A Little Girl’s Guide to Personality: Avril Podmore

Among the items in Stuart’s extensive private collection are items that were never published, but are nonetheless interesting. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to publish things like this that would ordinarily never see the light of day.

This little book of drawings was made by a little girl from the ages of 8 to 10. There were a total of 30 images in the book, but these were a few of the interesting examples sent to me. It is so touching to see a young person putting so much effort into something like this.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920--1922)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (Title Page) (1920–1922)

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (1)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (1)

It is remarkable how easily a child assimilates the stereotypes of her culture. This would be considered politically incorrect today and there is some speculation that this particular stereotype was, in part, devised to keep Black people “in their place”.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (2)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (2)

Another personality type that I’m sure many girls can relate to is this compulsively proper type. Sure, she seems to miss out on all the fun but what’s worse: she tends to grow up and make life miserable for everyone else.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (3)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (3)

And even in the dreary winter, a girl can use fantasy to make things more cheery.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (4)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (4)

If a more suitable dance partner is not available, Teddy will do.

Avril Podmoor - Drawing Book (1920--1922) (5)

Avril Podmore – Drawing Book (1920–1922) (5)

Maiden Voyages: May 2016

A Premium Postcard Collection: It is with great excitement that I announce that my friend Stuart—who has perhaps the world’s biggest collection of Edwardian postcards—has finally consented to share his collection with Pigtails readers.  It will take time to sort through and scan thousands of postcards but as they become available, I will share them here.  For starters, some new Reutlinger images have come to light and that post has been updated.  I think I can speak for all of us when I say that this generosity is greatly appreciated.

Guilt by Association: On May 9th, photographer Chris Madaio is scheduled to stand trial for charges that he violated the conditions of his parole after serving 4 years in prison for possession of child pornography (see more details on his story here).  Although Madaio does not contest the original charges, the Morgan County, Alabama authorities seem determined to find any excuse to continue to punish him.  The new charges are based on images found on a computer and some USB drives found in a storage unit with his name on it.  The unit belonged to two women, the sister and a friend of Samuel Hyde.  Hyde was a convicted sex offender whom Madaio knew for a short time while attending the same court-ordered program.  The women allowed Hyde personal use of the unit, but neither they nor Hyde have been indicted.  To complicate things further, Hyde made a statement against Madaio before dying under mysterious circumstances.  It would be difficult to speculate on the veracity of all the details of the case, but it is an excellent illustration of how the justice system prefers to grandstand on prosecutions rather than rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have been convicted.  Although Madaio has a court-appointed attorney, he is hopeful that a more trusted family lawyer will be allowed to serve as co-counsel.

No News is Bad News: An item came across my desk about a controversy regarding a GAP Kids clothing line and the portrayal of Black people.  An ad campaign featuring a performing troupe called Le PeTiT CiRqUe (more on them in a future post) included one image with a bigger girl resting her arm on a shorter Black girl.  You can read a little about it here.  With all the special interest groups involved in this issue, many people are getting on the bandwagon and making a lot of noise.  Whatever the circumstances, I would like to humbly suggest that those sincerely interested in the cause of racial justice not waste their energy on something that will accomplish nothing while giving free publicity to a major clothing company.  On the other hand, it is nice that Le PeTiT CiRqUe got a little press.

Gap Kids Ad Campaign (2016)

Gap Kids Ad Campaign (2016)

“Moral Welfare” on the Set: One of our readers, who is child modeling agent, has shared items of interest regarding the changing rules and conditions of child models and actors. For example, in the past, outtakes from films shot in the days before the internet would never see the light of day and if there was some inadvertent nudity, it was of little concern. But today, a lot of behind-the-scenes footage gets leaked and so the rules in Hollywood have become a lot stricter.  An online article shares an interesting anecdote regarding the opening scene of Disney’s Pollyanna and informs readers that now, under California law, it is studio teachers who are responsible for the moral welfare of children in their charge.

To Top or Not to Top: As many readers of this site are aware, in many countries outside the United States, it is routine for undeveloped younger girls to swim in public without bikini tops.  A mother shares an interesting story about her 7-year-old daughter’s recent trip to Spain.  It offers a little insight about a child’s body image and her ability to adapt to different cultural norms.  The editorial concludes with the mother seeking this advice: now that the girl is used to swimming without a top, how can she be persuaded to go back?

Auction News: A friend passed on this small item about Sotheby’s auctioning off a few Sally Mann photographs on May 19th.  A lot of big-name photographers are featured and the Mann images are numbered 58–61.  Speculation in art has continued to inflate prices.

Random Images: Mary Ellen Mark

A couple year ago, Pip posted an image of Christina Ricci.  At the time, he was not aware that it was a photograph by Mary Ellen Mark (1940–2015) until a reader brought it to his attention.  The image below was also in his collection and I feel it deserves attention as well.  This is timely not only because Mark passed away last year, but at the time of this writing, it was the featured image of her official website.

Mary Ellen Mark - Girl jumping over a Wall,  Central Park, New York City, 1967

Mary Ellen Mark – Girl jumping over a Wall, Central Park, New York City, 1967

Mary Ellen Mark official website

A Belated Holiday Wish

In the United States, yesterday was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, celebrating the life of the civil rights leader.  A colleague found this charming photo of Reverend King with 6-year-old Robin Arrington, the daughter of SCLC attorney Henry Arrington.

AP (Beaumont) - Martin Luther King Jr. & 6-year-old Robin Arrington (1966)

AP (Beaumont) – Martin Luther King Jr. & 6-year-old Robin Arrington (1966)

Decades after the events, there is a tendency to mythologize the man and his accomplishments, but King was acutely aware of the deep economic basis of inequality and poverty in the U.S.  Most modern accounts tend to downplay or outright ignore this fact and prefer to paint this campaign as strictly a racial one.  And thus, race is still used today to distort our understanding of the Civil Rights Movement and the motivations of this reluctant yet determined leader.

In my humble opinion, an excellent account of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life would be Bearing the Cross : Martin Luther King, Jr. , and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (Revised, 2004).  It’s a shame, and perhaps not surprising, that this book does not seem to rank high in popularity.

Makes One Cringe

While perusing images of Black girls one can find charming examples, just as one finds of girls of any race. However, since modern Black girls are descended from races that have been subjected to heavy oppression by Europeans and are still victims of cruel and unwarranted stereotypes, particularly in the United States, there are portrayals of these girls that would make any decent human being cringe. It has been a challenge finding just the right context with which to present these images.

There is a recent exhibit held by Art In These Times that deals with these images specifically and posits how they were part of a propaganda campaign to put Black people in their place after the abolition of slavery in the United States. The exhibition is called ‘Making Niggers: Demonizing and Distorting Blackness’ and will run through January 2016 in Chicago. It is based mostly on postcards from co-curator Mariame Kaba’s private collection.

From the 1890’s through the 1950’s, thousands of postcards depicting racist caricatures and stereotypes of Black people were produced across the United States and the world. Degrading images of blackness also found expression in advertising and other media. Black people were portrayed as lazy, child-like, unintelligent, ugly, chicken stealing, watermelon eating, promiscuous, crap-shooting, savage and criminal. These images comforted white people in their racist beliefs, reinforced white supremacy and enabled whites to justify violence and subjugation of Black people. The stereotypes continue to shape and shorten Black lives in the present. -From Making Niggers Exhibition Webpage, 2015

Without knowing which specific postcards are on display—there are thousands of possibilities—we present a few selections that illustrate this stereotyping through the portrayal of little Black girls. One of the first things one notices is how many of these racist images are of children. That was part of a subtle tactic to regard Black people generally as juvenile and so really these are not especially about children.

C. Levi - Kute Koon Kids: A Little Black Washing (c1910)

C. Levi – Kute Koon Kids: A Little Black Washing (c1910)

That watermelon symbol at the bottom was certainly unwarranted. It’s interesting how something that may have once been a symbol of Black independence has been turned into a racial insult.

Picaninny Freeze Ice Cream Tin (1920s)

Picaninny Freeze Ice Cream Tin (1920s)

There are a handful of stereotypical “types” of Black people and it is amazing that whole products and companies openly used these names. Pickaninny was a term commonly used to refer to a dark-skinned child and some cards would make this into a play on words like, “I’m not pickin-any body but you.” which appears on a vintage Valentine.

A lot of images show Blacks naked. This seems to play into several stereotypes so that they can just be dismissed as primitive savages.

(Artist Unknown) - Some Little Darkie Gal Trading Card (1920s)

(Artist Unknown) – Some Little Darkie Gal Trading Card (1920s)

Tuck - Happy Little Coons (c1906)

Rafael Tuck & Sons – Happy Little Coons (c1906)

Donald McGill - Just a spot of powder an' I'm dressed! (1920s)

Donald McGill – Just a spot of powder an’ I’m dressed! (1920s)

The Three Bares Postcard (Black version) (1920s)

The Three Bares Postcard (Black version) (1920s)

It is interesting to note there are both Black and white versions of this image.

[U] The Three Bares Postcard (white version) (1920s)

The Three Bares Postcard (white version) (1920s)

But really, it is an opportunity to subject them to humiliation in the name of humor.

Curt Teich & Co. - Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (1)

Curt Teich & Co. – Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (1)

Curt Teich & Co. - Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (2)

Curt Teich & Co. – Chocolate Drops Comics (1920s) (2)

Nudity is also an occasion to engage in sexual innuendo. This reminds white people of the ongoing sexual threat and justifies any sexual mistreatment of Blacks.

Curt Teich & Co. Postcard (1920s)

Curt Teich & Co. Postcard (1920s)

Can You Tie This One? (1920s)

Can You Tie This One? (1920s)

I Ain't Worried About No Sugar (1920s)

I Ain’t Worried About No Sugar (1920s)

Plenty of images have fanned the flames of white fear of Black sexual promiscuity and potency. And woe has come to many Black men who showed a sexual interest, or seemed to, in a white woman. This was part of the impetus for the formation of the Ku Klux Klan.

Hallmark Birthday Card (1936)

Hallmark Birthday Card (1936)

French Postcard (c1921)

French Postcard (c1921)

Even when decently dressed, they are drawn in a way to appear as though they are not wearing underwear and it is easier to get away with this when they are drawn as children. The exaggerated red lips are also a typical stereotypical feature and emphasizes their animalistic qualities.

Valentine (Date Unknown)

Valentine (Date Unknown)

Agnes Richardson - Whose Blackbird Is You? (1920s)

Agnes Richardson – Whose Blackbird Is You? (1920s)

For a time, elementary school reading levels were named after birds with bluebirds at the top and, you guessed it, blackbirds at the bottom. Many examples above make light of Black people’s unsophisticated use of English and, by doing so, helped perpetuate it.

See also Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia

Black Spirituality

In researching black artists I noticed that quite a lot of their paintings of children revolved around religious or spiritual themes.  I generally do not care for Christian-themed art, but I couldn’t really address Black History Month without at least touching on it, given that the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. is such a large part of black history.  Well, some of these are a tad kitschy for my taste, but they are skillfully done.  I particularly like the pieces “Young Soloist” and “Sheltered,” by Aaron Hicks and Edwin Lester respectively.

aaron-hicks-their-nightly-prayers

Aaron Hicks – Their Nightly Prayers

Aaron Hicks - Young Soloist

Aaron Hicks – Young Soloist

Edwin Lester - Sheltered

Edwin Lester – Sheltered

Edwin Lester - You Are What You Eat

Edwin Lester – You Are What You Eat

Essud Fungcap - Angel Dreams

Essud Fungcap – Angel Dreams

Essud Fungcap - Ring Heaven's Bell

Essud Fungcap – Ring Heaven’s Bell

Henry Battle - Yes, Jesus Loves Me

Henry Battle – Yes, Jesus Loves Me

Johnny Myers - Together We Pray

Johnny Myers – Together We Pray

Laurie Cooper - New Beginnings

Laurie Cooper – New Beginnings

Pam McCabe - Three Girls Praying

Pam McCabe – Three Girls Praying

Sterling Brown - Bedtime Prayer

Sterling Brown – Bedtime Prayer

Margaret Bowland, Part 2

Continuing with Margaret Bowland, we’ll start off with some more of the works from the ‘Another Thorny Crown’ series.  Again, the symbolism here is fairly obvious: Bowland is using the context of America’s history of slavery (cotton being one of the primary crops of plantations that owned and worked slaves, hence, a crop that was planted, tended and harvested by slaves) as well as the old racist practice of black-face–here rendered in reverse–to challenge America’s beauty culture and to point out how girls are slaves and martyrs to it.  It’s either a bold and astute statement or a cheap and exploitative one–like I said in the earlier post, it’s a pretty fine line that she’s up against there, and which side of that line she’s on likely depends on the viewer.  By the way, as anyone who has ever picked cotton (and I have) knows, when cotton reaches maturity its bolls become rigid and sharp and can cut your hands up if you’re not careful.  Thus, the cotton plant being recast as the crown of thorns makes sense, as slaves no doubt did physical injury to their hands when harvesting cotton prior to the invention of the cotton gin.

margaret-bowland-another-thorny-crown-4-2010

Margaret Bowland – Another Thorny Crown 4 (2010)

Margaret Bowland - Another Thorny Crown 5 (2011)

Margaret Bowland – Another Thorny Crown 5 (2011)

Margaret Bowland - Another Thorny Crown 6 (2011)

Margaret Bowland – Another Thorny Crown 6 (2011)

Margaret Bowland - My Funny Valentine (2007)

Margaret Bowland – My Funny Valentine (2007)

Margaret Bowland - Party, Chelsea Gallery (2009)

Margaret Bowland – Party, Chelsea Gallery (2009)

Margaret Bowland - Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna (2008)

Margaret Bowland – Portrait of Kenyetta and Brianna (2008)

Margaret Bowland - Someone to Watch Over Me

Margaret Bowland – Someone to Watch Over Me

Margaret Bowland - The Artist (2010)

Margaret Bowland – The Artist (2010)

Margaret Bowland - The Silhouette Maker (2010)

Margaret Bowland – The Silhouette Maker (2010)

Margaret Bowland - When You Wish Upon a Star (The Artist's Wig) (2011)

Margaret Bowland – When You Wish Upon a Star (The Artist’s Wig) (2011)

Margaret Bowland - White Crows #1 (2007)

Margaret Bowland – White Crows #1 (2007)

Margaret Bowland (Official Site)

See also: Margaret Bowland, Part 1

Margaret Bowland, Part 1

I’m somewhat perplexed by Margaret Bowland’s work.  Not stylistically—she is a solid photorealist painter—but philosophically.  Her work is infused with a feminist consideration of the meaning of beauty; that much is clear.  Indeed, her work is explicitly political.  No one can look at these coy, wide-eyed little girls painted in white face and wearing crowns of cotton or emerging out of giant watermelons without seeing the obvious symbolism there.   Moreover, there is a certain surrealist aura to her work.  In fact, upon my first encounter with Bowland’s paintings, the little girls immediately reminded me of the character Alma as a child in Alejandro Jodorowsky’s deliciously sensuous surrealist horror film Santa Sangre.  What that says about me I will leave to the shrinks (armchair and otherwise) to figure out.  Nonetheless, I cannot be the only one who sees the use of dwarfs, bald women and mime-faced children in one’s paintings as owing something to the circus aesthetic.

But okay, I get it.  These paintings are intended to recast the mold for our idealized conceptions of beauty.   The problem, of course, is that beauty is not entirely a cultural creation.  Sure, some of it is, but there are some important aspects of beauty that are wound tightly up with our human essence.  There are two qualities in particular, and these are pretty much true of most animal species: symmetry and youth.  It has to do with our assessment of the healthiness of a sexual partner and her ability to bear and raise healthy offspring, which is why males place a higher degree of importance on youth than females do.  Men can produce viable sperm well into old age and can father healthy children without any real health risks to themselves or the child, but women need to be young enough to both bring a healthy child to term and raise the child.  (This is not, by the way, intended to suggest that we must be ruled by our genes, but only to point out that there is a genetic basis for these preferences.)

But I’m getting off track here.  What I want to say about Margaret Bowland’s paintings of little black girls is, first, that they are beautifully executed, and second, that they are intentionally provocative in the way that a lot of feminist art is intentionally provocative.  But unlike with, say, Jill Greenberg’s photos, they don’t feel exploitative.  At least not to me.  Others may feel differently.  It’s a fine line, so judge for yourself.

margaret-bowland-flower-girl

Margaret Bowland – Flower Girl

Margaret Bowland - Flower Girl #2 (2009)

Margaret Bowland – Flower Girl #2 (2009)

Margaret Bowland - Murakami Wedding #2

Margaret Bowland – Murakami Wedding #2

Margaret Bowland - Wedding Cake (1)

Margaret Bowland – Wedding Cake (1)

Margaret Bowland - Wedding Cake (2)

Margaret Bowland – Wedding Cake (2)

Margaret Bowland - Wedding Party

Margaret Bowland – Wedding Party

Margaret Bowland - Another Thorny Crown - Gray J (2010)

Margaret Bowland – Another Thorny Crown – Gray J (2010)

Margaret Bowland - Another Thorny Crown (2010)

Margaret Bowland – Another Thorny Crown (2010)

Margaret Bowland - Another Thorny Crown 2 (2010)

Margaret Bowland – Another Thorny Crown 2 (2010)

Margaret Bowland - Amazing Grace (2011)

Margaret Bowland – Amazing Grace (2011)

Margaret Bowland - And the Cotton is High (2011)

Margaret Bowland – And the Cotton is High (2011)

Margaret Bowland (Official Site)