws that can be used here, most likely U.S. copyright law would be applied or, less likely, the Berne Convention, which deals with copyright on an international basis. As the photographs appear to be created in Europe the copyright laws of the individual countries, in which the original photographs were created, may also be used. Using previous cases as an example we can see that the U.S. laws are completely inadequate at preventing unauthorised use of images and instead favour freedom of expression. An artist can make the tiniest change to an image, in Kevin’s case it is changing the background, and this would have enough of a transformative effect to prevent any lawsuit. Richard Prince is a perfect example of this law. He has made a career out of using other people’s images, making tiny additions to them, which transforms them into his own artworks. One of his most recent exhibitions, including the anger it created, is detailed in this article. However, a successful prosecution, for unauthorised use of an image, can be seen when the estate of Jean-François Bauret successfully sued Jeff Koons. French Copyright Laws were used in this case and it should also be noted that this situation was first mentioned on the Pigtails in Paint website. As I am not an artist I am unaware how common this occurrence can be, though this article implies it is frequent as it describes how Bill Gekas has been copied … again.

Kevin Peterson – Choose Light (2008)

La Stupenderia Advertisement (2008)

Kevin currently works out of Winter Street Studios, in Houston, Texas, and sells his works through Thinkspace Galleries.