Saturday, January 17, 2009

In the Tiger's Mouth

I often have the weirdest, most peculiar, most vivid, creepiest dreams - in other words, the kind of horror movie I would never watch... They often leave a strong fingerprint on the days following but last night's adventure wasn't 100% unpleasant. I mean, as long as you don't consider your head being clenched by a tiger's jaws unpleasant.

The beginning of the dream eludes me but let's fast-forward to the moment where a good friend and I were walking in the spring woods in thick undergrowth of ferns. Suddenly a tiger cub popped up, with a face resembling a human child's features (??) and started to play with us. My friend warned me that cub = mother around, and sure enough, in a second a huge female tiger was leaping towards us.

We started running. I'm sure you know how running feels in dreams. Let's just say I'm glad it took relatively little effort to make a huge distance this time, unlike in other dreams. After we've decided that we were out of the ear and "nose shot" of the tiger, we started playing with the cub again, forgetting about the menacing mother -- who appeared right next to my friend out of the blue.

"There's nothing to do but wait it out, she will only lick your face," he said as I watched his head disappear in the mouth of the tigress. That didn't exactly set my mind at ease but the tiger was already upon me. I saw its snout twist into a funny grimace before I felt the fangs on my temple and the coarse tongue on the top of my head. It was a pressing feeling and I was careful not to move. Then the tigress sensed that I submitted to her completely, so she sat back and turned her attention toward the cub. We were no longer considered threatening intruders.

"Now it's safe to run," advised my friend, and not even waiting for him I just took off in a crazy frenzy of speed, passing by pleasant landscapes and finally coming to a pier on a beautiful lakeshore. Forests surrounded the green waters and the surface was barely rippled by the tiniest waves.

I took off. With a bolt I shot off into the sky and light as a feather but with enough substance to handle my movements, I flew fast above beautiful lands. I felt relief and happiness. I came to a wooden village that was clearly not one of our time and something directed me towards a sort of bridge between two houses, with the light blue sky ever in the background. I slowed down and hovered towards the ground. It was a steady mountain slope that the wooden houses were erected on, one glued onto the other, but not in a chaotic fashion. They had blue and red shapes painted on some of the beams. The one that I was approaching looked like an abstract lily, and as I came close a mouth with huge fangs appeared. It was purple inside and I ascended into it. Even in my dream I thought the scene was something Hayao Miyazaki would come up with, and I was also reminded of the tiger's jaws. I thought, well, it seems I am not meant to escape this, without fear now.

After my descent I came to what seemed like another pier, an elongation of the wooden structures atop the mountain. A father and two children were playing here. A cute little boy was just going into the water, but the girl threw a book away and started drawing X's on her father's bare back as he took her into the lake. I knew she was a witch and saw from the red gleam in her eye that she was cursing the father. There was no way to warn him. I was only seen by the girl.

The evil book fell into the lake and the little boy swam after it. "That's it, grab it with your little hands and bring it to the shore," the girl directed as she was being carried by her father onto the wooden structure again. The boy was very innocent and obedient. She opened the book again but luckily, I never found out what happened afterward because I woke up.

I wish I could draw everything as I saw it. Draw the emotions, too. You'd be amazed.

The pier image is © Marcin Gabryelczyk, and a print of it is available here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Illustrators 51: Sequential Awards Gala

In a series of exhibition openings in conjunction with Illustrators 51, the Sequential exhibit was the first to open its doors and hold the awards gala. The Silver and Gold Medals of the Society of Illustrators were given to the artists and art directors whose work was judged salient in their respective categories. The subjects ranged from political to historical reproductions, touching fields from corporate to personal, including traditional and digital media as well as animation. The recipients present agreed that the award was a high honor and looking at the work hung in the gallery, humbly asked: "What were you guys thinking?"

Having introduced the electronic submission portal, the Society was proud to announce that the number of incoming artwork increased by 30% compared to last year. With such high-niveau and diverse artwork submitted, it is no wonder the jury had a hard time to choose the awardees.

John Cuneo, creator of the fabulous and witty call for entries poster doubled as MC for the event, which role he fulfilled brilliantly. He had the guests in fits of laughter with his impressions of himself as the prototypical antisocial artist struggling with stage fright. His quick-rolling tongue and sense of humor provided an additional entertainment for the night.

The Gala in pictures:

A Website Close to Perfection

There is much debate going on about what qualifies as a good website in the art and publishing world. The dialog includes points on how to create a strong and unique voice without distracting attention from the work on display, what features make the user experience gratifying, and what facilitates the work of selective professionals, ready to be bought by the presentation.

Twitterrific icon creator David Lanham's website seems to unite all of these positive features. An inviting design that is easy on the eye provides extremely convenient navigation. There is no clicking through wittily (and obscurely) named sections in futile search of the gallery: the portfolio is always but one click away, wherever you find yourself on the site. And the chances of getting lost are slim: rich but not overbearing content guarantees that your dynamism won't be suffocated by too may bits and pieces. Coherence and ingenuity are the key words when it comes to describing Lanham's website.

The Home page gives an instantaneous overview of what's new and what's important. The About section offers a succinctly worded bio and contact information with just the bare necessities, letting the work speak for itself. For those eager to find out more about the artist, there is no shortage of interviews linked to. Sketches constitute a separate section, ranging from life drawings to fantastic creatures with a sense of cuteness.

And now the gallery. The touchy point of all sites. In one word, it is brilliant. The quirky* cartoonish style is nicely complemented by the simple layout, while the photo album framing adds a personal touch to the display. This creates an interesting contrast with the mostly digital, futuristic / sci-fi themed pictures. The designs and their themes are not uninfluenced by animators such as Hayao Miyazaki and illustrators like James Jean. Lanham takes advantage of the features of vector art: tiny icons (details of images) serve as thumbnails on the navigation panel discreetly and decoratively placed on the left. Another advantage of this is that you can size up the gallery with one glance.

Each picture has its own separate page and individual URL. (Halleluiah!) Far from being paranoid, Lanham released wallpapers of varying resolutions for many of his pictures, varying from widescreen to iPhone displays. Download, whether as PDF or JPG, for Mac or PC, has never been easier. Ordering prints, regular or mini, takes a single click from the image's own page with a built-in PayPal feature, but visiting the shop is also worth a click. Fabulous animations and rotatable vinyl figures spice the gallery.

Lanham works at Iconfactory and has also released icon packs with a touch of "crazy" and attractive themes for computer and iPhone. It is no wonder that the popular Twitter API Twitterriffic has his bird as its emblem as well.

In one word, much consideration went into this website, and it is obvious that the maker has had to deal with less pleasantly structured ones. The only point to criticize is the small gray font used for the News and the menu throughout the site. However, the build-up is so intuitive that reading is almost unnecessary for navigation.

*By "quirky" I mean images worthy of descriptions such as "The strange love-child of a jet pilot, a bee and an unsuspecting vacuum cleaner."

The "Painter of the People" Left Us

I feel a need to interrupt the Disney/Grimm essay sequence to honor the memory of a decisive figure and painter par excellence in modern art. Andrew Wyeth, son of N.C. Wyeth and not any less legendary than his father, passed away last night in his sleep. The news shocked the art world: there have been many difficult goodbyes in the recent past.

A realist painter who elevated even the mundane beauty of his hometown to the heights of timeless and transcendental art, he was one of the most popular artists of the century. And indeed, he has lived through it: he fell asleep for eternity at the age of 91, after a rich and accomplished life. However, recognition not only came from the general public but also in the form of official awards. In 2007 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, while two decades earlier he obtained the highest honor of the Congressional Gold Medal. He was also the first painter to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from none other than President Kennedy.

He received his primary artistic instruction from his father, a great educator and iconic illustrator himself. N.C. Wyeth was one of the artists active in the Golden Age of American Illustration, a period that has shaped visual culture and artistic trends ever since. He was educated directly by Howard Pyle, the "Father of American Illustration" and founder of the Brandywine School. Generations of artists replaced each other in this institution of broad academic freedom that established a new tradition. N.C. Wyeth passed on this formative knowledge to his son, who did not fail at implementing and broadening it.

He couldn't have wished for a richer life or a more peaceful passing, but it still feels like with his death a great instance of American illustration, one that started with Howard Pyle, is gone forever.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Snow White :: Disney vs. Grimms, Round 4

They are still at it. And I am, too.

The other significant female figure in the story, the Evil Queen, does not even seem to have any physical needs. Whereas in the Grimm version she is known to ingest what she supposes is Snow White’s lungs and liver, in the Disney feature she keeps the heart of the boar that the Hunter has brought her back. Perhaps this was seen as a rather barbarous cannibalistic ritual, therefore not included in the animated movie (just like the opening scene of dream creation). It is true that eating the entrails of the enemy is an ancient rite supposed not only to demonstrate the total victory of the winner, but also to internalize the strength and skills of the enemy. Therefore it is only logical that a woman fueled by envy would try to internalize the other woman’s beauty, but unfortunately, Disney reduces this complex act to a mere murder of rage.

Another reduction committed by Disney is the downplaying of the importance of Snow White’s colors. While in the Grimm version red, black, and white interweave the different threads of the story, cropping up in a variety of places on a variety of objects, in the Disney version the meaning of her name stands almost out of context. Her dominant colors have become blue, yellow, and red (the colors of her dress), and Snow White costumes today emphasize these colors as well, even at the cost of omitting the black wig. The movie offers an array of visual tools that the written text does not, and it is an unfortunate decision from part of the filmmaker that they did not take advantage of this aspect of the visual language. However, in other places it adds subtle touches that the text, in turn, is unable to convey. The magnification of horror is especially well-suited to film tools, and Disney never misses out on the opportunity of including foreboding signs: vultures and owls circle the air, the flowing poison forms a skull grimace on the apple, and skeletons cover the floor of the torture chamber. The dwarfs support horrible weapons as they approach the Sleeping Snow White for the first time, and the Queen’s sailing scene conjures up the image of Charon on the river Styx. Cherry blossoms and doves exemplify the less grim side of the visual language, by which Snow White is surrounded as she scrubs the castle stairs. These white and light rosy colors allude to her tender age, innocence, and peaceful spirit.

The Silly Dance, in fact, made a lasting impression for decades to come.

The audio enabled Disney to include songs in the movie, which in turn gave rise to scenes such as “The Silly Dance,” completely a Disney innovation. In great part, the music dictates the emotion the scenes inspire in the viewer, prompting horror, pity, merriment, or love. Snow White’s voice builds up a great part of her character; the chirping, childlike speech and song together with the graceful movements form the image of a fragile young woman.

However, the text is also rich in certain elements that the movie does not mirror: the style of storytelling and the linguistic bravado are only conserved by the Grimm version. The language is simple yet poetic, and in the original German version metaphors, similes, and images abound. At times the alliteration, rhythm, and melody of the words border on onomatopoeia, even in the English translation: “the flakes of snow were falling like feathers from the sky.” Those of us who have ever listened to the snow falling will recognize the soft rustle from all the F's and S's. At other instants the colors become visually significant: “the queen was shocked, and turned yellow and green with envy [Emphasis added all through the paragraph.]“ Disney subtly alludes to this passage by making the Queen’s eyes envy-green. The repetition of red, white, and black gives a narrative rhythm to the story: “And the red looked pretty upon the white snow, and she thought to herself, would that I had a child as white as snow, as red as blood, and as black as the wood of the window-frame”; “Outside [the apple] looked pretty, white with a red cheek … but whoever ate a piece of it must surely die [association: black]”; "White as snow, red as blood, black as ebony-wood, this time the dwarfs cannot wake you up again"; “she … still had her pretty red cheeks. They said, ‘We could not bury her in the dark ground,’ [in original German: black ground] and they had a transparent coffin of glass made ,” etcetera. The language often becomes visceral: “whenever she looked at Snow White, her heart heaved in her breast … envy and pride grew higher and higher in her heart like a weed … all her blood rushed to her heart with fear”; “yet it seemed as if a stone had been rolled from his heart.”

Disney’s attempts at distilling humor and cuteness into the story have earned him many critiques and parodies; even in the recent past, at the turn of the 21st century. Two major feature films have openly criticized this aspect of the movie, namely, the DreamWorks produced Shrek and Disney’s own Enchanted.

Tomorrow I will continue by revealing how these movies parodied Snow White, utilizing two or three movie clips.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Snow White :: Disney vs. Grimms, Round 3

It gets feminist.

Later on the Father/Hunter figure is substituted by the protective (if ineffective) presence of the Seven Dwarfs who caution Snow White against the Evil Queen and bring her back to life as long as possible. When the dwarfs have failed, another dominant male figure is required to protect the feeble princess, and he turns out to be the savior Prince. Snow White’s ultimate goal, the goal unto itself, seems to be being wed to a Prince, and once that is achieved, there is not much else to do than “live happily ever after.” In this aspect at least the Grimm version harmonizes with Disney’s, even though the latter gave the Prince a much more significant role. He is seen in the first scene at the Wishing Well, which makes the ending more logical than in the Grimm’s case, and he is also the one who wakes the dead Princess with “true love’s first kiss.” This idea is rather reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty, and contrasts with the accidental revival (a servant stumbles) in the Grimm version. In Zipes’s words, “the film follows the classic ‘sexist’ narrative about the framing of women’s lives through a male discourse.”

Robert Coover parodies this simple-minded and innocent approach in his revisionist fairy tale The Dead Queen. In this 1973 writing, Coover addresses the most avoided aspects of this tale, namely the absurdity of a young girl living with seven elderly men; the Evil Queen’s fatal dance in the hot-red iron shoes; and Snow White’s supposed innocence. In the tale told from the point of view of the bewildered Prince, the Evil Queen rules the stage, and all males are mere puppets in her hands: “I knew then that it was she who had composed this scene, as all before, she who had led us … hers the design, ours the enactment.” Coover portrays the dwarfs as sexually aroused klutzes, in the latter clearly being influenced by Disney’s individualization and comicalization of the creatures. He also goes out of his way to dissolve the Snow White innocence myth. He portrays her mercilessness in detail as she enjoys the stepmother’s obscene and tragic dance, as well as her less-than-virginal behavior on the wedding night. As a punch line to the story, he makes the Prince fall for the dead and mutilated Queen, and like a parody of Sleeping Beauty, he makes him kiss the decomposing carcass a magic three times.

Back at the abandonment scene, we again have a classic case of archetypal imagery: wandering out in the woods alone is a metaphor for trials in the unknown realms of life.

With the Grimm Fairy tales, the image of a little child (especially: girl) exposed to the dangers of the forest (Little Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Marienkind) is ever present. This seems to resonate with female initiation, whether sexual, moral, or social. It also manifests the child’s fear of abandonment and starvation, as suggested by Freud’s observations and Bettelheim’s further work in the area. (More on this fear in another essay, to be posted later.) Both of them agree that finding a house in the woods equals coming across a source of nutrition, as exemplified by Hansel and Gretel, in which case the house was literally consumable. Furthermore, the object of nutrition is understood by Freud as the image of the mother, which image is represented by the house. Therefore Snow White’s escaping into the woods and taking refuge in the house can be potentially seen as a type of regression to the mother figure, a step back in childhood. Two instances of the tale seem to support this theory: first, she displays no features of an independent, responsible, or grown-up person all through the progression of the story; and second, her first act upon entering the house is calming her hunger.

Again, in the Disney version this is radically different. She enters what she calls a “Doll House” and immediately starts cleaning the house with the help of her little animal companions. The sense of orderliness seems to be stronger in this case than the basic instinct of survival. This smells strongly of didactic purposes, programming the values of a housewife into the minds of little girls. In fact, throughout the feature Snow White is rarely seen as doing other than housework or being on the run (as a vulnerable is ought to do). The only instant she is depicted as ingesting food is when she bites into the poisoned apple and dies, and even that is not shown on the screen, but the repulsive grimace of the witch is displayed instead. Nowadays it has become a sort of a trend to discover subliminal messages encouraging eating disorders in unlikely places. Even though it would be far-fetched to argue that Disney communicates false ideas about women’s eating habits, the female is definitely portrayed as satisfying others' needs at the cost of denying her own luxury and entertainment (or even basic needs).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Snow White :: Disney vs. Grimms, Round 2

The second part of the Disney Saga.

While the original Grimm version of Snow White is apparently full of primeval underlying meaning that centuries of storytelling chiseled forth, Disney’s fairy tale seems sweet and somewhat shallow in comparison. Deriving from the nature of adaptation, some of the original archetypal layers cannot be brought onto the screen. We also must not forget that as the first full-length animated feature in history, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs intended to provide light entertainment and enchantment more than address the profound urnature of humanity. However, despite the differences prompted by the genre and the local culture, Disney’s version was also not free of archetypal images.

In the opening scene of the movie, Snow White is seen as a scullery maid, scrubbing the stone floor and drawing fresh water from the Wishing Well. The female is most often associated with the element of water in myths and tales. This fountain itself, whether intended or not, is very much in harmony with the streams featured in various fairy tales (for instance, The Frog Prince) by which young women dwell and voice their desires. Again, the power of the uttered word is seen in action as Snow White instructs the doves:
Make a wish into the well, that’s all you have to do, and if you hear it echoing, your wish will soon come true. I’m wishing for the one I love to find me today. I’m hoping [Prince appears] and I’m dreaming of the nice things he’ll s
Would it be possible that it was the inescapable urnature that burst forth from Disney with the Wishing Well episode?

As the scene progresses, Snow White’s nature unfolds as the ideal image of the 30’s woman. Startled by the appearance of the Prince, she flees into the castle and shyly comes out to the balcony. Her gestures are reminiscent of gentle ballet; her movements are extremely feminine and virginal. While the Prince professes his emotions in song, Snow White kisses a dove and sends it down to her suitor. The dove delivers the kiss, being in the role of messenger, bringer of peace and happiness, as so often in mythology (as exemplified by the ending of Noah’s story). However, with adding the sentimental and infantile touch of the dove blushing, Disney dissolves the mythological overtones and adds comicalness to the scene. This instance also features the attraction of the shy female that needs to be conquered, as well as a wink at Shakespeare’s famous balcony scene in Romeo & Juliet.

Earlier we briefly addressed the seeming lack of a male figure in the opening scene of Grimm’s Snow White. This absence is only limited to the opening paragraph, for the King is soon introduced and (potentially) replaced by the person of the Hunter. However, both figures make their debut in the story as “the Queen’s husband or servant.” The King is only mentioned in passing, in a brief reference to bringing a new Queen to the castle. Never again does he crop up, which is why it is reasonable to deduce that a similar split happens in the child’s mind as with the death of the nurturing mother figure, only the other way round. Earlier an unapproachable and distant authority for the child, the father is now seen, not without Oedipal overtones, as an adventurous playmate, a Hunter. He appears to be in the service of the Queen, or is at the very least submitted to her in his attitude (as is the Mirror: "Slave in the Mirror, I summon thee"). All emotions displayed: that of friendliness, protection, mercy, and being moved by Snow White’s innocent beauty seem to suggest a fatherly attitude. It is easy to imagine a male so overpowered by his wife that he acts almost as a servant, wherefore it is reasonable to assume that the Hunter is none other than the King himself. This claim is buttressed by Gilbert and Gubar: “the huntsman is really a surrogate for the King, a parental … figure ‘who dominates, controls, and subdues wild ferocious beasts’ and who thus ‘represents the subjugation of the animal, asocial, violent tendencies in man.’” Disney also puts this aspect of his personality in the limelight through his horrified and worried exclamation of protest: "But Your Majesty! The little princess...!" upon being given orders to kill Snow White. She enjoys a moment of bucolic idyll picking flowers with the fatherly gaze watching over her before her excursion turns into an exile.

In other versions of this tale type, according to the Aarne-Thompson model, the father’s presence is much more conspicuous throughout the tale. In one version (Lasair Gheug, the King of Ireland’s Daughter) the child is mutilated by her father on the incentive of the evil stepmother, as a punishment for crimes she never committed. (Typically of the Middle Ages, the girl thanks him for the suffering: “It doesn’t hurt me, father,” she said, “because it is you who did it.”) In this version it is the father himself who abandons her in the wilderness upon the request of the evil queen, and he displays the same set of emotions as the Hunter in the Grimm version. As the mother repeatedly accuses Lasair Gheug of horrible deeds, he conspires with the cook to hide the daughter until the Queen’s wrath dies away. When she pretends to be terminally ill and requests the heart and liver of Lasair Gheug so that she can recover, the King replies “Well,” said the King, “it hurts me to give you that, but you shall have it,” so in a similar vein as the Hunter, he kills a suckling pig and abandons the girl in the wilderness.

More on eating the enemy's organs later. Disney animation background shots of the creepy forest scene are also coming up.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Snow White :: Disney vs. Grimms, Round 1

A shamefully long musing on the subject of the Grimm verison's archetypal imagery vs. Disney's... less profound approach. It makes more sense to chop it into multiple blog entries of digestible length. I am going to post the whole thing over the week. Before I get flamed, this is not to diss Disney (that sounds great pronounced). In fact, to dis-diss Disney, I might add that I adore the Snow White movie in its own right. Dis is a Dis-claimer. Movie clips from several features are also coming up in the next entries.

A Little Red Riding Hood whom the wolf did not dare touch, a Cinderella whose stepmother did not intend for her to work, a Sleeping Beauty who awoke thanks to vomiting… A tale of archetypes and breakout, the fight of beauty against beauty, the female exile then re-socialization: Snow White’s tale is known to all, yet it never ceases to surprise with unexpected discoveries. Let us see how many of these did Disney uncover, overlook, distort, and magnify in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The classical Grimm
version starts with a beautiful image of Snow White’s mother sewing and dreaming herself a child, but Disney grossly disregards the importance of the mother figure. The Bettelheimian approach, resting on Freudian tenets, suggests that the death of the mother and the simultaneous appearance of the evil stepmother is but one act. This metaphoric death/rebirth symbolizes the crumbling of the pre-adolescent’s mother image. According to this theory, in Snow White’s perception the good mother ceased to be the nurturing figure that used to provide protection, warmth, and unquestioning acceptance. In her stead the little girl now sees a woman, self-centered, merciless, and hostile. Since the "real mother" no longer exists, she is as good as dead, therefore the woman claiming to take her role has got to be a stepmother. The unparalleled beauty of the Evil Queen gives all the more credence to this approach, by emphasizing the rivalry between the two women. The Grimm fairy tale conserves this ancient tension between mother and daughter, parent and child, carrying the “split mother image” interpretation within. Disney, however, failed to perceive the duality in the situation, pronounced the Evil Queen to be an actual stepmother, and omitted the real mother figure altogether.

The mother’s dream creation is of central importance not only in this tale, but in the myth world as well. From the Biblical figures of Sarah, Elizabeth, and Mary through the Hungarian origin myth of Emese’s dream, we find instances of the woman’s yearning for a child and eventually becoming pregnant due to a dream or apparition. Snow White’s mother longs for a child and in her mind she envisions the beautiful daughter. Her act of dream creation becomes even more powerful by the addition of a few objects representing the child’s coloration. The scene almost becomes an ancient fertility ritual with the drop of blood, a symbolic sacrifice, sealing the agreement between gods and human.

In this very simple scene that Disney did not even consider worth including in the feature, there are four archetypal images present. Stay tuned, and from the next entry you'll find out what these are.

Just kidding. Firstly, the needle piercing the skin of the woman and shedding her blood, especially if followed by impregnation, is often a metapho
r for the sexual intercourse. It is interesting to note that at the time there is no male present.

Second, the act of sewing itself (often traded for weaving or spinning) is an archetypal female activity, often associated with storytelling and the narrative power of the female voice. In the ancient Greek myth of Philomela, the raped girl’s violator cuts out her tongue so as to deprive her of her voice; however, the woman weaves a tapestry depicting her ill fate and sends it to her sister. Thus she is able to speak through images, and ultimately, through the act of weaving. On a more practical note, when gathered to do their work, women would share stories and entertain each other while sewing, spinning, or weaving. In this way they significantly contributed to preserving myths, hence storytelling is doubly associated with these activities. In an Irish, presumably earlier version of the tale (as grouped by Aarne and Thompson) the same motif is observable: an adult Snow-White-in-exile is depicted “sitting at the window, sewing” as her father’s banner is seen coming.

Thirdly, the power of the uttered word (“abracadabra”, or “I will create, as I say” in ancient Aramaic) is also encapsulated into this brief opening scene of the tale, so succinctly worded by the Brothers. The Good Queen’s wish, as if by a magic spell, grants the fulfillment thereof.
This leads to the fourth ancient image present: the male belief in a supernatural power of the woman over nature. Wood, blood, and snow, these elements in connection with earth, water, and air, are bound in this ritual, and they bow to the woman’s desire. It is quite remarkable that the male element of fire is not at all present in this open window winter scene.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

James Jean Show Opening

It was expected (read: hoped for) that the snowfall would discourage at least some from working their way through the streets of New York to the LeVine Gallery. Everyone was hoping that they could gobble up all the eye candy alone and enjoy the presence of James Jean originals undisturbed. Still, the corridors surrounding the exhibition hall were lined with young people on both sides, and it was disturbing to think that they were only the early birds (like myself). But being early paid off: after the doors opened, I had a marvelous 20 minutes examining the surreal cartoon-tainted realism of a mind unashamed in front of beauty.

Beauty in innocence, beauty in brutality, beauty in the sensual, beauty in the lush; a visceral sense of beauty, an absurd and haunting beauty that contradicts itself with its candy-colors. It was quite surprising to find that the sketches were tiny compared to the often "modest mural" sized completed works. The precision with which the small drawings were transferred onto large surfaces, growing richer in detail, is astonishing.

But alas, the brief moment o
f intimacy was over and the hall filled up in the blink of an eye. After 30 minutes I could have sworn there was no physical space left, but this apparently didn't concern the scores of people arriving - and arriving - and arriving... Some with the lovestruck and slightly dumb smile of the aficionado, others with the inspiration-seeking eye of a fellow artists. No one seemed to be too intent on leaving, and a brief trip to the lobby (of course only the stairs were operating - 9 floors) confirmed that the real flood of arrival had only just begun. Upon re-entering the hall the suffocating air of a sauna welcomed me back. Approaching the pictures had become a physically shared experience, so I briefly took another tour, snapped another dozen shots of the unbelievable (but well-behaved) crowd, and called it quits.
It will definitely be worth going back in a calmer moment of contemplation and enjoyment.

In keeping with the odd eye cropping up in James Jean pictures, my right eye was also bloody today. I felt an instant connection with this rabbit.

{More images on Flickr as soon as I've actually remembered my password.}