I know this essay expresses the feeling of many fans of Pigtails in Paint. It is my hope that we can reach this artist and show her work uninhibited by harassment or censorship (along with the many photographers she refers to). Most people misunderstand the delight that can be had with this kind of beauty and have trouble comprehending that this has nothing to do with exploitation or some inappropriate desire for self-expression by young girls. -Ron
Alice in The Time of Melody by Violeta Gómez
Originally published in Spanish in La Opinion (October 27, 2001)
Some time ago, I had before my eyes the cover of a Japanese photobook where, beside the photo of a lovely Asian-featured young girl, I could see some words in English: ‘Beauty knows no border’. No border, no limits. Maybe the pictures inside were ordinary, just an irregular pseudoerotic photo collection where, from time to time, you find a precious little jewel enough to justify the book and the photographer. But the cover was a real masterpiece and the phrase stood out in red letters with the authority of a religious aphorism.
These days some people are trying to limit beauty. That scares me. I can’t understand why good, beautiful and positive things must be limited. Limits are for wickedness, misery or violence. But it seems to be on the contrary: war, is under the mask of justice, is infinite. Without limits.
At my first exhibition, some months ago, I met some young girls who laughed when they saw my works, an uneasy embarrassed laugh. They didn’t know how to react before these images of those bodies that were like theirs, like their friends’ and classmates’. They came back the next day, and this time they didn’t laugh. The enjoyment of beauty must be learned. They were beginning to learn. Until then, nobody had taught them how to face the vision of a naked body, a basic gap in their education. Now, some months later, the problem reappears. We are in front of people who are victims of an educational deficiency. Somebody refused to teach them how to enjoy that beauty comprised in that sacred gift called the body. They only learnt the secrecy about some of its uses, culturally shameful (personal hygiene, defecation…) or culturally private (sexual activity). As a fruit of that education, morbidly developed on the negative side, they reject the body, that annoying thing that disturbs them, especially when it belongs to a child. They are unable to separate the body of a person and the sexuality dwelling in (but not equal to) that body. The body is much more than sex. No sensitive and sensible viewer sees the Laocoonte, the Sistine Chapel’s frescoes or the Suckler Virgin in the Cathedral of Murcia as sexual invitations. The body and the eroticism attached to it (eros as a positive and vital energy, in opposition to the dark destructive thanatos) are a legitimate subject matter in art, because the body can’t be separated from the human self, child adult or elderly. An anthropocentric conception of the world necessarily leads to the body cult and body respect. Not only the eyes, but the whole body is a mirror for our soul, its carte-de-visite. When Dorian Gray sins, his body incarnated in the portrait fills with creases, crusts and pus.
History tells us that Sappho the poet, in the last years of her life, walked down to the beach in her island of Lesbos and placidly sat on the sand to gaze at the beautiful bodies of the young girls playing on the shore. Sumiko Kiyooka, also an old woman, went around the world with her camera in the early ’80s, photographing the lovely young girls who fill her wonderful books. She died soon after. Maybe her heart broke, unable to hold so much beauty as it had witnessed. Today, young girls keep on baring their bodies on the beaches or at their sheltering homes, and the eye of the artist is still there. My pictures are an artwork within an artwork, because the girls’ bodies are already a perfect masterpiece made by the great artist called Nature, and before that wonderful artwork my camera feels shy and clumsy. That’s the reason that no one has a right to shame those kids, bringing scandal upon them ‘Damned he who scandalises on of those little ones; he’d be better if a millstone were tied around his neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.’ We live in a world where innocence is in extinction, where everything is for trade or sale, where children grow up (they’re compelled to grow up) prematurely. Through the looking glass, Alice meets Melody. Only one of them is meant to survive. We still have a chance to choose.