In the process of preparing a new edition of Marie Louise with Toys as a Triptych, I’ve been re-acquainted with her frustration in front of the camera. The camera lies as usual; this is an edit, an experiment and a discussion on the exploitation of the subject for art as well as advertising and even documentary of course.
I have been working on this piece over the Christmas period to be shipped for the first week of 2013 and I have inevitably ended up in discussions with friends who are more mothers than artists.
The conversation ranges from the predatory pedophile behavior of Sir Jimmy Saville through to the subtler forms of exploitation of the child in everyday society. Often a woman’s argument is misogynistic, against the artist as a woman for a betrayal of trust. Sally Mann as the mother of her subjects comes in for angry critism for the un-guarded beauty and playful sexuality on display in Immediate Family and Nan Goldin for her inclusion of the child in her grunge style slideshows with themes of adult sexuality and addiction.
The mother as audience and critic seems mostly concerned with the exposure of these types of images to an uncontrollable audience and the inevitable thoughts of a perceived unknown minority. I personally feel it is madness and artistic suicide to compensate for the thoughts and feelings of others but in my exploration of the child I incorporate the critical argument of exploitation into the work itself; in my images there is always an awareness of a protagonist.
As artists we work with what we have to hand and what may seem like selfishness, arrogance and narcissism is in fact also a determination to communicate our ideas about society regardless of the judgment by the very society that is being challenged. The end does justify the means. The artist will argue that use of the child by the corporate giants is equal too if not more insidious than in art. In a Disney current TV advertising campaign children’s reactions are recorded in a home video style being told they were going to Disneyland. Is this the same thing? What about starving children in Africa or a running girl burnt by Napalm?
See the image below, a close up screen shot from the Marie Louise triptych during the final retouching stage. I used a printer and retoucher who accentuated the little shadow behind the tear for me in image 2. He also worked on Sam Taylor Wood’s series ‘Crying Men’. It is no secret that the tears in Sam Taylor Wood’s works are mostly retouched from Hayden Christensen who did actually manage to cry. Serendipitously, when I arrived at the mounters that same afternoon with the final print, there was a large print of a crying Kris Kristofferson on the wall from the same series.
Detail from Marie Louise with Toys Tripych © Richard Ansett 2012