Sunday, March 22, 2009

Flashing Symbols

Ok, I've changed my tune and cleaned up this cover. We need to see her in full chromatic glory, digitally boosted for full effect. I decided that it was time to begin to address the aspect of Bolles' commercial art that Balkanized his career. That being the sexually charged nature in much of his work. Keep in mind that this image was created in 1935 and the climate for such material was very different. For one, the honorable Mayor LaGuardia of New York City had his anti-smut campaign going full tilt, his vice cops filling paddy wagons with newsstand vendors brazen enough to openly hawk the likes of Spicy Stories. Just imagine what the authorities would have done to Enoch had they known he was responsible for the covers adorning most of the pulps they had banned.

On David Apatoff's terrific and often provocative site Illustration Art the March 9 entry addressed the naughty symbolism hidden in classic illustration art. The post was entited Spanking Cats after a Ted Geisel cartoon with an obvious (or not so) back story. The gist of it was that illustrators (note: male illustrators) in the good old days commonly loaded up their drawings with naughty subtext in the Freudian "cigar but not a cigar" category. The blog included several illustrations of heroic types sporting long barreled guns and very broad swords, none particularly clever.

Now whether you think our example by Bolles is at all clever or subtle (or if it even aspired to be), at least he's not working with the standard erector set of symbolic tools. Who's to say if those pillows are goo goo eyes or naughty bits. And then there's that orchid à la (or perhaps ooh la la) Georgia O'Keefe. Next we move to her hands and well...what's the point of going on. But there may be one sly message hidden in this composition you missed. Did you know that LaGuardia was nicknamed "the little flower"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice post again Jack. Thanks. I'll bet the pillow-eyes represent the censor, with the girl laying uncaringly on top. The flower asks the observer 'wouldn't you like to deflower her?' The leaf in her hand could represent a toy. The artists and art directors must have had fun putting it all together!