Stefan Campbell Presents: Child's Play

Stefan Campbell

This is a time to embrace the hopeful happiness of Optimistic Obama and his aura of change after eight years of treachery. This revolution seems to be inspiring various creative types that I know to re-examine all things childlike as we move from the darkness into a seriously, playful yet oddly perverse lightness.

For instance, with her rambunctious mane of hair, creative director Jana Jarosz dresses like a unbothered five-year-old at playtime left to her own devices in a costume shop. Though thoroughly thought out, the effect is very zany madwoman willing to bring joy to our eyes by saying through her clothes: “Think about sometime else other than the dark times.”

Cheryl Black, a TV producer in sunny Los Angeles who is seven months pregnant with her first child, unsuccessfully searched far and wide for coal black sheets to line her unborn baby’s crib with. “What’s wrong with wanting sophisticated baby things?” she wondered. “Why does everything come in pastel pink or pale blue?!” She may have a point. Its like she’s preparing her kid for the realities of life from day one.

But designers and artists seem to have a different way of managing this trauma. Last April at Fred Segal/Ron Herman on Melrose, I spotted what appeared to be a balled up wedding dress, haphazardly thrown on a plank of plywood. “It’s actually a jacket made of vintage christening gowns,” smirked Brett Brooks, the boutique’s visionary head buyer. Indeed it was! For me, the jacket was pure “Virginal Goth,” a piece from Martin Margiela’s Artisanal (MM is always a little ahead of us). The plywood plank was really a beautifully crafted display table designed by John Janik. The whole feeling was unforced whimsy, and reminded us that Chanel Haute Couture 2009 had a headdress that resembled a baby’s bonnet expanding into a giant angelic rose; enfant terrible Gaultier sent a tiny Black Panther meets emo kid racing down his 2009 mens’ runway being chased by the adult versions of himself.

At Moss, the museum-esque shop in NYC, they quickly sold out of sculptors Tony Moxham and Mauricio Paniagua’s poetically sadistic baby doll heads ($900 each).
With jagged haircuts and punked-out dye jobs, they are made of wax and Chaquira beads applied by Huichol Indians in Mexico (check out if you’re feeling charitable) engulfing the faces (note the lashes) with colors and patterns that would have makeup guru Kabuki green with envy and inspiration!

Recently, at Stricalo Contempary on Wooster Street, artist and animator David Lauterbach (The Simpsons!!) presented his first solo exhibition called Davy’s Babies that featured portraits of nightmarishly ugly beautiful infants and toddlers that he conjured up from his twisted imagination. He says one of the kids (Billy) is an version of himself: “He is a clone of a clone of a clone of what I would be if I were inbred over and over and over. He would be repulsive, way too smiley, clownish. Definitely a chronic masturbator.” What would the Superego say about this?!

Now up at the Michael Steinberg space in Chelsea (till Feb 7th), fine artist Mie Yim has her first solo show (titled “Strangers”) that includes imagery of innocent (yet provocative) little pastel illustrated bunnies, rabbits and teddy bears in hardcore sexual situations that appear on educational flashcards (i.e. A is for Anal, G is for Gangbang… you get the picture. I is very popular!). This section, called The A.B.C. of S.E.X., is available in a printed book that Pointed Leaf Press (Facebook them) is putting out, and they are having a signing for it on February 12 in New York.

And lovingly, artist Ross Bleckner just returned from Uganda on a mission with the United Nations. He spent a few weeks working with a village of rescued child soldiers near the Congo border were he nurtured and guided them as they made art. “You should see the beautiful paintings that came from these kids who once had gun pointed at their heads and were force to kill”, he confided. Amid the tragedy, it’s hard to see the beauty and joy that blossoms from such adversity and despair… but it’s there. The paintings will appear later this year in a book as well with the profits helping the traumatized children further their education into adulthood. When life gives you lemons…

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