Posts filed under ‘Art’

Dorothy and Alice: Precocious Precursors to Potter

Ralph Steadman's Tea Party

Ralph Steadman's Mad Tea Party, 1967

I’m discovering more and more information about Dorothy, Alice and other kidlit heroines; the similarities between them; and their origins and evolution. Wendy of Peter Pan keeps coming up–and not just in the “Lost Girls” erotic graphic novel, by Alan Moore (of V for Vendetta, Watchmen and From Hell fame), where the intrepid trio share stories of their sexual adventures. That’s a dialogue for another time.

Naturally enough (for me), I started down this winding path because of the Homage to the Rabbits group number in the SYTYCD Finale, and now I am enmeshed in research into the literary analysis of The Wizard of Oz, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan, fairy tales and their place in our culture and human psychology, and what they say about our apparently innate need to create fantasy worlds and live in them–if only briefly–through literature (also, stage and film).

First, an erratum: L. Frank Baum created a series of books, on which the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland was based, about Dorothy Gale and her adventures in a mythical land called Oz. So apologies for my lack of precision in Ramble Through The Looking Glass and I now note that Oz was indeed based on a book series.

More after the jump…

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August 17, 2008 at 2:24 pm 2 comments

Still Down The Rabbit Hole …

A.E. Jackson, illustr., 1914

I’ve come across a marvellous review by James Schellenberg of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass here. It offers an interpretation of the real power of this story: the character of Alice herself, and the rich visual nature of her encounters with the strange creatures and startling events in Wonderland.

This, indeed, is what most appeals to me, both as a kid and now as an adult. Even when illustrated sparsely, as some editions are, the descriptions are so marvellously evocative that you can’t but help–if you are at all creative or visual–to form vivid impressions of them in your mind. This may be why the movie versions of Alice sometimes pale in comparison to the book. It’s definitely why I’m so looking forward to Tim Burton’s take on it. There is no other director whose artistic sensibility is as well-matched to the story.

Among the tidbits I’ve picked up from Schellenberg’s site is that Salvador Dali himself illustrated an edition of Alice in 1969; as did Ralph Steadman, most famous as illustrator for Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas. Dali’s hookah-smoking caterpillar is extraordinary, pictured below at left. The frame on the right appears to reference the White Rabbit’s “I’m late, I’m late” refrain, with Dali’s iconic melting clocks. How perfect.

Salvador Dali, illustr. 1969

Steadman, on the other hand, seems to skip over the adventures in Wonderland to focus on Carroll and his relationship with the real Alice, Alice Liddell–one of the three sisters who accompanied the author and a friend on a rowing trip in which Carroll first spun the Alice tale. I haven’t yet found any other of the Steadman Alice illustrations, so it could be that the cover and one illustration shown below are misleading on this count. At least, I hope so.

The allegations of Carroll’s paedophilia have been hotly contested and seem to be based on flimsy, circumstantial evidence, possibly betraying a misunderstanding of the role of the child in Victorian times. Carroll’s photographs–which show young girls in various poses as themselves, and as fictional characters, are provocative in any number of ways. I am no expert on this topic, but Schellenberg and numerous other Carroll scholars have addressed it directly. The conclusions are inconclusive, to say the least.

Ralph Steadman, illustr. 1967

To me, trained in the New School-style of literary criticism, it’s authorial heresy to read too much of the author’s personal life into his work. The story stands on its own, and those that have turned their hand to illustrating it have invariably brought another layer of richness to it. This site has an excellent list of the artists who’ve illustrated Alice over the years, including links to their work. And this site–Bedtime Story Classics–presents the full text illustated with selected artwork from the many illustrators who’ve created representations in oil and ink of this feast for the senses.

And this song deserves to be playing in the background as you peruse them all:

Love Tommy Smothers introducing “Grace Sick … I mean … Grace Slick.” hehehe

Feed your head. Feed your head.

August 16, 2008 at 8:40 pm 5 comments

Ramble Through The Looking Glass

Jessie Willcox Smith, Collage from Boys and Girls of Bookland, 1923

I’ve watched Homage To The Rabbits at least 10 times now, and it continues to delight me with its weirdness and the Alice-In-Wonderland feeling of being transported to an absurd dreamscape where things all of a sudden stop making sense. The piece was choreographed by Wade Robson, with music composed by Eric Serra, and danced by Cirque du Soleil for the Criss Angel® Believe show. Yes, the “lie” is boldfaced (!) in the middle of “believe”, which is quite clever but insufferably contrived coming from someone who has registered his name as a trademark. (Despite that, click on the link and you will be taken to a very nice homepage with some awesome flash animation on it.)

I am predisposed to dislike magicians and magic, both of which are simply deceptive as opposed to deliberately surreal. I distrust anyone who creates a fantasy they want to dupe me in to believing is real, while smugly refusing to reveal the artifice behind their craft. It’s the height of arrogance, and the opposite of artful. Whereas, offer me a fantasy that bends the laws of logic, physics and reality as we know it–create an intentional falsehood to amuse and delight me, and acknowledge it as such–and I am putty in your hands.

In other words, I look for honesty in the attempt to deceive, bringing to mind the Dylan quote from Absolutely Sweet Marie, “to live outside the law you must be honest.”

More about fantasy versus reality, and why Alice trumps Dorothy every time, after the jump.

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August 16, 2008 at 1:14 pm 5 comments

Le Rêve or La Rêve? Let’s Call The Whole Thing Off

The masculine and feminine pronouns in the French language confound me, and there seems to be some confusion about which is proper for “rêve” — i.e., “dream”. Any linguists out there?

We have La Rêve (1931), a painting by Salvador Dali:

And a year later, Le Rêve (1932), a painting by Pablo Picasso:

The latter is owned by … wait for it … Steve Wynn, the Las Vegas “gaming tycoon”, as he is often described. He owns, of course, The Wynn hotel, casino, resort and den of iniquity (I’m guessing at that last bit–I’ve never been there!) where Le Rêve, the show (see post below) is held.

Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso are both surrealists (well, Picasso is much more than that, but for my purposes here, let’s call him a surrealist). And both were born in Spain, birthplace also of the paso doble. Olé!

And I don’t know why I find this funny, but: In late 2006, Wynn elbowed a hole into Le Rêve (the painting) just after making a deal to sell it for $139 million. I bet that gave him nightmares.

August 2, 2008 at 9:17 pm Leave a comment


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