Day of the Dead Mexican skeletons and the dragon from Chinese New year - these were my starting points for outside the fence.
I just wrapped this first dragon over the top of the letters…oh, THAT had to go!
(below) The 2 Day of the Dead puppets morphed out. The man’s skeletal head was replaced with the head of an actual person, wearing face paint. The women was totally replaced with a costumed person.
I wanted the outside ring of this FT to represent the vibrant diversity of non-white culture: to show modern people (not historical images). I searched for festivals around the planet:
Above are masks form Burkina Faso and Papua New Guinea. The masks of non-white. Below are masks of Spain and Austria.
I didn’t want the outer circle to be completely non-Caucasian. By including the scary masks of European festivals, I hope it shows that the ‘other’ we’re afraid of isn’t all that ‘other’. What’s the difference between an African mask and an Eppingen Witch mask? (below)
In an early version I used the costumed child and man from the Fastnacht Festival (below) - they were exactly right to depict a Caucasian child drifting into the outer ring, to the unknown.
Then I found another example that fit better into the red color scheme. I managed to turn around the little boy and his sister (soon to be replaced - like a Stepford wife - by a doll) and team them up with an Eppingen witch (below).
These costumed figures from India (below) are glorious, and I kept trying to shove them into my composition. They didn’t make it, nor did the Epke festival figures below them.
These Japanese figures are wonderful, and there are a great variety of photos of them available.
Combined with small Japanese children, I had a strong visual element.
But then I found these men (below) resting, with their masks:
I took one man, twisted him mercilessly in Photoshop, until he fit:
Look above the man holding his mask and you’ll see a little girl holding her Halloween mask.
Below, the two drummers on the right made the cut, along with children from India, and eyes copied from photos of Indian men.
Below is an early version. In the bottom right corner is a large puppet figure showing the young woman holding it up. I very much wanted to get her in, as well as children holding up the Chinese dragon figure. Can’t always get what we want.
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.
Same photos as last week, but this time with commentary:
This is the full piece, with a wide border to balance out all the intensity in the center.
The characters in the center have all been copied from illustrations and dolls, mostly from the 1950s. A Shirley Temple paper doll, the Morton Salt girl, a Tiny Tears doll and kids taken from old Dick and Jane books. The figures on the outside are all photos of people in traditional costume (except the dragon and Baba Yaga). These picture were taken at festivals in Africa, Europe, India, Japan and Mexico, and copied from many online sites.
The figures in the center have been softly ‘airbrushed’ to a pretty uniform beige-ness. A diaphanous banner announces that many of these babies came from ‘Rock a Bye Baby’ illustrations.
The Campbell’s Soup girl is peaking out from behind a baby hanging in a cradle (hung not from a tree top but from the dragon).
Meanwhile, on the outside, the bright reality of the actual world is seen as richly colored, sharply contrasted photos of actual people wearing their traditional costumes today. Now. In reality. With real children from around the world.
There’s a LOT going on here. The man in the devil costume, in Spain, is flanked by a Flamenco doll on the inside, and an actual girl in a Flamenco costume on the outside. The All-American Dad, the man in the gray suit, is pulling back in fear from a Chinese dragon and a man in a Mexican Day of the Dead costume. His children are delighted, and the one nearest the edge is a real girl, not an illustration.
If you look closely, you’ll see that (almost) all of the costumed figures are looking directly at you.
The two demonic masks (above) are from the Fastnacht festival in Germany. The little boy, in Bavarian costume, is walking out, leaving the center, while still holding the hand of his blond-doll sister.
At the bottom, Rock a Bye Baby reaches the conclusion - baby falls, out of his/her crib, out of a doll-like image, out of a beige make-believe world and through a black-and-white photo, to land safely in the reality of OUTSIDE. The Russian figure of Baba Yaga reaches out happily.
The current plan is to print and sew all three versions, and display them as a triptych. Next week, you’ll see the original images and how they evolved into this. As always, comments welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
My other 2 fairy tale tapestries are based on the first part of that definition. This one is based on the second part - the fairy tale as ‘made-up story designed to mislead’….. a lie. This week, rather than explain how I did it, we’re going to try something different: here’s the finished piece, with lots of details. Take a look, and see what you think. Explanations will follow next week.
Really really wish I had the type of blog where people could add their comments for others to read. But I don’t. So you have to click on my email address - email@example.com - to tell me what you think.