Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 5

Now we are in the home stretch of the Sublimated Sexuality series (only one more post and it will be completed). If you haven’t already perused them, or you wish to review the series, you can find the other parts here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

15) Anthropomorphism of animals and objects – With respect to anthropomorphic animals, much of what was said in the animals, masks and monsters categories applies here as well, but I think this separate category is warranted, especially as it includes non-living objects. Anthropomorphism is a common characteristic of children’s media, so it’s natural that it would also occur in pop surrealist art in which children are subjects, particularly in a darkly satirical context.

There’s something a bit leering and creepy about that moon, no?

Ana Bagayan – Moon Babies

Ana Bagayan (official site)

James Jean can always by counted on to produce excellent dreamlike imagery. Anthropomorphic flowers? Where have we seen those before? Ah, yes: Alice in Wonderland. I suspect it’s no accident that that particular story is frequently referenced,  overtly or otherwise, in this work!

James Jean – Aurelians (2016)

James Jean (official site)

Food is another thing which is often anthropomorphized in this type of art, usually with some rather morbid implications. The title in this next piece is a disturbing pun. The adorable little girl might be regarded as “eye candy” in the symbolic sense, but the cupcake’s eyes are literal eye candy, and one of them is about to be eaten!

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Eye Candy

Nicoletta Ceccoli (official site)

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown)

Deidre L. Morton (Peemonster) – Eden Dream

Rabbits are a commonly anthropomorphized animal in this art. Again, could this be an allusion to Alice? This first image certainly feels quite reminiscent of Carroll’s creation. Note too the resemblance of the rabbit’s pair of pendulums to dangling cherries.

Masaru Shichinohe – (Title Unknown)

Artnet: Masaru Shichinohe

Stephen Mackey – Magic Uncle

Stephen Mackey (official site)

16) The presence of death and decay – It makes perfect sense that references to death would also appear in this work, serving as a memento mori to remind viewers that life is short and fleeting, and that there may be an eternal afterlife in which we are judged and dealt with according to how we lived our lives, so we had better not harm anyone, especially the vulnerable . . . such as children. Furthermore, death is disgusting and frightening, so its juxtaposition with children works as another example of dissuasion by association.

Hiroyuki Mano – Stone Mirror

DeviantArt: DensenManiya

Nils Karsten – Heaven in Orange

Nils Karsten (official site)

Ana Bagayan – Heaven

Timothy Cummings – Sudden Scenario

Timothy Cummings (official site)

Audrey Kawasaki – Isabelle (2006)

Audrey Kawasaki (official site)

Jackie Skrzynski – Cold Comfort (2007)

Jackie Skrzynski (official site)

Juniper trees have a fascinating association with death and misfortune. Some may recall the Brothers Grimm fairy tale The Juniper Tree, which involves the murder of a mother and her young son. In Welsh legend cutting down a juniper tree meant the feller was bound to die, and many dream interpreters believe that dreaming of juniper trees is extremely unlucky, especially for those who are ill. Modern horror author Peter Straub also penned a story called The Juniper Tree, about a young boy who is sexually abused by a stranger at a movie theater.

Cornelia Renz – The Juniper Tree (2006)

Cornelia Renz (official site)

17) Subversion of religion and the sacred – Complimenting themes of death in this work (or in some cases contrasting against or satirizing them) is the subverting of religious themes, particularly Christianity.

Generally I try to feature only one work per artist in each category, since there are so many worthy artists, but these two paintings by Amy Crehore absolutely have to be featured together as they tell an amusing/disturbing little story. While you’d think it’s the demon who is the true threat here, the second piece in the series reveals who really wields the power!

Amy Crehore – Story of Lolita, Part 1

Amy Crehore – Story of Lolita, Part 2

The Art of Amy Crehore (official site)

Scott G. Brooks – The Heavenly Virtues: Bravery (Girl with Pet Goat) (2004)

Scott G Brooks Studios (official site)

Teiji Hayama – Ekho

Asia Contemporary Art: Teiji Hayama

Stu Mead – First Communion (2004)

Stu Mead (official site)

Heidi Taillefer – Sovereign Side (2008)

Heidi Taillefer (official site)

Mike Cockrill – Nativity (2004)

Mike Cockrill (official site)

Mark Ryden does religious satire so frequently that I had a tough time narrowing it down to just one piece. Nevertheless . . .

Mark Ryden – The Angel of Meat

Mark Ryden (official site)

This next piece is both a subversion of a well-known biblical event (Abraham’s attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac) and a commentary by the artist on the nature of his own work, since dolls feature prominently in his paintings and sculptures. We will definitely see him again in the final installment of this series.

Mikel Glass – Sacrifice of Subject Matter

Mikel Glass (official site)

Jana Brike – Two Wounded Angels on the Beach

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 4

This is the fourth post in the Sublimated Sexuality series. You can view the first three posts in this series here, here and here. Let’s get started.

12) Body horror – This is another fairly broad category that covers a lot of these images, and as with several of the categories, there is a good deal of overlap with some of the other categories (for example, the monstrosity, violence and general weirdness categories). At any rate, this category covers physical deformities and mutations, sickness and disease, bruises and wounds, and what I would deem “frankensteined” people and animals—that is, beings who are something other than a full human or a full animal. Sometimes they are animal-human hybrids; other times they are biomechanical monstrosities.

Ana Bagayan – The Experiment

Ana Bagayan (Official Site)

Jackie Skrzynski – Scratch (2003)

Jackie Skrzynski (Official Site)

Jana Brike – Self Portrait with Erected Tail

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown) (1)

Cornelia Renz – A Girl Without Hands (2008)

Cornelia Renz (Official Site)

Here there is some overlap with the twins category. Yang Jing’s work often incorporates dolls, which we’ll get to in yet another category.

Yang Jing – We Did Nothing

Ravenel International Art Group: Yang Jing

The following image is perhaps the quintessential example of the thesis of this blog series. The implication in Nicoletta Ceccoli’s Dulcis Agata (Latin for Sweet Agatha) depends partly on how you read this sort of art overall. It also references the next category to be addressed in this post, the presence of food, particularly sweet treats, in these images. Ceccoli often uses cakes and candies in her images to symbolizes childhood, especially girlhood, but there is frequently a sinister undertone to these images, and that is the case here. The title references St. Agatha of Sicily, a girl from a wealthy family who, at age fifteen, refused the sexual advances of a lowborn Roman prefect and was subsequently arrested, tortured and eventually murdered. Among the punishments she supposedly enduring was the cutting off of her breasts.

Here Agatha is presented as a young girl who offers either some sort of dessert drenched in strawberry or cherry sauce, or her own severed breasts. If it is the latter, one can read it in at least two ways. The first is as a feminist allegory in which women are expected to look ever younger for men, and thus a young girl might sever her own breasts to remain child-like in presentation. The second reading is actually not far from the first, and it is that culture desexualizes young girls to keep them pure and holy, by violence if necessary.

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Dulcis Agata

Nicoletta Ceccoli (Official Site)

Cristina Vergano – Escorial, Madrid, September 1705

Cristina Vergano (Official Site)

13) The presence of food, especially sweets – Food is sometimes associated with sex, and no food more so than fruit and candy, both of which are sweet. (Refer to my Cherry Ripe! post for some insight into at least one fruit that commonly symbolizes sex or sexual development.) Sweets are also associated with children, which makes the symbolism in these images especially potent. Add in a healthy dose of satire and you have the makings of a clever commentary on the conflicted view of the young girl in modern society.

Hiroyuki Mano – The cake is a lie

DeviantArt: DensenManiya

Ceccoli’s girls generally exist in some sort of dark Candyland.

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Barbara

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Consumed by You

Scott G. Brooks – Food Chain (2009)

Scott G Brooks Studios (Official Site)

Rene Lynch – Icons – Honey Dipper (Bee Queen) (2006)

Rene Lynch (Official Site)

Mmm, tasty black soup.

Rieko Sakurai – (Title Unknown)

Artnet: Rieko Sakurai

james-jean-recess_-horse

James Jean – Recess – Horse

James Jean (Official Site)

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown) (2)

Kokomoo – (Title Unknown) (3)

14) Masks, especially animal masks – Masks are another recurring emblem in this sort of art. Much can be said about masks in art just in general, but with respect to kids, one immediately thinks of Halloween, which is associated with devils and darkness too, and that of course intersects with one of the persistent themes in these images: horror of one sort or another. If we think in terms of sublimating childhood sexuality, these images are not too dissimilar from the human-animal hybrid pieces, only the artists are perhaps more aware of the sublimation and are acknowledging it. Thus, the masks are in essence a reflection of both the artist’s neuroses with regard to children and a sly acknowledgment that there really are human children behind the false faces being offered to the viewer.

Caleb Weintraub – Ashes Ashes Splashes Splashes

Caleb Weintraub (Official Site)

Jana Brike – The Last Dancer in the World

Here Red Riding Hood becomes the wolf. Yet another clever commentary on the nature of girlhood and how it is perceived.

Nicoletta Ceccoli – My Favorite Costume

Nicoletta Ceccoli – A Girl Hides Secrets

Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art, Part 3

In the third part of our Sublimated Sexuality in Modern Surrealist Girl Art series (Parts 1 and 2 are here and here, respectively), we’re taking a look at three more identifying characteristics of this kind of art.  We’ll number them nine through eleven. Let’s get right to it.

9) The presence of creepy, exotic or overly cute animals – This element stands in contrast to more straightforward images of kids and animals together, which tend mainly to feature commonly domesticated beasts like horses and dogs.  Frequently these animals become metaphors for or pointers to, if not direct participants in, youthful sexuality.  There are a number of ways we can read this, and not all of these images are based on the same motivation, but I think it’s safe to say that the main idea here is tying child sexuality to something disgusting and inhuman.  The important takeaway, however, is that such artworks do not ultimately deny the existence of child sexuality; they simply seek to oppose it by associating it with the vulgar and off-putting parts of nature, the critters that horrify and disgust us.

Notice that the walking stick is dangling from the girl’s unusually red and fleshy lips. Subtle, no?

Ana Bagayan – Phasmida

Ana Bagayan (Official Site)

Like moths to a flame . . .

Jana Brike – I Am Your Moonlight and Flower Garden

Squarespace: Jana Brike

Take note of the serpent in the background here, very much reminiscent of a certain devious tempter in a certain garden. If the crocodile devours her vine-like tears, do they then become crocodile tears? Don’t feel sorry for this little fairy. She’s deceiving you.

Hsiao Ron Cheng – Crocodile Is Eating My Sorrow

Hsiao Ron Cheng (Official Site)

Nothing at all Freudian about this image, right?

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Incanto

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Incanto (detail)

Nicoletta Ceccoli (Official Site)

Fish and other slimy sea creatures appear often in these artworks. I propose they are both a sign of corrupted (and corrupting) femininity and a symbol of the subconscious mind, which generally manifests in this work as murky water. But we’ll get to that in time.

KuKula – The Little Tailor

KuKula (Official Site)

Melissa Haslam – Girl with Fish

Melissa Haslam (Official Site)

Nicoletta Ceccoli – Lorelei

Ana Bagayan – Undersea Moon

Even when the fluffier, cuter animals (domesticated or otherwise) do appear, often they still become unwitting tools in the child’s sexual awakening, thus undermining the myth of perfect childhood innocence.  This would be a more mature approach than the disgust-by-association method of the images above, if not for the fact that all too often the artists tend to play these as humor or satire.

Rats are another animal usually associated with disease and corruption.

Audrey Kawasaki – Ratgirl (2005)

Audrey Kawasaki (Official Site)

Lola Gil – Punchy

Lola Gil (Official Site)

Gilles Vranckx is mostly known for serious images of women in erotic poses. This little girl and her rabbit companion have a noticeably different effect than his usual work.

Gilles Vranckx – Innocence

DeviantArt: Vranckx

Cats have a longtime association with feminine sexuality, but here that association becomes satirical.

Jana Brike – Aphrodite with Kitten

Mike Cockrill – Kitten Cuddle (2006)

Mike Cockrill (Official Site)

KRK Ryden – Double Talk

KRK Ryden (Official Site)

10) General sense of unease and nonreality – This one perhaps should’ve been number one, as it really is applicable to almost all of these works, but I’m providing them in no particular order.  One thing I’ve noticed about many of these pieces is that they often juxtapose cuteness or beauty against the more somber or horrific elements, which creates a sense of unease, or cognitive dissonance, which I suspect is entirely the point.  When we think about child sexuality, cognitive dissonance can arise in the friction between unsolicited (and unwanted) sexual feelings and the feelings of guilt and shame that accompany them, or that we believe should accompany them.  This is a difficult dynamic to depict in a straightforward way, hence these various symbolic interpretations. Because this description encompasses pretty much the entirety of this artistic movement, I’m going to keep the examples to a minimum here.

There’s something reminiscent of Donnie Darko in those hanging rabbits, which, if you’ve seen the film, you’ll know has a subplot in which a prominent character is revealed near the end to be a pedophile. I’d again like to point out that many of these images feature more than one of the traits I’ve been outlining, such as the animals and the suggestions of violence in some of the following examples.

Ramis Kim – Where is the Bunnyman That I Saw Yesterday?

Flickr: Ramis Kim

Hiroyuki Mano – Mofumofu

DeviantArt: DensenManiya

Hsiao Ron Cheng – Dinosaur Is Eating My Friend

KRK Ryden – A Sunday Drive to Hell (1998)

Finally, a nice pared-down example of the sort of juxtaposition I’m talking about: this cute cartoonish little girl wouldn’t be out of place in a children’s book if not for the (I assume) menstrual blood gushing down her leg.

Cornelia Renz – Sunny Side Up

Cornelia Renz (Official Site)

11) Confusion of adult and child roles – Another recurring characteristic of this art is the placement of adults in the role of children and the placement of children in the role of adults, especially the latter.  These pieces often covertly delineate the fear many modern adults feel of being supplanted (sometimes violently) by younger generations and the dread of the physical and sexual vitality of youth. Children become powerful in these images, while adults are depicted as weak.

Caleb Weintraub – Down with Escapism

Caleb Weintraub (Official Site)

Mark Ryden – Sophia’s Mercurial Waters

Mark Ryden – Sophia’s Mercurial Waters (detail)

Mark Ryden (Official Site)

Scott G. Brooks – Little Lyndie Lou Hoo Plays Army (2005)

Scott G Brooks Studios (Official Site)

Mike Cockrill – An Artist with Flair (2008)

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)

(8) 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