An Arrow in the Androgyne
January 7, 2012 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Emerging surrealist artist Margo Selski, known for her Modern Subcultures-and-Flemish fusion inspired theatrical portraiture, has opened a new exhibit that prominently features and celebrates her shy 12-year old son Theo, who attended the opening gala in a beautiful red velvet gown, pearls, and black lace opera gloves.

On a broader note than the this one opening, Selski is considered part of a movement - described by some as "Renaissance Masters on Drug" - of Surrealist Sympathizers cultivated by gallery owner Harry Lein in an effort to reclaim technique and aesthetic beauty in art.
posted by Chipmazing (20 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Grrr, forgot to include the gallery link in the FPP.
posted by Chipmazing at 12:08 PM on January 7, 2012

What a wonderful mother and a beautiful series. Thank you!
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:11 PM on January 7, 2012

The artist undoes her child's humanity for self.
posted by Mblue at 12:22 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

May the gods take pity on the poor children whose parents think they are an art project.
posted by charlie don't surf at 12:26 PM on January 7, 2012 [9 favorites]

Selski's work kind of creeps me out. Her paintings look like kitschy collages. This one looks like the cover of one of those straight-to-VHS movies starring the Olsen twins. On preview, I like the more restrained ones in the gallery link, especially this one.

The broader link of the Lein gallery has some cool stuff. The paintings by Amau Alemany and Robert Peluce remind me of Magritte.
posted by Houyhnhnm at 12:28 PM on January 7, 2012

This would seem to be an art project about building a cult of personality around the artists son. I don't think I can get behind that.

Also, technique and aesthetic beauty never went away. Why would you say that? Oh, because you have a commercial gallery and you want to sell paintings. Right.
posted by The River Ivel at 12:30 PM on January 7, 2012 [3 favorites]

What a wonderful mother and a beautiful series. Thank you!
posted by june made him a gemini at 12:11 PM on January 7 [+] [!]

The artist undoes her child's humanity for self.
posted by Mblue

Great to see we've got consensus on this.
posted by philip-random at 12:37 PM on January 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

I don't think I can get behind that.

I don't know why one has to declare that you're "behind" something like this, or not. It is what it is: the art, the mother, the son, the muse.

I can declare my taste: I like it, a lot.

I can declare my opinion on the parenting decisions, but always with the caveat that I do not know enough about Theo or Margo to speak with any authority: It looks and feels powerful and empowering, and I hope that Theo and his relationship with his mom will be stronger for it.

I will state without equivocation my opinion on the views of many teenagers (and adults) educated by mainstream media: They tend to have poor and narrow taste which they wield as a whip against those who dare to think and express themselves otherwise; they can be a hurtful lot.

A good parent develops her child's taste as widely as possible and equips him to stand against the buffets. It seems to me that this is what this parent intends.
posted by kneecapped at 12:51 PM on January 7, 2012 [10 favorites]

No mother wants her child to be bullied or to have a difficult childhood. Have you or your husband ever encouraged Theo to suppress his impulses and dress like the other boys in order to spare him harassment?

This is a very difficult balancing act. Do you knock down your child’s natural impulses, or do you let the world knock him down? My husband and I decided that the important thing to do was to not purge Theo’s desires but to prepare him fully for the idea that his peers would react with a hostile reaction to his choices. I think it is a mistake for parents to try to micromanage their children from afar. Helicopter parenting is just not possible. You can’t be there all the time, and you can’t be controlling your child’s every mannerism and comment. Further, the semiotics of teen culture are generally treacherous territory for a parent to try to legislate in their child. We encouraged Theo to find some sort of “style identity” that would allow him to express his love of beautiful, fine things, but also not invite misinterpretation and bullying. I think of the goth-steampunk-alternative kids in L.A. that we met through Henry Lien, owner of Glass Garage. These boys wore makeup and dressed outrageously, but they somehow got away with it and were actually seen as cool and a little intimidating. People did not mess with them. However, Ellensburg is probably not sophisticated enough to support that sort of sophisticated subcultural reference. Kids here will probably react to anything different with hostility, and we are making sure that Theo understands that.

posted by infini at 12:55 PM on January 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

May the gods take pity on the poor children whose parents think they are an art project.

I could go into, at great depth, the negligence of my parents and how little they cared about my interests and what made me as a human being. But I won't, because every day I deal with the repercussions of not having her support throughout every facet of my life.

If my mother found me to be fascinating and worthy of taking the time to create works of art based on such, I'd be honored and I'd probably still have a relationship with her today.

If she is comfortable with her son's experimentation with androgyny, and he is obviously of an age where he can tell her that he doesn't want to be put on display but hasn't, I don't see the issue here. There are much, much greater issues of parents living vicariously through or otherwise taking advantage of their children. This is not one of them.
posted by june made him a gemini at 1:19 PM on January 7, 2012 [5 favorites]

Ok, this one is awesome. Theo looks like a frickin' centaur. And I think that that painting means there's definitely a dialogue going on between artist and muse/subject and also mother and son. They're working this thing together, and it looks like fun.
posted by carsonb at 1:22 PM on January 7, 2012

Son/child/ was trying to be gender-neutral. Oops.
posted by carsonb at 1:23 PM on January 7, 2012

vicariously through or otherwise
It's otherwise.

posted by Mblue at 1:33 PM on January 7, 2012

"the beautiful red velvet gown.. etc" link is a wonderful read on all this.

One might argue that there’s a fine line between empowerment and exploitation. How do you respond to critics who might say that this exhibit is exploiting Theo — in part because, at 12, he’s too young to make an informed decision about being your subject?

This is a very important question. Theo has, since a very young age, been drawn to my paintings and wanted to “star” in them. My paintings have always represented to him a beautiful alternate reality. I of course adamantly will not tell him that his desire to be in those paintings is wrong. However, the decision to allow him his desires was made by his father and me, not by Theo. We have seen the benefit of a positive visualization of Theo’s own attraction to another imagined world filled with lush beauty, mystery, and power. The paintings have proven to be enormously positive exercises in letting him share, in a very visual way, his inner world. Starring in the paintings allows him to see himself portrayed with the kind of confidence and power that he, and every kid, hopes to have someday.

posted by infini at 1:38 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Something tells me that if this story was inverted it wouldn't be on the FPP:

Southern Preacher/Playwright, Bob Jenkins, unveils his 90 minute play about his deeply homophobic and heterosexist son.

The 13 year old proudly attended the premier in a lush recreation of a Hugo Boss stormtrooper outfit...

Count me in the 'weird, inappropriate projection on children combined with ruthless careerism' camp. That it appeals to my aesthetics and political leanings is irrelevant.
posted by mrdaneri at 2:25 PM on January 7, 2012

Generally it's probably best not to put your child into the public arena in ways that might appear to make statements about their tastes and orientation. It's arguably worse to be doing it when he's 12 than it was at 7. And it might have been better to give him more space by saying that Theo was a neutral model and uninterested in the whole thing rather than saying it's all driven by him and his desires - even if it is. I do sort of feel it risks straining credulity to say that this is him sharing his inner vision (what luck that this spontaneous impulse of his matched up with Mom's artistic needs so well).

And yet, for some kids I can see this might be exactly right and appropriate. We can't really know unless and until Theo is old enough and willing to tell us how it really seemed to him then - and how it seems to him later on when he's grown up. There's an unavoidable gamble about that latter verdict.
posted by Segundus at 2:40 PM on January 7, 2012

When I was 12 I had a lot of impulses I thought were innate but really boiled down to a desire to be like and please my parents.
posted by localroger at 3:24 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I was 12 I had a lot of impulses I thought were innate but really boiled down to a desire to be like and please my parents.

This is an important point. I'm an English and drama teacher and I write, and Mrs. kneecapped is an artist (a painter). Our oldest daughter is an artist too. She was drawing and painting from way early on. The middle daughter is a music major (piano) in her 2nd year at Univ, but she thinks she might want to take journalism. The youngest is in her first year of Eng. at Univ, but she's thinking about moving to linguistics or anthropology.

Of course our kids want to be like and please us. Why shouldn't they? They have our genes, and our lives are pretty good, and they see that. We'll support them in whatever they do, or want to do. Are we projecting ourselves on our kids? Yes. When a young man or woman chooses to takeover the family farm or family business we tend to go automatic and say that's a good thing. What's the difference here? Again, it's all about how the kid gets love and is supported, and finds that he or she is learning and realizing potential.
posted by kneecapped at 3:41 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Like many contemporary invocations of "surrealism," this and lots of the stuff in the last link seems like basically hyper-technical fantasy illustration that artists and/or gallerist are afraid to present as such. Not to be dismissive of it at all, I like lots of it, especially that sleeping shark sculpture.
posted by Rustmouth Snakedrill at 3:51 PM on January 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

So many triggers.

1. The infantilism of a lot of contemporary Western art. So much is arch reconstructivist hackery playing with childhood themes, especially book illustrations. I have no particular beef with arch reconstructivist hackery: indeed, take that out of surrealism (my favourite modern art) and you're not left with much. But at the moment, enough of the kid stuff already. At least it's better than all the sheer ugly aggression that seems to be the default in the Russian naive. (Go look at avatars and home-made pictures in .ru social sites. Eesh.)

2. I know people who were public projects for their intellectual parents. Some of them manage to control the resultant neuroses quite well, but I don't think it's a majority. "They may not mean to, but they do" should in these cases be rewritten to "They meant to, all along."

3. Re 1. If you must play with childhood iconography, at least let it do the talking. Take a bow, Jim Woodring.

4. Selski's stuff is very pretty and very well done. But I don't like that it attracts me and maintains my interest.
posted by Devonian at 4:18 PM on January 7, 2012

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