Jan Saudek

As is evident on this blog, the image of the nude young girl is an image loaded with cultural baggage and, in some cases, peril for the artist.  We view children as vulnerable anyway, but the unclothed child is seen as even more vulnerable.  But nudity—when divorced from the modern context in which it conveys sexual availability—also can call to mind spiritual innocence, especially when the nude figure is a child.  This is precisely why the child nude was such a popular art subject with the Victorians; they saw each individual as the microcosm of the whole of humanity itself, and children were therefore a representation of pre-Fall Adam and Eve, the earliest incarnation of Man, an idyllic period of time before humans fell out of God’s good graces and became sinners in need of redemption.  With the waning of Christianity in the West the nude child has come to be seen differently, and, ironically, it is the Christians who now most often look upon the nude child as something shameful and sinister.

Under our knowing postmodern gaze, it is with mixed emotions that we look upon images of nude children which subvert this paradigm . . . exactly the point of the image below, taken by the masterful one-of-a-kind Czech photographer Jan Saudek.  Here we have perhaps the ultimate example of the subversion of said paradigm: a nude little girl (young girls being traditionally viewed as even more vulnerable and innocent than young boys) firmly gripping an instrument of pure destruction, a Parabellum pistol, and confidently pointing it straight ahead of her at some unseen target off-camera.  Moreover, the Parabellum is not just any pistol–it is well-known for its use throughout WWI and WWII by German officers, giving it particularly dark and political connotations.*  In fact, much of Saudek’s work has subtle political inferences in it, and he worked largely in secret during his early years to avoid being caught and his work seized by the Communist secret police.

The contrast is fascinating and, it must be said, gives the young girl (who looks something like a living baby doll in that ridiculously bright blond, outsized wig) a power she would not otherwise convey.  We do notice, however, that her finger is not on the trigger, probably because her hand is simply too small, her finger too short to reach it.  Her face is barely visible behind a stray lock of that crazy hair, adding an extra dimension of tension to the image.  What is she thinking, we wonder.  Does she know what she’s doing?

jan-saudek-parabellum-9mm1

Jan Saudek – Parabellum 9mm (1983)

Jan Saudek (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Jan Saudek

* Saudek is of Jewish origin and many of his relatives perished in the concentration camps. He and his twin brother (when they were children) and father were also sent to the camps late in the war, and they all survived. Saudek’s brother, Kája is now a famous artist in his own right, one of the preeminent comic book artists in Europe and the most notable one in his home country, the Czech Republic.

Eye on Alice: Alice-Themed Album Covers

There is literally enough Alice in Wonderland and Alice-related items to fill an entire blog or website in itself, and I’ve even happened upon a few.  So it should come as no surprise to anyone that there are several album covers that feature either direct or indirect nods to Lewis Carroll’s heroine and the fantastic world she found herself in.  Here are the ones I could find online, and no doubt there are many that I’ve missed.  Frequently these are rather dark, though not always.

Annihilator is, as you might expect, a heavy metal band, and they have had more than one reference to Alice both on their album covers and in their lyrics; and these definitely fall on the dark end of the spectrum.  And the young lady on the cover of the first one looks a bit like Kirsten Dunst in Interview with the Vampire, doesn’t she?

annihilator-alice-in-hell-cover

Annihilator – Alice in Hell (cover)

This one manages to reference both Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan:

Annihilator – Never, Neverland (cover)

Annihilator – Never, Neverland (cover)

Wikipedia: Annihilator

Buck-Tick is a weird Japanese band (I know, I know, that’s almost redundant) and apparently their song “Alice in Wonder Underground” was released as a single.  It has a music video which also plays with Alice symbolism, and some images which technically aren’t cover art (at least, I don’t think so) but are associated with the single somehow.  If I could read Japanese I’d be able to find out for sure.

Buck-Tick – Alice in Wonder Underground (1)

Buck-Tick – Alice in Wonder Underground (1)

Buck-Tick – Alice in Wonder Underground (2)

Buck-Tick – Alice in Wonder Underground (2)

Buck-Tick (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Buck-Tick

The following album by the jazz band David Hazeltine Trio is called Alice in Wonderland, though the cover references the story only vaguely and obliquely.  The nude female on the cover, seen from the back, is probably an adult, but the size and style of her hair makes it difficult to judge her age, so the cover is going up here.  I rather like the image anyway.

Edit: I have since discovered that this is a Jan Saudek photo.

Jan Saudek - David Hazeltine Trio – Alice in Wonderland (cover) (1)

Jan Saudek – David Hazeltine Trio – Alice in Wonderland (cover) (1)

David Hazeltine Trio – Alice in Wonderland (cover) (2)

Jan Saudek – David Hazeltine Trio – Alice in Wonderland (cover) (2)

John Entwistle started out as the bassist for The Who, but he also released several solo albums, including arguably his best one, Whistle Rhymes.  Among the musicians who contributed to the album was the then-relatively unknown Peter Frampton.  The album’s cover art without a doubt draws on Alice in Wonderland: a little girl in Victorian dress is seen wandering through woods inhabited by anthropomorphic animals, most of which show up in the Alice books (mice, hedgehogs, and a turtle.)

John Entwistle – Whistle Rhymes (cover)

John Entwistle – Whistle Rhymes (cover)

The John Entwistle Foundation

Wikipedia: John Entwistle

Nolwenn Leroy – Le Cheshire Cat & Moi (cover)

Nolwenn Leroy – Le Cheshire Cat & Moi (cover)

Nolwenn Leroy – Bretonne (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Nolwenn Leroy

Here’s another one with a dark theme. Paice, Ashton & Lord consisted of two former members of Deep Purple—Ian Paice and Jon Lord—Tony Ashton, Paul Martinez and Bernie Marsden. Malice in Wonderland was their only studio album.  This image is in fact from a Graham Ovenden-illustrated version of Alice.

Graham Ovenden – Paice Ashton Lord – Malice in Wonderland (cover)

Graham Ovenden – Paice Ashton Lord – Malice in Wonderland (cover)

The image for the above cover is from one of Graham Ovenden’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1969/70).  The image was published in his monograph published by Academy Editions in 1987. -Ron

Wikipedia: Graham Ovenden

Wikipedia: Paice, Ashton & Lord

I know very little about Randy Greif or this album, other than that it was considered quite tedious and pretentious by the author of the single review of it I read; take that for whatever it’s worth. The cover has little to do with the original source material, but it does have an image of a young girl on it.

Randy Greif – Alice in Wonderland (cover)

Randy Greif – Alice in Wonderland (cover)

Wikipedia: Randy Greif

Finally we get to a band I really love—Screaming Trees! Not only is this a great grunge band, this creepy album cover was created by one of my favorite artists, Mark Ryden (we’ll see more of him here very soon, I promise.) Awesome.

Mark Ryden – Screaming Trees – Uncle Anesthesia (cover)

Mark Ryden – Screaming Trees – Uncle Anesthesia (cover)

Mark Ryden (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Mark Ryden

Screaming Trees (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Screaming Trees

Goth band The Birthday Massacre has drawn heavily on the Alice in Wonderland mythos both lyrically and aesthetically. The following covers reference Alice to varying degrees.

The Birthday Massacre – Looking Glass (cover)

The Birthday Massacre – Looking Glass (cover)

The Birthday Massacre – Violet (cover)

The Birthday Massacre – Violet (cover)

The Birthday Massacre – Walking with Strangers (cover)

The Birthday Massacre – Walking with Strangers (cover)

The Birthday Massacre (Official Site)

Wikipedia: The Birthday Massacre

Finally, we have the cover for an actual audio recording of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, produced by Voices in the Wind Audio Theatre.

Voices in the Wind Audio Theatre Presents ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (cover)

Voices in the Wind Audio Theatre Presents ‘Alice in Wonderland’ (cover)

Voices in the Wind Audio Theatre

Edit: the following was included at the suggestion of a commenter and is thus a late edition to the article. – Pip

Nazareth - Malice in Wonderland (cover)

Nazareth – Malice in Wonderland (cover)

Two Covers by Jan Saudek

Jan Saudek is one of those artists whose work I disliked initially but who wound up growing on me.  At least two of his photographs have been used as album covers.  The first is featured on the cover of French black metal band Anorexia Nervosa‘s album New Obscurantis Order.  The actual photo is titled “Black Sheep and White Crow” and is without a doubt one of Saudek’s most provocative images, and that’s saying something.  It ran into controversy last year over charges of child pornography and child prostitution (a concept it certainly invokes, though invoking an idea in art is certainly not the same thing as endorsing or practicing it) and was thus removed from Ballarat International Foto Biennale. The second appeared on an album of a band that I like immensely, Soul Asylum.  The album is Grave Dancers Union, and the original piece’s title is quite a mouthful: “Fate Descends Towards the River Leading Two Innocent Children.”

anorexia-nervosa-new-obsc

Jan Saudek – Anorexia Nervosa – New Obscurantis Order

Jan Saudek - Soul Asylum - Grave Dancers Union

Jan Saudek – Soul Asylum – Grave Dancers Union

Jan Saudek - Black Sheep and White Crow (1990)

Jan Saudek – Black Sheep and White Crow (1990)

Jan Saudek - Fate Descends Towards the River Leading Two Innocent Children (1970)

Jan Saudek – Fate Descends Towards the River Leading Two Innocent Children (1970)

Jan Saudek (Official Site)

Wikipedia: Jan Saudek

Enter the Soul Asylum (Official Site)