Fairy Tale Driven…

I found this advertisement by The Toyota Foundation, I like it a lot… so much power in this image, and the wording:

Without nature, there are no stories…

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The use of the fairy tale in all aspects of art is something that drives my own practice. Fairy tales are recognized globally just about. Their language is universal, as old as time, and yet with a firm footing in the present.

 

The last days…

I will be so glad when this is all over… the self doubt, the exhibiting part, the assessment, the damned crazy business of getting it all as I see it in my mind, as I have seen it for the past few months. Getting others to see that vision.

Each piece of work I have undertaken this year has been installation. Not through planning, I never saw myself as an installation artist, but it has just happened. So I am discovering something about myself as an artist through my work, through experimenting, playing, making… letting the path twist and turn… But when it comes to setting up, I look at the clean simplicity of a picture on a wall, a screen on a plinth, a graphic on a laptop… and I wonder why I make things so difficult and messy for myself.

So… I made a cloak, well, part of a torn, worn, ancient cloak. I used pieces of recycled velvet in many shades of red. It is worn and torn, unpicked and restitched. This will hang on one of the trees, it represents the many layers of self, and the many retellings of the story. The story of the hero’s journey, the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the story of the wolf, the story of me…

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Here is a detail of the patchwork and rough stitching…

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Then I started to hang a few trees, trying to get an idea of what I need before Monday. About three of the trees/branches are good to go. I need to go and source more in the bush behind my property. A very awesome thing happened while I was hanging the trees… a gorgeous shadow picture appeared on my newly painted wall… I tried to capture it on my iPhone…

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This is how ‘Desire’ is looking at the moment:

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I need a title too, for the whole thing, I am thinking In Search of the Wolf…

Ok, off to the woods I go…

 

 

The Big Picture has arrived…

Wow, unbelievable service from Diamond Photo! I ordered a large canvas print of my artwork on Tuesday and it arrived today – Friday,… how awesome is that? It is huge! I am really pleased with it, cant wait to see it in a gallery setting. Meanwhile here is a pic or two to give you an idea of the size:

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Look at the size of my head next to Red’s!

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I like this spooky black and white hand effect, and it is Halloween in some parts of the world…

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The Hood or the Hair?

We had our third critique session in studio today. I presented Ruby in her current state of half fur, and a couple of versions of my mixed media painting.

I wanted to know which version of the painting they felt looked best, the red hooded Tabby or the red hair Tabby. Leigh liked the red hair best but the other two group members liked the hooded version the best. I am posting images here in case anyone out there cares to give me feedback!

This is the hooded version, I do like it because it blends in well with the rest of the image which was the main gist of the feedback I got from the those who preferred this version.

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This second version I also like a lot, and Leigh liked it because of the contrast and shine of the hair. It actually printed out very vibrantly. I actually dulled it a little here to blend it with the back ground a bit more. I do like this, I like how it is a step away from the Red Riding Hood, but I wonder of it looks a little too real, a little too like a glossy advertisement? But then she looks very contemporary, whereas the animus looks earthy, and woodlandy, slightly musty which does work well with my narrative, as the animus is musty in many of us and needs unearthing. I will definitely adjust her eye colour in the hair image if I use that one, make them greener.

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The fur effect with knitting faux fur etc was approved by all. I totally forgot to take in my red cloak remnants, but they will be part of the finished installation for sure.

I had a chat to Jose one of our tutors later, and she agrees that the trees/installation works really well, as opposed to just having the painting on a wall.  I have been very tempted to go this route just to fit in the studio more easily. I had doubts about Ruby and her chopped off head, but after some discussion Jose suggested a plinth on its side. I tried this and with Ruby at one end almost imitation the *animus* dude in the painting, it totally worked! It could almost be used to bring the painting into the scene, like the two would be facing each other. I would continue to drape the wolf *pelt* around the plinth a bit and mayeb add some more red ragged pieces (signifying the cloak remnants but also with a deeper story of coming of age, menstruation…).

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I couldn’t get the space I wanted, but I have another corner. It has a large radiator on the wall but the tutors will have to ignore that. G-Block may be a nice design in the atrium etc but for an art studio with a view to having to exhibit end of year work in a professional way, it totally sucks. There is so little wall space in the studios.

So… I shall carry in knitting/stitching/shredding Ruby, and trying to decide on hood or hair!

Your opinions are highly desired and more than welcome!

Red Riding Hood by Anne Sexton

I found this while looking through Transformations , a collection of Anne Sexton’s poetry which is based around the tales of The Brothers Grimm. Sexton was a confessional poet, like her contemporary Sylvia Plath  she suffered from depression and mental illness. I feel at home with the work of both these women. They tell life as it is.

In Transformations Sexton has told these stories as they were portrayed by The Brothes Grimm, but within a darker context. The stage set has changed, the props are different, the lighting is altered but the stories are still there, to be interpreted as we will, or as society dictates.

Red Riding Hood by Anne Sexton

Many are the deceivers:
The suburban matron,
proper in the supermarket,
list in hand so she won’t suddenly fly,
buying her Duz and Chuck Wagon dog food,
meanwhile ascending from earth,
letting her stomach fill up with helium,
letting her arms go loose as kite tails,
getting ready to meet her lover
a mile down Apple Crest Road
in the Congregational Church parking lot.
Two seemingly respectable women
come up to an old Jenny
and show her an envelope
full of money
and promise to share the booty
if she’ll give them ten thou
as an act of faith.
Her life savings are under the mattress
covered with rust stains
and counting.
They are as wrinkled as prunes
but negotiable.
The two women take the money and disappear.
Where is the moral?
Not all knives are for
stabbing the exposed belly.
Rock climbs on rock
and it only makes a seashore.
Old Jenny has lost her belief in mattresses
and now she has no wastebasket in which
to keep her youth.
The standup comic
on the “Tonight” show
who imitates the Vice President
and cracks up Johnny Carson
and delays sleep for millions
of bedfellows watching between their feet,
slits his wrist the next morning
in the Algonquin’s old-fashioned bathroom,
the razor in his hand like a toothbrush,
wall as anonymous as a urinal,
the shower curtain his slack rubberman audience,
and then the slash
as simple as opening as a letter
and the warm blood breaking out like a rose
upon the bathtub with its claw and ball feet.
And I. I too.
Quite collected at cocktail parties,
meanwhile in my head
I’m undergoing open-heart surgery.
The heart, poor fellow,
pounding on his little tin drum
with a faint death beat,
The heart, that eyeless beetle,
running panicked through his maze,
never stopping one foot after the other
one hour after the other
until he gags on an apple
and it’s all over.
And I. I too again.
I built a summer house on Cape Ann.
A simple A-frame and this too was
a deception — nothing haunts a new house.
When I moved in with a bathing suit and tea bags
the ocean rumbled like a train backing up
and at each window secrets came in
like gas. My mother, that departed soul,
sat in my Eames chair and reproached me
for losing her keys to the old cottage.
Even in the electric kitchen there was
the smell of a journey. The ocean
was seeping through its frontiers
and laying me out on its wet rails.
The bed was stale with my childhood
and I could not move to another city
where the worthy make a new life.
Long ago
there was a strange deception:
a wolf dressed in frills,
a kind of transvestite.
But I get ahead of my story.
In the beginning
there was just little Red Riding Hood,
so called because her grandmother
made her a red cape and she was never without it.
It was her Linus blanket, besides
it was red, as red as the Swiss flag,
yes it was red, as red as chicken blood,
But more than she loved her riding hood
she loved her grandmother who lived
far from the city in the big wood.
This one day her mother gave her
a basket of wine and cake
to take to her grandmother
because she was ill.
Wine and cake?
Where’s the aspirin? The penicillin?
Where’s the fruit juice?
Peter Rabbit got chamomile tea.
But wine and cake it was.
On her way in the big wood
Red Riding Hood met the wolf.
Good day, Mr. Wolf, she said,
thinking him no more dangerous
than a streetcar or a panhandler.
He asked where she was going
and she obligingly told him
There among the roots and trunks
with the mushrooms pulsing inside the moss
he planned how to eat them both,
the grandmother an old carrot
and the child a shy budkin
in a red red hood.
He bade her to look at the bloodroot,
the small bunchberry and the dogtooth
and pick some for her grandmother.
And this she did.
Meanwhile he scampered off
to Grandmother’s house and ate her up
as quick as a slap.
Then he put on her nightdress and cap
and snuggled down in to bed.
A deceptive fellow.
Red Riding hood
knocked on the door and entered
with her flowers, her cake, her wine.
Grandmother looked strange,
a dark and hairy disease it seemed.
Oh Grandmother, what big ears you have,
ears, eyes, hands and then the teeth.
The better to eat you with my dear.
So the wolf gobbled Red Riding Hood down
like a gumdrop. Now he was fat.
He appeared to be in his ninth month
and Red Riding Hood and her grandmother
rode like two Jonahs up and down with
his every breath. One pigeon. One partridge.
He was fast asleep,
dreaming in his cap and gown,
wolfless.
Along came a huntsman who heard
the loud contented snores
and knew that was no grandmother.
He opened the door and said,
So it’s you, old sinner.
He raised his gun to shoot him
when it occurred to him that maybe
the wolf had eaten up the old lady.
So he took a knife and began cutting open
the sleeping wolf, a kind of caesarian section.
It was a carnal knife that let
Red Riding Hood out like a poppy,
quite alive from the kingdom of the belly.
And grandmother too
still waiting for cakes and wine.
The wolf, they decided, was too mean
to be simply shot so they filled his belly
with large stones and sewed him up.
He was as heavy as a cemetery
and when he woke up and tried to run off
he fell over dead. Killed by his own weight.
Many a deception ends on such a note.
The huntsman and the grandmother and Red Riding Hood
sat down by his corpse and had a meal of wine and cake.
Those two remembering
nothing naked and brutal
from that little death,
that little birth,
from their going down
and their lifting up.

 

Disney’s First Movie…

The more I read and research the story of Little Red Riding Hood, the more obsessed I become, or is it the other way round? Anyway hunger begets hunting begets knowledge begets hunger begets…hunting begets…

A very strange and trippy movie that is supposedly the first one Walt Disney ever made, circa 1922. You can read more about the history of this 7 minute animated cartoon here.

So here it is, I have borrowed the plot below the movie from www.filmthreat.com

“Little Red Riding Hood” begins rather badly. The scene is a kitchen where a zaftig mother is throwing dough into the air while a cat shoots at the dough with a rifle. As a result of the feline marksman, doughnuts get created. While this is happening, a laughing old bald man with a long white beard watches from a picture frame hanging on the wall.  The man’s beard hangs out of the picture frame, which makes it unclear whether he is real or a bizarre three-dimensional image come to life.

The dough shooting seems to go on endlessly, until the cat decides to taste one of the doughnuts. He immediately gets sick and drops dead.  Nine ghostly spirits parade from his body (complete with a numerical countdown in the corner of the screen) before two feline paramedics arrive to carry the corpse away.

The mother (seemingly unbothered by the death in her kitchen) calls to Red Riding Hood to deliver the doughnuts to Grandma.  Our heroine goes to “Red Riding Hood’s Garage” (what?) and drives off in a car that is powered by a dog chasing sausage links hanging off a stick above his head. When the car gets a flat tire, Red inflates a doughnut with a few vigorous blows and uses it as a spare tire.

If that’s not weird enough, the wolf shows up. Forget the traditional canine villain – this wolf is a dapper male in a top hat who drives a fancy convertible. He stops and engages Red in conversation, and then he decides to take advantage of the fair lass.  He drives off in a wacky short cut to Grandma’s house – at one point, his convertible careens off a cliff and the tires start flapping like wings!  He gets to Grandma’s house and discovers a note on the door that says the old gal is at the movies.  The wolf sneaks into the house, and when Red shows up the house literally begins to shake and jump in violent tumult.

The dog that powered Red’s car witnesses what happens and runs off for help.  A handsome young aviator is standing by his airplane and the dog comes to him for assistance.  The pilot and the pooch take off and lower a skyhook on Grandma’s house, causing the entire structure to become dislodged.  The pilot swoops down to rescue Red while the wolf gets in his convertible to escape.  However, the pilot lowers his skyhook on the wolf’s car and brings it into the air before dropping it in a lake.  Red and her aerial hero begin smooching while the dog covers his eyes in embarrassment.

The people at Film Threat are pretty scathing of this movie, but it does have some interest and I dont think it should be so lightly dismissed! For example, flight was extremely new and I guess it was like the science fiction of the day. Today we have time machines, then they had a flying machine. The car that seems to changes it’s own wheels, well, we all want one of those. It’s like The Wrights brothers meet James Bond except he hasn’t been written yet. The grandmother is totally unphased by the cat that shoots and then steals the doughnuts, she seems very much in control, while grandpa is resigned to a picture on the wall. Red Riding Hood owns the garage too, a touch of feminism going on here maybe? And then Red appears to be playing with the faeries in the wood, the same faeries that seem to be hanging around in the garden when Grandma is calling Red. Or am I just being fanciful again…

Enjoy!

 

 

Embracing the Beast

While walking in the woods around my property, looking for decent branches, I found some awesome ‘antlers’ in the form of fallen pine tree branches. I have been using antlers in my recent work to symbolise the beast in Red Riding Hood, her animus, if you like. I am aiming to present my work in a forest-like setting within the gallery, and these antlers would look great with my work, so I looked at them and thought about it and decided they needed to become a part of my exhibition, in the form of a trophy.

A trophy is generally something that is won through a sporting achievement of some kind, or a souvenir of a hunting expedition in the form of a stuffed animal head. My using a ‘trophy’ in my work will symbolise the achievement of Red Riding Hood, having faced her demons in the forest. There is also another motive for me; as a lifelong vegetarian and animal rights supporter, I deplore the practice of collecting dead bits of animals that have been killed. My trophy will not be dead, but it will represent rebirth and new life and the union of anima and animus within Red Riding Hood.

Watch this space… meanwhile, I like these:

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Image retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/l3lpj2f

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Image retrieved from: http://tinyurl.com/mlrq6y3

Kiki Smith

Kiki Smith is an artist who I totally get. An American artist, born in Germany in 1954,  Smith occupies a unique place in the art world. Her work is varied, versatile, powerful, weird and wonderful. There is no artist I have found who works as she does, except myself, and I am a mere fledgling.

Kiki Smith works in several different media and her exhibitions bring together etchings, painting, textile art, sculpture, book art and photography. The glue for these works is a central theme for each exhibition. In the late 1980s  and early 1990s Smith worked with themes surrounding body issues, effluvia, and taboo. Her work has often featured female iconography and more recently the female icons have been plucked from the world of the fairy tale.

In the sculpture below we see a different take on Little Red Riding Hood.

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Image sourced on 4/9/14 from: http://tinyurl.com/m723ljx

This time a drawing entitled, ‘Wearing the Skin’, this image reflects how I portray the Red and the wolf in my own art.

Wearing-the-Skin-Kiki-Smith-2002Image sourced on 4/9/14 from: http://tinyurl.com/l8pjrqc

In an interview with Psychology Today,  Smith said:

Just do your work. And if the world needs your work it will come and get you. And if it doesn’t, do your work anyway. You can have fantasies about having control over the world, but I know I can barely control my kitchen sink. That is the grace I’m given. Because when one can control things, one is limited to one’s own vision. As a child I prayed that my calling be revealed—but not with expectation and not with a destination. I became an artist because I didn’t know what to do and I thought it was really fun to make things.

I like her words as much as I like her art. Making art, being creative because you have to, is the difference I think between being an artist and being anyone else. I am amazed that not everyone has this burning need to create, that not everyone obsesses over colours, shapes, light, shadows, the way I do, that not everyone regularly takes a hundred photos on a morning walk.

I was also very excited to discover that Kiki Smith worked with fairy tales, and that we had much in common in our media and themes, if not expertise. I had already planned that my personal work would be a collection of various different media and techniques around my theme. Finding out that an artist whose work I admire and respect, both creates and exhibits her work in this way, strengthened my concept for me personally.

More about Kiki and her work soon. I discovered her fairy tale work through a cover on one of my Jack Zipes books. The cover art was created by Kiki Smith in 2002, it is entitled Born

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Image sourced on 4/9/14 from: http://tinyurl.com/o7qatwa

 

 

The Old and the New

The Trials and Tribulations of Little Red Riding Hood by Jack Zipes, is an old favourite of mine… although it is a few years since I read it last. A Little Red Riding Hood Casebook, by Alan Dundes, is a recent find. Good reading for the obsessed.

I am currently reading both works and comparing the two.  The Zipes book cover many versions of the tale, from it’s folk tale origins as an oral narrative, right through to contemporary tellings. He criticises Freudian interpretations of the symbolism in the story and points out several ironies in it’s interpretation over the years.

Alan Dundes book concentrates on two versions of the story; the most well known, by Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm. He has collected together a series of essays by respected scholars to give a variety of theoretical approaches to the tales. I have only just begun reading this book so will report back at a later date.

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& so the wolves keep a coming…

I started painting another book right away, trying to get more abstract, but again I am going with the flow. I like how this has taken on the look of the wolf becoming more of a playful puppy. I am taking up wolves as a cause, in all of their guises. Watch out for the begging letter at Christmas for my new charity. My daughter said that some of my wolves remind her of Maurice Sendak’s Wild Things, and *that* is a very good thing.

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