Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reader Pop Art # 2

Hey everybody, we continue our gaze at pop art today with another beautiful reader selection. This choice comes from erudite and amazing Kim Breeding, a skilled artist in her own right. She has given us a cover rendering from the first installment of the new Labyrinth manga.

She writes:

"The maddening Escher-esque staircases are echoed here from the movie's big climax, both behind Jareth himself and also in the collar around poor Toby's neck; he is dressed up as a worthy successor to the throne of the Goblin King, but his confusion is clear in his portrayal here.

Besides the collar, the crown seems a bit too big and heavy for the boy's head. What is the huge disc above and behind Jareth? Is it a religious halo? We are perhaps meant to think so, except that it is not a source of light, but of darkness. The ball he is holding, also from the movie, recalls the sphere that many a monarch in old paintings is seen to be holding, though in the other hand was usually a scepter or sword (where IS Jareth's other hand? tee hee) so together with the halo, we are meant to see that even though Toby is wearing a crown, Jareth is still the reigning monarch.

The castle looming in the background recalls the image from the movie when Sarah first enters the magical land and sees the impossible task before her. This is the beginning of Toby's impossible task. In the movie, Jareth was in love with Sarah and tried to make her his queen; now, that plot foiled, he turns to the little brother, to make him his heir. One could argue for thinly veiled homo undertones with that, but I think that's too obvious..."

This is a fascinating choice, with uniquely interesting resonances. Especially because David Bowie played the character in the film version and is, after some fashion, a work of pop art himself. The former Ziggy Stardust is an immediately recognizable signifier as an alien or "other" (given his starring role in such films as The Man Who Fell to Earth). Oftentimes, what Bowie's personhood or presence represents to artists is not merely "alien-ness" but rather the very human and specific quality of androgyny. Kim's joke about thinly veiled homosexual undertones in this work of art is spot on in the sense that Bowie is infamous for his aura of sexual mystery (if not homosexuality). Did Bowie really sleep with Mick Jagger (Angela Bowie reportedly once found them naked in bed together...)? Perhaps that's not the immediate issue here since this isn't Bowie per se but rather an original depiction of Jareth - a character he originated. Still, it relates back to Bowie. The apparent androgyny of this villainous character (right down to hair-style and delicate eyes...) indicates in the frame the idea of danger. Or certainly mystery. Our knowledge of Bowie adds to that interpretation, I believe

Thanks Kim for sending this art along! And readers, don't forget to send more selections. I want to see the pop art that has influenced and impressed you!

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