August von Pettenkofen

The Austrian painter August von Pettenkofen was born in Vienna on May 10, 1822. In 1834, giving up a military career, he entered the Academy of Fine Arts, where he studied with Leopold Kupelwieser and Franz Eybl. During the Revolutions of 1848, he became a military painter and, while performing his duties, he spent some time in Szolnok, Hungary. This influenced his art, as many of his paintings and drawings depict the uneventful life of Hungarian peasants and gypsies, sometimes with a touch of melancholy. He was admitted as a member of the Vienna Academy in 1866 and, became in 1872 an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. He died at the “Sanatorium Loew” in Vienna on March 21, 1889.

I present here three of his works. The first one, in the Hermitage Museum, is famous and typical of his depiction of Gypsies, emphasising their poverty.

August von Pettenkofen – Gypsy children (1855)

The next one shows strikingly the squalor of their living conditions.

August von Pettenkofen – A gypsy girl seeking lice (1854)

The third one, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, with its intimate subject, departs from his usual depiction of rural life. I could not find the year of its making.

August von Pettenkofen – Study of a Nude Young Girl

Many works by von Pettenkofen can be seen on Wikimedia Commons.

The Little Lowbrow Girl: Arwassa

I have been meaning to do this series for years, but after I “retired” from Pigtails and then returned, I had already forgotten about it. A recent conversation with Ron spurred my memory, however, and so I will do it now, starting with Yolanda Pérez Villanueva, a.k.a. Arwassa.

Before I get into Arwassa’s bio, I want to explain a bit about what lowbrow art is.  The lowbrow or pop surrealism movement began in California among the surfer and hot rod culture and was aimed squarely at that culture; it’s therefore considered a populist art movement, unlike movements such as abstract expressionism and the like, which are often regarded (correctly or incorrectly) as elitist. The art is characterized by the juxtaposition of “fine art” concepts or styles with kitsch, comics—especially underground comix—cartoons and other pop cultural ephemera, often in bizarre or humorous ways.  More recently, Japanese culture and anime-style art have made their way into the movement.  The founding father of lowbrow is usually considered to be Robert Williams, who facetiously adopted the title The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams for his first book of collected art, in response to the fact that at the time no major galleries or museums would display his art, considering it trashy and tasteless.  The name stuck and became associated with the movement as a whole, even though Williams himself has since rejected it in application to his own work.  (If Williams is the movement’s father, then its godfather is surely Ed “Big Daddy” Roth, famous for his Kustom Kulture art and especially for the character Rat Fink.)

In my twenty-something years of collecting and studying art, I tend to notice recurring themes and subjects in particular movements.  Though Williams himself was never much interested in the subject, one thing I’ve noticed about lowbrow art is the constant presence of little girls in it.  But here’s the thing: in these images little girls are almost always subverted or perverted in some way, especially by another prominent example of the movement, Mark Ryden.  My hunch is that this was/is a psycho-social reaction to an increasing cultural awareness of the sexuality of children, particularly the young girl.  In that respect, it is no accident that Ryden has become by far the most famous member of the lowbrow/pop surrealist subculture.  We’ll get to Ryden specifically in another post.  Meanwhile, let’s examine the work of Arwassa, who is not directly involved in the movement but whose style fits pretty comfortably within it.

Yolanda Pérez was born in Valencia, Spain in 1981 and took to art at a young age, eventually graduating from Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Carlos de Valencia with a degree in Fine Arts. She specializes in vector art and illustration, as well as sculpture, and she occasionally writes stories in addition to creating visual art, with her main subject being the modern young girl in all her emotional, psychological and cultural complexity. I could say more here, but I’ll let her website explain:

She has always been fascinated by the creation of complex and conflicting characters. Her girls are a mix of little funny girls and dangerous tyrants governing in a liquid and dreamlike world. Nobody could guess if they are benevolent or evil beings. As if they were gods, seduce, play and devour all with impunity.

Actually, this sort of contradictory dichotomy pretty well describes most of the little girls depicted in the lowbrow or pop surrealist style. So what is behind this complex interpretation of the young girl? I see it as a modern incarnation of the virgin/whore dichotomy that was applied to women in Symbolist art.  Symbolism addressed a variety of topics relevant to western culture at the time; the ambivalent view of women and the growing awareness of their inner lives in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was only one of them, but it was an important one. Likewise, lowbrow art’s confrontation with the modern fear and ambivalence toward a burgeoning awareness of children’s, particularly young girls’, inner life including their proto-sexuality, is, I think, an overlooked but crucial dimension to understanding what is happening here. And as with the Symbolist movement, there tends to be recurring concepts or symbols both within the individual artist’s oeuvre and within the movement as a whole.

One of the most common elements in Arwassa’s work is water. Her girls, particularly the fiendish sharp-toothed ones, usually dwell in shallow murky waters. This is a metaphor for the unconscious mind and its nebulous and sometimes sinister motivations, or at least our perception of them as such. It’s no accident that Arwassa’s girls generally have their lower halves submerged while their upper halves merrily bob on the surface. We are firmly in Freudian territory here, or its pop equivalent.

In the second of these two images, her hair transforms into tentacles once they fall below the waterline and then reemerge to torment the little ship. The kraken as little girl: now that’s an original take on the sea monster! A thoroughly modern one. Medieval man, for example, barely registered the existence of little girls, much less envisioned them as any sort of threat to their masculinity or to the larger social order. Not so today. These tiny femme fatales are now outsized monsters to some. It is reasonable to ascertain that Arwassa’s work is merely a record of this state of affairs rather than an endorsement of it, but I could certainly be mistaken.

The jewelry, gold chains, blue teeth, facial “tattoos” and neck braces add a fetishistic element to these girls, giving them some edgy personality.

Arwassa – Glamour

Arwassa – On the Surface

These weird purple fruits pop up in several of Arwassa’s images. Fruit suggests fecundity (‘fruitfulness’ is an apt synonym), prosperity and, in the case of a certain biblical fruit—usually depicted as an apple but more likely intended to be a pomegranate—temptation.The fruits are growing in a swamp: what we have here is a peculiar sort of temptation fed by the dim, possibly dangerous waters of the deep unconscious. Not a bad way of summarizing modern society’s dread of children’s sexuality. Unwanted desires may arise from our unconscious minds despite our best efforts—that’s the horror of child nudity for many people, the fear that simply seeing a child’s naked body might trigger unwanted desires in them.

In the image below, the fruits literally take the place of the demonic little temptress’s still nonexistent breasts. The title is as much a reference to the girl as it is to the actual fruits. The butterfly “pins” in her hair, which could almost be real butterflies, root her even more in weird organicness. She is a phenomenon of nature, barely removed from her innate wildness and therefore dangerous to the status quo.

Arwassa – Fruit

Arwassa – Summertime

Of course, Arwassa does not shy away from showing us the young girl’s nude body, although she stops short of depicting their full femininity, choosing a doll-like smoothness instead. This is not uncommon. Indeed, in many cases the artist (consciously or unconsciously) plays into their own discomfort and depicts the children as actual dolls. Trevor Brown has done this. So has Mark Ryden, and many others. Arwassa could easily have gotten around this by simply giving these girls fish tails, but she chose to redefine the concept of mermaid here, which is telling. Her only real concession to the traditional mermaid then is that the girls are devoid of human genitalia.

Arwassa – Mermaids

Snails are an oft recurring symbol in Arwassa’s work. Snails can symbolize a number of things depending on the culture: carrying ones’s home on his back (essentially, being resourceful and content wherever one is), patience, bridging the physical and spiritual worlds (because snails can live on land or in water), even the overarching cycle of time and existence. The Christian tradition tends to view the humble snail as a symbol of sloth and laziness—unfairly so, since the snail is not slow by choice but rather by design. Many Medieval illuminated manuscripts mysteriously feature a knight doing battle with a snail. To me the snails in Arwassa’s art represent things of inherent disgustingness, and thus an attempt to tag little girls as inherently disgusting themselves. Notice how these girls treat snails like pets, as if they have a certain intimacy with creepiness. It’s pure projection, of course.

I believe too that these critters are intended to be envoys from the depths of ourselves, not so much bridging Heaven and Earth as bridging the conscious and unconscious realms. Snails are an unholy marriage between the sacred and the disturbing. That’s not far from how modern society views children on the whole. Kids are often fascinated by snails, many of them not even minding the slimy trail the snails leave behind on their skin as they move. I’ve been around enough children to know that they consistently disprove the traditionalist belief that there exists some fundamental rightness and wrongness about reality itself, and that kids are somehow plugged into it.

Arwassa – Snail Queen

Arwassa – Seashell

But snails aren’t the only animals that little girls react to in Arwassa’s art. Fish and other sea dwellers also appear with some regularity. Unlike snails, who are equally at home on land and in water, fish are strictly creatures of the deep. Fish of course have scads of meaning in Christian semiotics, but I doubt any of that is relevant here. Fish are not only sub-aqueous, they are also slippery, slimy and unpleasant to touch. In the following image our girl encounters an anglerfish, one of the most mysterious and deepest dwelling of all fish, and one of the most intimidating. What does it mean that the fish has a treasure chest in its mouth? I suspect the answer to that is rather too obvious. You don’t need to consider anything as crude as vagina dentata to see the dangers both metaphorical and real in “sexualizing” young girls—which is to say, recognizing them as sexual beings—but I guess it helps.

Arwassa – Treasure

Arwassa – The River Maiden

For our purposes here we are going to consider whales as honorary fish, though in reality they are mammals and must breathe air. Arwassa confuses the matter by depicting the whales as being the size of fish, or more likely, the girl as being whale-sized. More fetishistic jewelry and tattoos as well.

Arwassa – Whales

Fish may be friends to Arwassa’s girls, but they can also be lunch. Even pet goldfish may not be spared. Again, the wildness and unpredictability of the girls is in evidence. They may look cute and harmless, but their conscience isn’t fully formed yet. This illustration of Arwassa’s more than any other keys into Japanese manga and anime, where the little kawaii girl is queen . . . and occasional temptress.

Arwassa – Kawaii Love Fish

She kisses the serpent, which we know to be the animal that led to the Fall of Man, sealing their wedlock. But what if the serpent is simply a part of her? What if the devil that makes little girls do things they shouldn’t—like being too attractive to adults—is a mere toy girls play with sometimes without fully understanding what it is they’re playing with?

Arwassa – Married with the Snake

Rainbows are ordinarily symbols of peace, prosperity, progress and in the modern political context, sexual diversity. It gets processed into sweet treats for Arwassa’s water-loving girls. So in the end these little cat mask-wearing predators make mincemeat of modern values that seem absolute on their surface but begin to melt around the edges under the light of scrutiny. And under the tongues of the naive.

Arwassa – Juice

Arwassa – Popsicle

I especially like this next one. She is very Alice-like in her blue dress and long blonde hair. She could almost be standing in the pool of tears, devouring a cupcake that says “Eat Me.”

Arwassa – Cupcake

For Arwassa’s girls, rainbows, once gorged upon, can be vomited up again to add a little color to one’s surroundings. At first this girl appears to be an angel, but look closer. Her angel wings are borrowed. The problem with children is that they can easily be perceived the wrong way, especially in a provocative context or state (like being nude). We encounter that here at Pigtails quite regularly, don’t we?

Arwassa – (Title Unknown)

A day at the fair for these little girls is not what you’d think it be. The girls frolicking without  clothes in their own damp, dismal homes is one thing, but going to the fair? That’s a whole new threat level. Public nudity is not something most people can handle without being triggered, even when the nudies are just children. But not only are they naked, their choice of snacks reveal them to be wild carnivorous creatures: another goldfish (newly won) and raw meat. Even the girl feasting on a normal treat to be found at fairs, a caramel apple, she has stuck to the top of her head and sucking the sticky goo out of her own hair like some kind of monkey.

Arwassa – A Day at the Fair

Finally, in Arwassa’s take on Little Red Riding Hood, the child with the famous blood-hued fashion accessory, far from being afraid of the devious and hungry wolf, embraces it! I’ve seen several images, mostly humorous, where Red violently murders the wolf. I have never seen one where she was the wolf’s friend. That says much about girls in Arwassa’s world.

Arwassa – Little Red Riding Hood

Maiden Voyages: July 2018

After my return from visiting an artist friend in the UK, I had intended to share a number of interesting and relevant details, but alas, my hours are limited and I have not gotten to it yet. I want to do it properly as there is a lot to cover so you can expect to hear the details in the next couple of weeks—after completing the Brian Partridge post.

The first item here is a last minute addition. Robert Nelson, husband of Poli Papapetrou, suddenly replied to an inquiry I made in April.

Legacy of a Deserving Artist: As mentioned before, my first artist friend, Polixeni Papapetrou passed away this April leaving a number of bereaved family, friends and fans leaving a few questions up in the air. Her husband Robert has just graciously replied to some specific questions I had of particular interest to her adoring friends and fans. First of all, Poli’s website will be maintained indefinitely. At first glance, I had thought there was no accompanying text to her latest installation ‘My heart’ which is to be found here. During the memorial service held on April 17th, Robert read this poem at Poli’s graveside.  He also wrote three dedications to Poli which can be  found here. A book dedicated to the artist is indeed being produced by Thames & Hudson but there is no news on a release date as yet. A while back, Poli was kind enough to share a copy of her doctoral dissertation, A studio investigation into the theatricality and performative aspects of the child subject in photography. I had thought to have it published here but I am told it is already available online from the Monash University Library. Thank you again Robert for updating us on the latest developments.

The Problems of a Federal System: Coincidences are a remarkable thing. Upon returning to the US, I got a stark illustration of the differences between a monarchy and a federated republic. The Alabama authorities conducted a raid of Chris Madaio’s apartment. If this were an FBI raid, there would be nothing to be concerned about: a couple of computers and a portable drive containing his own legitimate work. The problem in this case is that Alabama law has a stricter interpretation of child pornography which includes non-suggestive photos to topless children (some of which have been published on Pigtails). With luck, this will simply be seen as a misunderstanding; but if not, this demonstrates a vindictive desire to continually punish people despite good faith efforts at rehabilitation. This kind of variation is not seen in the UK where Her Majesty’s law is the law of the land and cannot be made looser or more strict by the individual counties.

Part of a Proper Education? Here’s something you don’t see anymore. Apart from the general neglect of education in the West, people’s priorities have really changed. We no longer concern ourselves with children’s posture. This is a mixed blessing because it is now generally believed that the mental functions are most important; but if correcting our posture helps prevent bona fide health problems in the future, why not do it? Whatever your views on the subject, take a look at this charming 1920s video where children demonstrate many of the proposed corrective exercises.

More Modeling News: This month’s installment is a blog featuring articles about the issue of children photographed in the nude. Many of these topics have been discussed here before and the blog’s emphasis seems to be on anecdotes about law enforcement and the current debate on legality in the US.

Sigmund Walter Hampel

Sigmund Walter Hampel – Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Ulrike Hampel, aged 4 (c.1908)

The painter Sigmund Walter Hampel was born on July 17, 1867 in Vienna. Between 1885 and 1888 he studied at the Academy of Fine Arts (Akademie der bildenden Künste) in Vienna with Heinrich von Angeli, August Eisenmenger and Siegmund L’Allemand, but he rebelled against their teaching methods and was expelled. He became thus a self-taught artist, studying old masters and observing nature. He was one of the co-founders of the Hagengesellschaft, and in 1900 he joined the Hagenbund, which emerged from it. In 1911 he became a member of the Künstlerhaus, which held a major exhibition of his works in 1919.

He shared with his friend and contemporary Gustav Klimt his love for Lake Attersee in Upper Austria, and he usually spent his vacation in Nußdorf am Attersee. In 1938 he appeared in the Künstlerhaus before the public for the last time, then retired in Nußdorf am Attersee; in 1942 he settled in the Villa Ransonnet and died there on January 17, 1949.

Hampel’s painting style represents a bridge between symbolism and Art Nouveau. He rarely composed oil paintings, and his special watercolour tempera technique was widely recognised. He showed a high technical ability, for instance in his flickering “gold bronze drawings”, and a delicate sense of colour, as can be seen in his famous work The dreamer.

The above painting was auctioned at Christie’s. I show here three other of his works, downloaded from artnet. The first is a pencil drawing with watercolour; the last two are oil paintings.

Sigmund Walter Hampel – A young shepherdess

Sigmund Walter Hampel – A girl reading (1913)

Sigmund Walter Hampel – Jeune fille au papillon (young girl with butterfly) (1922)

More information about this artist is available in German on AtterWiki.

Backlash from a Starving Spirit

Now that I have returned from my trip to the UK, it is time to get back to work. In the next month, I intend to share many details regarding my visits and what that means for the future of Pigtails in Paint. As an appetizer, I begin with this short post: a painting by Graham Ovenden. Ovenden has always had an impish love of satire recently enhanced by his experiences in prison. His stories, poems and paintings are peppered with such references. Unlike some artists who may have gone over the line in their enthusiasm for capturing the spirit of the young girl, Ovenden is truly a victim of unfortunate circumstances making him a needless object of persecution. Although he is now a free man, he understands the need to fight injustice and is determined to have his criminal record expunged. It is a much overdue warning to authorities about the hazards of overzealous prosecution and the media’s lazy and thoughtless propagation of unfounded rumors. The painting below targets the media.

Graham Ovenden – The Media Play Thing (2000)

The girl is holding an amulet bearing the insignia of two of the offending media outlets: The Sun and The Daily Mail. The symbolism of the white feather is taken from the 1955 film White Feather about intrigue during a treaty negotiation between Native Americans and U.S. soldiers. In the course of the story, one of the natives throws down a knife with a white feather attached signifying the declaration of hostilities. It was also meant to imply that the soldiers have conducted themselves with cowardice. Ovenden is making a similar accusation and if he were making this painting today, the amulet would certainly have included a few more charms. Although the offending media have been formally notified of a pending lawsuit, so far none have responded or attempted to remedy their journalistic sloth. In an age where the police, prosecutors, judges and now the media increasingly work together, there is little chance of justice for those falsely accused. This sort of corruption needs to be mitigated and measures taken to keep these respective institutions’ activities separate to prevent unjust conflicts of interest. Since healthy little girls often do have very thin features, it may not be clear to the viewer that the girl pictured here is emaciated by her interaction with the media. And thus, her life-giving spirit has been and is being starved.

This nature of the media is illustrated beautifully in a BBC political comedy from the 1980s called Yes, Prime Minister. Its rather cynical but astute observations about the operations of government is quite revealing and demonstrates the producers’ expertise. This excerpt comes from ‘A Conflict of Interest’ which first aired in 1986:

Cabinet Secretary Abbleby: … the only way to understand the press is to remember that they pander to their readers’ prejudices.
Prime Minister Hacker: Don’t tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers.
The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country.
The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country.
The Times is read by people who actually do run the country.
The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.
Financial Times is read by people who own the country.
The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country.
And The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Appleby: And Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Bernard (Private Secretary to the PM): Sun readers don’t care who runs the country as long as she’s got big tits!

A Little Sketch by René Iché

There’s already a post at Pigtails on French artist René Iché, who was primarily known for his sculptural work. But I had to share this lovely little sketch, which appears to be unfinished. I myself have lots of these sorts of unfinished sketches lying around in my studio, just quick studies that aren’t intended to amount to anything and were mainly done just to get my creative juices flowing. I suspect this was something similar, a nice quick look into the artist’s process.

René Iché – Étude d’une fillette nue [1931]

Maiden Voyages: June 2018

As usual, a few interesting things pile up each month in my in-box. I am taking another research trip to the UK this year and so I would like to advise readers that I will not be available to respond to emails and comments to posts until I return on the 18th. I know I have been acting mysteriously about these trips, but this time I plan to come back with specifics about what this means for the long term of Pigtails. I know Pip and Christian will do their usual good job of keeping the home fires burning.

A Turn of Phrase: I got an unusual email this month from a reader who simply sent a link with little explanatory information. It was a video of 11-year-old pianist Alexandra Dovgan (Александра Довгань) during a 2018 competition. It has been a long time since I just sat and listened to music. The title of the email was simply “Beauty” and a follow up message revealed that the reader did not know much English and could not say much. He said it was Pigtails’ motto “A Girl is Innocence…” that was the impetus for his submission and “Beauty” had a special double meaning for him. Perhaps it is unfair to single out this girl for attention, but I think music aficionados who view this video will agree that Dovgan is a talented and disciplined performer.

Nudity in Commercials: An associate sent me a links to a couple of advertisements in Portuguese and another was kind enough to translate what was being said. Both are remarkable in their seemingly mundane use of nudity. The logic is that they promote products for healthy living and showing healthy bodies drives home the point. The first is a 1987 ad for a probiotic yogurt. The little girl is explaining that Mommy has been taking care of her since she was a baby and now they eat this yogurt together. A second commercial  from 1979 is for a corn-based margarine (Mila Margarina) that keeps you “healthy and strong”; there are a number of similar ads on YouTube for this product as well. I was told that Brazilians generally have a healthy body image and women and girls of all ages can be seen in thongs at the beach. Nowadays little girls are required to wear their tops at public beaches, but it’s still common at private swimming pools for them to be topless.

On Becoming a Model: One of our readers sent a number of links to articles about the world of child modeling and sometimes discussing the issue of nudity. This month’s installment is some advice about how to encourage children interested in performing without pushing them into something they are not interested in.

Eternal Stigmatization: This is a little off-topic for Pigtails but this story has an interesting twist. We have covered news items dealing with issues of decency and legality when exhibiting pictures of children. The artist in question is painter Bruce Habowski who had three of his works removed from a University of Southern Maine exhibit. the paintings were removed by order of the USM president over the curator’s objections after receiving a complaint/tip from a member of the public. In this case the removal was based solely on the artist’s record, not the content of his work; in fact, his work does not depict people at all but was part of an exhibit about Maine’s industrial landscape.

Michèle Baron

Two years ago, I presented two artists selling their work through Carré d’artistes, Alexandre Lamotte and Delphine Blais, of whom I had bought some paintings. In fact, at that time I had bought works from from two more artists, so—better late than never—today I shortly present one of them.

Born in 1952 in Tunisia, Michèle Baron moved to France at age 8. She attendend drawing, painting and sculpture classes at the School of Fine Arts in Lyon and then trained as a stylist at the Duperre School of Applied Arts in Paris; she also learned carpet making in Morocco for two years. She has worked as a graphic designer in textile design, silk painting and hand painting, then for 20 years in children’s publishing. Her colourful paintings often show women and girls, with their bodies in motion, full of life and energy.

More information about her life and works can be found on her webpage at Carré d’artistes. I give here a photograph of a small 13cm × 13cm acrylic painting by her, whose French title translates as “The pail, the yellow oilskin and the watering can”:

Michèle Baron – Le seau, le ciré jaune et l’arrosoir (c2016)

Finally I show a picture of the artist at work, from the information leaflet about her made by Carré d’artistes:

(Unknown photographer) – Michèle Baron at work

Microscopic Theaters of Dichotomy: The Collage Art of Ashkan Honarvar

The title of this article, Microcosmic Theaters of Dichotomy, comes from the Statement page of Norwegian collage artist Ashkan Honarvar‘s website:

Ashkan Honarvar´s collages present the human body at the center of microcosmic theaters of dichotomy in which irrationality permeates logic, serenity belies violence, and luxury secretes exploitation. Tragically vulnerable to injury yet resilient in its ability to heal, the body itself is a living paradox: its vitality can be beautiful; its deformation, grotesque.

That’s as good a description as any for the often contradictory nature of Honarvar’s work, wherein one can find paradoxical juxtapositions as a matter of course: babies and flowers next to images of war casualties, deformed and diseased flesh elevated to both holy relics and confectionery delights, cheap pornography in the most luxurious surroundings. Perhaps this paradox arises in part from Honarvar’s own history and sense of identity. Born in Shiraz, Iran in 1980, as a child his family moved to Utrecht, Netherlands, and then later to Norway—what an incredible culture shock that must have been for young Honarvar, going from one of the most conservative parts of the world to one of its most liberal.

Of course, children show up frequently in his art, often nude. The symbolism cannot be overlooked here: purity and innocence violated by the artist’s despoiling black ink and unfeeling, implacable blade. This symbolism is used to great effect in the series Children, which his site describes thusly:

This project was created after studying child sexual abuse. By inscribing lines on and adding negative spaces to the actual photographs, Ashkan Honarvar has attempted to record not only the physical, but also the mental scars that stay with a victim for the rest of their lives. Each collage was based on a different case of sexual abuse.


Ashkan Honarvar – Children (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (3)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (4)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (5)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (6)

Ashkan Honarvar – Children (7)

In the series Identity Lost, Honarvar uses medical images of both humans and animals to comment on the modern world, where individual identity is frequently subsumed by social utility.

Ashkan Honarvar – Identity Lost 6 (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Identity Lost 6 (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Identity Lost 6 (3)

The Reality series demonstrates the malleability of our perceptions with respect to movies, and ultimately our environment as a whole. We tend to see what we want to see, sometimes missing vital facts and ignoring things we’d rather not think about, such is how consumption of media may be impacting children negatively.

Ashkan Honarvar – Reality (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Reality (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Reality (3)

In The Crust, one of Honarvar’s longest and most complex series—which is broken up into both subseries and phases—he looks at humanity on a much larger scale, examining our place in the universe, what makes us human, and the origins of evil. He says of it:

My work deals with the human condition and the search for the roots of evil latent in every human being. I have been working on this subject for couple of years now. Projects like Faces, Ubakagi and Children focused on specific sub-sections of this subject such as war and identity, rapists from the Congo and child abusers. One of my main goals with The Crust was to view the topic of evil on a grander scale. To dig deeper into the origins of the projects mentioned above. However different these projects may look on the surface, their core is the same. They all revolve around us, humans. To understand evil we must understand ourselves.

Of particular interest to our readers is The Crust 1, Phase 1, the very beginning of the series. It asks, how is the innocence of children first corrupted? Where are the origins of evil in us as a species?

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (3)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (4)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (5)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (6)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (7)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (8)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (9)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (10)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (11)

Ashkan Honarvar – The Crust 1 – Phase 1 (12)

These final few images I have no commentary on, save to say that they repeat some of the same themes present throughout Honarvar’s work.

Ashkan Honarvar – King of Worms – Parasite

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (1)

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (2)

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (3)

Ashkan Honarvar – Paradise Lost 5 (4)

One final point I’d like to make: despite the nudity, sexual content and violence therein, the message behind Ashkan Honarvar’s art is surprisingly conservative. After all, he didn’t create the original content that he uses to make his collages; he only repurposes it to demonstrate his ideas. As is often the case with nude child art, a mere surface reading of it completely misses the point.

Random Images: Swedish Tourism Office

Yet another contribution from one of our readers. Even today, an advertisement featuring fun at the beach would show scantily-clad, happy, beautiful people. The image is not only a throwback from a different time, but demonstrates the Swedes’ reputation for a relaxed attitude about the human body. Often overlooked is the fact that there is a perfectly pragmatic reason for leaving young children unclothed: it saves money. The clothing industry makes a fortune convincing people to buy appealing but appropriately modest swimwear for their toddlers and children just to replace them the next year.

Swedish Tourism Office Ad (c1990)