These abominably cute baby illustrations (above) were the initial motivation for the integrated second version and this third version. For my beiged-out 1950s center, I also collected pictures from old Dick and Jane readers (below):
Look at the baby on the right (above). The blue eyes and rosy cheeks are wildly overdone! These 1950’s kid pics are so extremely exaggerated, they remind me of the women in the old Playboy magazine. Anyhow, I combined the girl in the pink checkered dress with the girl on the bike to get this:
While gathering up hundreds of unnaturally blonde children, I came across paper dolls…which led to Shirley Temple paper dolls….which led to Shirly Temple dolls…which led to Tiny Tears dolls, etc.
Which gave me this (below):
This little umbrella girl (below) led to the Morton Salt girl and the Campbell’s Soup kids.
Somewhere along this search, I had realized that the figures on the inside - the idolized, all-white characters - had to be entirely illustrations. Not real babies - just the babies of our collective imagination. Not Shirley Temple, but her paper doll. Not photos of actual children, but the commercialized, exaggerated blondness of all-white America. The figures outside that fairy tale fence represent REALITY. I know, it’s a bit convoluted - the images of children are make-believe while the costumes figures are real. But that disconnect is exactly what this is all about.
I also gathered images of Uncomfortable Dads and Scared Moms - the parents who fear a changing world.
All the center figures were gently softened to a uniform beige-ness. Hard lines were minimized, contrast lessened.
The Rock a Bye Baby lullaby kept growing as this progressed ( “Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top. When the wind blows, the cradle will rock. When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall. Down will come Baby, Cradle and all.”) . I kept humming it.
The idea of the baby falling, being in danger, fit right in with this whole parental anxiety of ‘the other’. I collected so many cradles! If you look very closely, you can find a path from the baby hanging from the dragon (under the G of goose), to the baby at the exact center (with a hanging cradle faintly pictured on the pink blanket) to the over-turned wooden cradle, the falling doll, the B&W photo image of a falling child to the baby at the bottom. And yes, the baby falling out at the bottom could be read as giving birth.
Below is an early version, where I had a tree growing through the center, and a horrified father watching a baby fall from the cradle:
That falling baby (above) came from this charming old illustration (below):
All of these images (below) made their way into the center composition:
And a small sampling (below) of the many images that didn’t make the cut:
The little girl at the bottom right corner, sitting in a hammock sewing….does she have a black-faced doll? I collect these images by the hundreds, fitting them into blank jpegs as if they were Tetris blocks (below):
I collected these babies (above) as possibilities for the role of baby at the bottom.