DEDICATED TO THE PORTRAYAL OF LITTLE GIRLS IN THE ARTS AND MEDIA
Before We Begin . . .
This is, in fact, the second incarnation of this blog. The first was hosted at WordPress’ site. As you can see, that is no longer the case. If you are interested in why that is, proceed to this article and come back when you’re finished, or finish reading this page and follow the link afterward. At any rate, just understand that a lot of work has gone into this blog, and a lot of love. Twice. Because everything that was there in the first incarnation of Pigtails had to be restored. Most of the text from the first blog was fortunately rescued, so it didn’t have to be rewritten, but all of the images had to be reformatted and reposted, and the text had to be reposted as well. The hundreds of links severed when the first blog went down had to be repaired. Some of the information had to be updated, and, of course, the blog’s infrastructure itself had to be rebuilt.
Why all the trouble, you may ask? It is simple: this stuff is important. Not just in the cultural sense but in the philosophical sense. Again, I urge you to read the re-introductory article to follow my chain of logic there. At this point I just want you to understand the level of commitment, the time, sweat and research Ron and I have invested in this project. We have taken on this responsibility because . . . well, it was needed.
Millions of art blogs and sites can be found across the near-endless expanse of the Internet. I’ve researched many of these and found most unsuitable to my needs, either because they focus on certain types of art or because they have the opposite problem: they’re far too wide-ranging. I’m not knocking the sites or their creators; many of them have been useful to me in my research. But I wanted something unique, something which took one rather narrow and oft-neglected subject in the history of art and explored it exhaustively. That subject is the young girl.
Why young girls, you ask? For a number of reasons. First, as a middle aged man, I find the young girl to be my spiritual opposite. She is a creature at once easily accessible and infinitely unknowable to me. I’ve been around girls all my life—in fact, I’ve spent much more of my adult life around little girls than I have around little boys, for the simple fact that destiny has more often favored my family and friends with feminine offspring than with masculine. For as long as I can remember I’ve been positively swimming in little cherubettes, tomboys, fairy princesses, sweet sixteens, and every other permutation of youthful femininity, and yet I still feel like I barely know the species! Despite those stereotypical boxes to which I have relegated them, these girls are in reality complex and contradictory creatures. Alan Marshall Beck’s quote at the heading of this blog is the nearest I’ve come to the reality of these tiny wide-eyed paradoxes who can in one breath steal your heart and then ruthlessly grind it to a pulp beneath glittery pink shoes. The full quote is this:
“A little girl can be sweeter (and badder) oftener than anyone else in the world. She can jitter around, and stomp, and make funny noises that frazzle your nerves, yet just when you open your mouth she stands there demure with that special look in her eyes. A girl is Innocence playing in the mud, Beauty standing on its head, and Motherhood dragging a doll by the foot.”
Another reason for the blog is that I find young girls to be an underrepresented (or misrepresented) subject in nearly every field of study, including the arts, sciences and media, but it is the visual arts that I know best, and so I wish to address this injury from the angle I am best suited for. I may from time to time dip into other realms of art and the humanities, either to reinforce a critique of a certain artwork or artist or just because I want to, but the majority of this space will be reserved for paintings, drawings, sculptures, photographs, etc. which fit the main topic and which I find compelling or beautiful, or both.
When I say that young girls are misrepresented in the arts, sciences and media, I mean that they are too often viewed through the filters of adult disciplines or ideologies like feminism, traditionalism, etc. to be fully recognizable as the little people I know and adore. If there is one thing which wholly separates children from adults, it is that they lack ideologies and fixed moral positions about art, politics, relationships, and other subjects. We are far too quick to attach our own labels and judgments to them without asking their feelings on these issues, and also too soon to dismiss their views as undeveloped or entirely lacking, when in reality what we are starting to learn is that children are holistic human beings right from the get-go—they only lack the knowledge to go with the plan. That is not to say that they are equivalent to adults in all respects, but only to suggest that we should be careful not to sell them short, to paint them into a stereotyped corner, or to view them as entirely helpless and passive in every way. Any parent with a daughter can tell you that’s simply not the case.
A third reason for the blog is to examine the ever more perilous landscape with which the subjects of children and childhood are discussed in the media, and, hopefully, to rescue from the jaws of that hungry, sly and insidious dragon of modern culture the sweetness, hope and beauty of childhood. Well, one half of it anyway. The cynical adult in me fears the monster may have already swallowed too much to save, but another part of me, taking a cue from those children I have known and loved myself, both fictional and real, refuses to give up on these things altogether.
When roughly ninety percent of news stories and television shows about children seem to dwell on the dark side—child sex trafficking, childhood obesity, addiction to violent video games, war orphans, little girls having acid thrown in their faces for attending school in Afghanistan, and on and on—and when simple child nudity or dress-up/imitation of adults by children captured in art, no matter how innocent or noble the intentions of the artist who captured it, cannot escape the shrill, unthinking accusations of ‘sexual abuse!’ and ‘child pornography!,’ I am going to stake my claim on the apparently revolutionary position that children are no more in danger of losing their innocence today than they were twenty, fifty, a hundred, or a thousand years ago. This for two reasons: one, because innocence as it is commonly understood in application to children is largely a chimera invented by adults who have their own agenda when it comes to children (which, unfortunately, is just about all of us.) And two, because it is apparent to anyone with a lick of common sense that certain dangers to children are overrepresented and this overrepresentation is, in all likelihood, doing more harm than good. Children are certainly vulnerable and in need of protection, yes. But what constitutes necessary protection and what is going hysterically overboard, the panicked knee-jerk response of a society malnourished on truth and overfed on largely media-exaggerated (or even media-generated) bugaboos? How can any real child grow up in this environment unscathed? One is therefore inclined to ask who is really doing the bulk of the harm here?
The fourth reason for this blog is that it shall serve as a kind of artistic experiment in its own right. The idea of tracing a single subject through the history of art is not a new one, but I haven’t seen this particular subject covered to the degree that I shall devote to it, from every possible angle that can be imagined. While I do not want to get bogged down by any particular style, school, philosophy, ideology or what-have-you (which would defeat the purpose), I will take care to try to represent every facet that is known to me somewhere down the line. A definite plan and scope exists for this project, but I of course cannot see the future and don’t know if I’ll be able to get to all of it within my lifetime. But I will try.
The initialization of this project is something I’ve had in my sights for several years now, but for one reason or another I’ve been unable to see it through. At long last, here it is!
A Few More Points
First, please be mindful of the fact that, even with such a focused subject, literally millions of examples exist that meet the very basic criteria of artworks about or featuring young girls in them, and I don’t have the time, energy or wherewithal to include anything close to all of them, so I shall have to be discerning. For this reason I plan to show only the best examples I can find of this or that artist, subcategory, or what-have-you. Now, that doesn’t mean I’m an elitist and will restrict my choices only to that which qualifies as formal or high art. I am, for example, a great fan of cartoon and comic book art and will delve into that side of things at some point. I may find a fascinating advertisement that I think worth posting, and there are certainly plenty of examples of lowbrow and pop art worthy of my attention. In short, the only real restriction I’m placing on myself is that the work must contain at least one girl between the ages of zero and sixteen (or thereabouts) or who looks childlike enough at least to fool my discerning eye, but that’s hardly as inhibiting as it sounds.
Secondly, I am no computer expert or web designer, so don’t expect anything fancy. I’ll do my best to make the site as pleasing to the eye as possible, but I am hoping it is the artwork and the information I provide which gets your attention. That being said, I am a notorious stickler for grammatical and factual correctness, and so it’s rare that you will encounter any outstanding errors. If you do, don’t be afraid to contact me and when I have time I will make the necessary corrections. If it’s a small error—a single letter is wrong, I’m one year off on a date, or some such, unless it is in a proper name or completely changes the meaning, I’m probably not going to bother fixing that. I’ll also do my best to obtain the highest quality images I can find, but if you have a better one you’d like to submit to me, I’ll certainly consider putting up the superior version of the image.
Thirdly, while I will be implementing some means of categorization to make this site more convenient to use, the posts and updates to the site will not necessarily follow any particular order. Likewise, updates will follow a sporadic schedule, in keeping with the fact that I have other things to do outside of this project. I will try to update it at least twice a month, though I may fall behind on occasion due to other projects, real-life distractions, or unforeseen circumstances. I can assure you, however, that as long as I’m able to attend to it with a reasonable lack of difficulty, I will never abandon it entirely.
Fourthly, as you may have ascertained from the introduction, I’m not a big proponent of censorship, and so you will encounter images here which feature nudity, violence or otherwise disturbing (but perfectly legal in the U.S.) content. If this sort of thing bothers you, if you are underage or if such content is illegal in your country or district, it is probably best you avoid the site. While I’m sensitive to victims of childhood abuse in all its incarnations, I will not kowtow to the narrow-minded, the shortsighted or the moralistic. This site may be about children but it is for adults, and that means we will examine this content seriously, thoughtfully and in an adult manner. Keep in mind that I may not endorse the viewpoint or behavior of the artists. I may not even like a particular artist as a person, but I’m not going to avoid a work simply because I dislike its creator or because it may disturb some people. One traditional mode of art has been to shock the populace out of complacency or an established way of looking at a subject, and childhood is no doubt at the forefront of that tradition today. In fact, the nude and/or erotic child is one of the last artistic taboos still standing in the postmodern world. There may or may not be good reasons for that, but that is no reason to pretend like these phenomena do not exist, nor to give into a simplistic or politically correct rationale for censorship. Adding to that, while I took the media to task for dwelling obsessively on the dangers of childhood, I won’t altogether avoid this side of things, as I would be just as guilty of distorting reality as they did.
At any rate, the preponderance of artworks focusing on children are not dark and edgy, and so most of what you’ll encounter here are rather straightforward if exemplary representations of little girls in neutral settings, not much different from the kind of thing you’ll find hanging in many people’s homes all over the world. There does seem to be a phenomenon within modern art, lowbrow art in particular, of girls being subjected to surrealistic bodily distortions, violence, bizarre/menacing events and erotic undertones. Often you’ll find these elements all together. What this may mean within the larger context of society’s extant moral panic over children is worth looking into, and in time we shall do so. For now it’s best to keep in mind that the foremost function of art in most people’s minds is as decoration, and so the majority of what we encounter was meant in that spirit and will be no more provocative than one’s own family photos.
Now, let me take this opportunity to welcome you to my blog. I hope you find it enjoyable, thought-provoking and informative!
With exception to those images which are in the public domain, all copyrights belong to the respective owners and/or creators of these images, which are used solely for the purposes of publicizing and art criticism under fair use laws. In the event that permission could not be attained beforehand to post images that are your property and you would like them removed, email me to request removal and it will be done promptly. Please understand that we are not out to infringe on your rights. In fact, our aim is, generally speaking, to promote and bring attention to your work. Thanks! – Pip
The Blog’s Purpose – Pip and I have good synergy; we have much common ground, but our differences also complement each other. It is our wish that this collaboration will result in the sum being greater than its parts and that our readers will appreciate the results. Observant visitors to our site will notice that we have three important objectives: education, preservation and quality. Although we feature a lot of art, the blog is really about the portrayal of girls, and we may sometimes illustrate that with more mundane or commercial imagery.
Education – There are two kinds of education taking place:
1) Presenting rare or obscure material that one would not know about otherwise.
2) Elucidating the history and psychology of the pieces and artists to bring out the humanity of the work.
Regular visitors to this site realize that it is perfectly natural for men and women to gain aesthetic pleasure from attractive images of little girls and that a fair segment of the human population is capable of such appreciation. There are some complex political reasons for denying this reality in current western society, but, like most truths, they cannot be suppressed indefinitely. Today, those who pay particular attention to young girls tend to be part of a counterculture. Though such evolving cultures bring a fresh perspective on issues, they have the disadvantage of appearing unprofessional or unsophisticated because there is a smaller talent base to draw upon. That is one of the ways I hope to contribute to the exploration of this genre, and I will be writing occasional essays with a scholarly agenda in mind. The usual rhetoric is not up to the task, and though there is no way to force our detractors to listen, we can at least make sure that people have access to the more lucid and valid arguments in the debate.
Preservation – Because this material can be fairly unknown or controversial, when a collector or artist dies the beneficiaries may be so scandalized by the material, or may not know what they have, that they destroy it out of ignorance. Photography in particular is processed with sensitive chemicals and printed on some kind of paper which is far from indestructible. Reproduction of art can at least preserve parts of our cultural heritage that some would like to deny.
Quality – When I was invited to serve as editor of this site, Pip emphasized a certain standard of quality, but image quality is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, if the typical web surfer is going to be exposed to a decent range of art, it makes sense for the images to give a clear picture (a little harder with sculpture). On the other hand, we feature some living artists trying to sell their work, and there is the concern of copyright infringement and showing disrespect to the artist. Pip has found an ideal compromise by posting images of good quality so everyone can adequately appreciate it and prospective collectors may know what they are buying, but not of such fine resolution that people can use our images for high-quality reproductions. We also do not post a comprehensive list of the works of an artist so that collectors will still have something to discover on their own.
This blog started as the vision of one artist, Pip Starr. It is his baby and I have to give him credit for inviting someone like me to share this project; it has been a real blessing. He must have realized the need for something like this, but perhaps not how much. As the positive response mounted, I think he recognized that, to serve the readers properly, it was important to have a different voice but one that wouldn’t compromise his original vision. Also, establishing Pigtails 2.0 almost from scratch means that we can take what we learned in the previous incarnation and establish a better design. As you read our posts, you may begin to distinguish between our attitudes, styles and approaches to the subject.
I acknowledge the awesome task of digging out relevant work (especially photography in my case) and I am more inclined to solicit the contributions of others. Therefore, if you have input particularly relevant to me and this site, I have a separate email account you can use to reach me. The difficulty is, I cannot just hire a secretary and ask him/her to do this kind of research, so for anyone willing to contribute leads, corrections or some other effort for this site, I would be delighted to serve as a coordinator to see that your contribution enriches the site without compromising its intent.
Whenever possible, I try to present work that has historical or artistic relevance, but sometimes I will follow my own artistic impulses and just do something fun. These images are part of our culture and part of our history and must be respected as much as any other part. We, as a society, are far from understanding the vagaries of the universe, and it is presumptuous to assume that we know what is proper, despite pundits who would have us believe otherwise. – Ron