Photography: The Many Adventures of Baby Jack

I have been following a site on tumblr that I want to share.  It is about the adventures of a Disney Vinylmation called Baby Jack.  Vinylmations, a Disney brand, consist of a 3” or 9” figure that are considered collectibles.  Baby Jack is a 3” Vinylmation of Jack Skellington from the Nightmare Before Christmas, a stop motion movie created in 1993. Jack Skellington is created by Tim Burton.

Looking at the many images on the site, the photographer places Baby Jack in everyday situations.  Baby Jack is experiencing life as a person.  He does not seem to care that his size is different or that he never changes his expression.  The placement of Baby Jack in these situations conveys expressive content.

Baby Jack

Waiting to enter George Washington’s home in Mt. Vernon, Virginia

Look at the first photo to the left.  Here Baby Jack is waiting in line to enter Mt. Vernon, the home of George Washington near Alexandria, Virginia.  His smaller size does not draw attention from all the people around.  No one has turned to look at him.  He is just like everyone else waiting to enter but in reality he is not like the others.  He is a 3” inanimate plastic toy.  The photographer has made us discount the properties of the Vinylmation and allows us to see him experiencing the same everyday life events of a person.   We quickly identify with Baby Jack because we are viewing the narrative through his eyes in this worm’s eye view.

Waiting for take-off.

Waiting for take-off.

Remember on your last flight when the steward made sure you were all buckled up before the plane took off?  Remember the feeling of the seat belt across your waist?  Not the most comfortable position!  Look at the second photograph to the left.  There is Baby Jack doing exactly what we did.  Does it look comfortable?  Absolutely not!  We don’t even need to see his expression change.  The photographer has conveyed the situation with perfect clarity.  The placement of the elements in the photograph conveys the narrative.  Baby Jack is entitled to a seat all by himself and he is following the rules of take-off by using his seat belt.  The seat belt is constricting his body in a most uncomfortable portrayal.  Poor Baby Jack… I bet he can’t wait for the seat belt light to go off.  The viewer identifies with the situation and remembers the emotions felt at that time.  We know exactly what Baby Jack is feeling in this situation.   Here again we have this plastic Vinylmation taking on life as a person.

Visit the photographer’s interpretation of everyday life through the eyes of Baby Jack at http://babyjackvm.tumblr.com/

 

 

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Mermaids in Art History

Guest Blogger:  Emily

Dustin Brown.  Damaged Goods. 2004.  White Ash Tree.  Arlington, VA.

Dustin Brown. Damaged Goods. 2004. White Ash Tree. Arlington, VA.

My most recent sculpture-hunt took me to Arlington, VA, in search of a mermaid statue that I’d heard about. The statue, located in front of a home on Lee Highway, has gained controversy for its giant, curvaceous wooden form that seems to jump out of the middle of the empty yard which it inhabits. Created out of a dead white-ash tree by local tree sculptor Dustin Brown in 2004, the work, titled Damaged Goods, is often derided as trashy and inappropriate. But have mermaids always been viewed this way?
Though I’d never particularly noticed mermaids when I took my art history survey course, I found out later that they have played a fairly significant role since the Classical period. In Greek and Roman mythology, mermaids weren’t often distinguished from water spirits and nymph- instead, they all morphed together.

One major painting I found illustrating mermaids was The Mermaid (1901) by John Williams Waterhouse. Waterhouse, who worked in the Pre-Raphaelite style, depicted mermaids in countless numbers of his paintings. In The Mermaid, he paints a figure topless, long-haired figure with a single, silver tail wrapped around her body. His mermaid appears vulnerable and innocent, a far cry from the brazen attitude of Damaged Goods. Edvard Eriksen carves a similar image of the beautiful sea creature in his famous work The Little Mermaid, a public sculpture planted in the sea just beyond the shore of Copenhagen, Denmark, which has proudly adopted the work as a symbol of its national pride. This young mermaid with a bare chest and two fins gazes out at the wide ocean, contemplating something unknown to the viewer. No one would call either of these mermaids sexually inappropriate; instead, the viewer sympathizes with their sad and lonely outlook. These mermaids’ nudity supports the idea of their young vulnerability instead of the obvious eroticism of Damaged Goods.

Finally, in 1989, another little mermaid swam out of the sea and into the hearts of many Disney fans. Ariel, the main heroine of the film, The Little Mermaid, was designed as a blend of mermaids from prior works. Her long, flowing red hair was modeled after that of the mermaid depicted in Waterhouse’s painting, while her famous pose at the end of the movie, in which she sings while sitting on a rock in the ocean, is reminiscent of the pose and look of Eriksen’s lonely mermaid. As creators of a G-rated, beloved children’s movie, the artists who constructed Ariel wisely chose to have her wear a clamshell bandeau, contrasting with the former topless precedent of mermaids in art. However, Ariel’s attitude matches those mermaids of Waterhouse and Eriksen; a lost, insecure mermaid, she is just trying to find her way in the world, not seduce it.

So, with all of this knowledge of mermaids past and present, why does Damaged Goods still bear a badge of notoriety? Simply put, its inferior craftsmanship, lack of deeper meaning, and overall attitude make it a sexually explicit work meant to shock and provoke viewers, not garner scholarly admiration and respect.