Thursday, September 30, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
The image displays so many mad scientist/horror elements: tubes jutting out of an infant, the top of his or her head replaced by a gear, one arm severed, disembodied mouth with sharp teeth, mysterious liquids. And yet I don’t feel horrified. I’m more amused and intrigued. It’s the serene expression on the baby’s face. With that turned up nose and thick, pursed lips, the kid is even cute. Maybe he or she is sleeping, or, since the title tells us this is a robot, not turned on. Anyway, I’m not worried.
Certainly something has gone wrong. After all, an electrical socket is on fire, there’s spilt milk (or, well, whatever other liquid would be in a robot baby’s bottle) all over the place, and that big rat in the foreground has menacing eyes. But on some level it also seems rather cartoonish and fun. The black heart over the baby’s chest also lightens the mood. Perhaps the image is simply about the age-old story of how humanity at our rational, technological, and moral best, is always sabotaged by the human animal.
No doubt I find this image especially captivating because of connections to my own experiences. I am constantly over-anxious about my baby hurting herself on household hazards. Even when chances are slim-to-none, I visualize disaster! Every parent checks their baby’s breath when they sleep. It’s really kind of silly.
Here, the baby’s heart and the face is where I return and finally rest, over and over again. Ultimately that’s why this print makes me smile.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
I love Vollotton's prints for all the same reasons I love the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley (who was likely influenced by Vollotton.) There's something fun about the figures and the world they inhabit. The postures and poses of people and creatures have personality. But there is also something eerie about them. The patterns and textures on clothing, furniture, and fabrics are suggestive and seem to move. The larger planes of white seem lit up, while the black shadows seem like deep holes. Pictures such as these carry me to another world, and I'm both delighted and cautious to be there.
The woman in this picture is just laying on a bed petting a cat, right? So why do I feel like there's much more to the story? It just seems sort of pretty at first, but the longer I look and notice details the more my imagination carries me away. The zig-zag edge of the blanket seems to comb the floor. The pillows and blankets behind the woman's body appear to have hair and creepy crawlies all over them. The bed appears to sink under the woman's outstretched arm, so is it really a bed or something else? The strange angle, the woman's nakedness, and the stretched body of the cat heighten some sense of drama. And yet the woman's pose is relaxed. Her head leans on its side and she gently kicks her legs back and forth. After all, she's just laying on a bed petting a cat, right?
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Barcode Bondage Babies: One Boy, One Girl by Laura Wagner
woodcut, thread, and mixed media
15" x 16"
This image is posted with permission of the artist. Laura Wagner completed a small series of Barcode Bondage Babies in 2007 that can be viewed at her website here.
This is the sort of image that instantly engages me. The iconic shapes of the children pop out. My husband glanced at the image and called it “cute.” And yes, the forms of these paper doll children are cute, but in a generic illustration sort of way. Like a lot of art today this series of works reference iconography that is both adorable and familiar, but then adds a cynical edge. The heavy black straps, the black and red barcodes, and absent faces signify that these children are objects to be bought and sold, with no identity or will of their own. The background, too, is blank; they can be inserted into any environment.
However, the interpretation shouldn’t end there. The red barcodes appear like kites or balloons afloat. The children hold the strings, as if engaged in a fun activity. The use of actual thread - gentle loops of red string below the children’s clenched hands – further softens the image. “Barcode Bondage Babies” is more than ironic. There is a genuine tension between innocence and vice.
Laura Wagner posted an Artist’s Statement for the Barcode Bondage Babies series. It reads:
Found newspaper advertisement, 2003
"Loving, Married, SANE, stable and reliable professional couple (not an agency) seeks egg donor. Candidate must be healthy, non-smoker, 18 to 25 and willing to meet briefly with prospective parents. Caucasian, blonde, red or light brown hair, 5'6"+, slim and very pretty. Proven academic achievement, SAT score 1300+. Outgoing, sense of humor, organized. Interest in art or architecture a plus. Very generous compensation.”
I’m left pondering a conundrum: I assume no parent would want their daughter to end up so desperate for quick cash that she’s willing to undergo the painful and strange process of donating eggs to strangers. If this couple ever did find their ideal baby mama, they’d have to then also live with the knowledge that their impressive laundry list of socially and biologically advantageous characteristics isn’t always enough to get ahead, at least financially. If they ever told their child the story, the child would live with that truth, too.
Of course a generic list of stats does not describe a son or daughter, or any person who is known and loved. Stats about advantageous characteristics are most useful and meaningful when dealing with populations, not individual people. But the thing about being a prospective parent is that we can’t help but fantasize about what our future children might be like, and without a person present, we easily turn to stats.
When I was pregnant with my daughter Lysi, we called her “Notacat” (because we have 4 cats) and I refused to learn the sex because we had names chosen; I did not want him or her to be named until I could know him or her as a real person. After Lysi’s birth, my husband and I both recalled feeling a slight pang of loss. Underneath the immense joy of learning she was Lysi, we both felt the loss of the potential baby boy. No doubt if it had been a boy, a part of us would have felt the loss of the imaginary girl. No matter how much I avoided becoming attached to a fantasy, some managed to creep in. But those dreams of future children are just games of pretend. Like playing with cute, paper dolls.