Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Exotic Influence of the Past

I have some powerful connections to these images. When I was visiting my eye doctor (the late and great Dr. Hugh Ryan) in the winter of '72, I spotted the above image on the wall of his waiting room. It took my ten year old breath away.

The woman depicted in this ravishing painting by the immortal J H Lynch did things to my body and mind that I have never fully recovered from. I was entranced by her dark, exotic beauty, and transported immediately to the shimmering, almost surreal locale.

I wore an eye patch over my right eye for many years because the sight in my left eye was close to zero. Eventually, the muscle developed and my left eye learned to stand on its own.

After my visit with the doctor, I returned to an empty waiting room and waited for my mother. Feeling lucky, I stepped onto a chair and began to remove this framed print from the wall. My blood raced as I stepped back down with it and headed for the door. A moment later, a hand landed on my shoulder. It was a chubby hand belonging to a fat woman. She was the doctor's temp, I guess. I'd never seen her face before.

"Where are you going with that?" she asked.

I stopped and stared at her fat face. "To wait for my mum."

This wasn't really an answer; it was a child's way of providing a response in lieu of an honest answer that would incriminate me.

"WHAT'S GOING ON?!" was the next thing I heard. It came from my mother's mouth and it was said with shock and anger.

I turned.

Fatty didn't say anything (not with words). She just looked at my mum, and that probably said enough.

"WELL?" said my mother.

I remained silent.

My mother stared at the beauty in the picture before gesturing back towards the lonesome picture hook on the wall behind her.

"Put it back," she said.

I complied.

And as I complied, the fat temp provided some commentary: "He didn't have any trouble seeing THAT with his bad eye, did he?"

"No," my mother sighed. "He certainly didn't."

I got over this incident eventually, but I resented the actions of Fatty for about thirty-five years. Probably explains why I'm not real keen on fat chicks. I blame them for separating me from my dark, ravishing beauty.

A year later, while in the 5th grade, I fell in love with a miniature version of this exotic creature; her name was Linda Higgs, and she was a dark-skinned, athletic vision of miniature womanhood who drank a can of RC Cola every day. It was almost as dark as her skin. And when she let me taste it, I was in heaven.

These striking images are scans from a beautiful book called Just Above The Mantlepiece - Mass Market Masterpieces (Booth-Clibborn Editions, Ltd.; 2000). Edited by Wayne Hemingway, it's a stunning compilation of pop art gems that appeared on public and private walls in the 60's, 70's and 80's.

I have vivid memories of stumbling on many of these images for the first time.

For example, when I was just eight years old, I was in love with the doe-eyed waif in the picture above. The picture hung on the wall of a neighbor's garage. I would constantly find reasons to visit this alcoholic neighbor just so I could see it again. It didn't bother me one bit that her eyes were much bigger than a real person's eyes. On the contrary, her sad, almost tragic demeanor brought out the humanitarian in me.

Another consequence of my obsession with this picture was that I developed a fetish for women in red tights. There are some things we never grow out of.

The superb and unique working style of Margaret Keane, who painted both of the pics above, has inspired and been preserved by artists such as Mark Ryden.

Pre-dating David Hamilton and his photographic portraits of youth was the artist Stephen Pearson.

These two examples of his work are minor masterpieces, and demonstrate an exceptional grasp of form and shadow. The eroticism is certainly palpable, but also elusive.

Although the artist for the painting of the crying boy (one of many in the book) is not specifically identified, this piece traveled the world and caused uproar in some parts.

Crying children pictures are not so common these days.

Crying children still are.


  1. But why bother with those images anymore when hard-core pornography is freely available?.

  2. Anonymous -- these are far more erotic. They operate on many levels. Hardcore porn becomes boring because it exposes too much. These expose nothing and suggest so much.

  3. jervaise brooke hamsterMay 27, 2010 at 6:50 PM

    But Phantom, dont you see, the actions of "Fatty" 35 years ago prove that we are indeed living in "THE TIME OF SEXUAL REPRESSION" as i`ve said girl-y times on this site.

  4. What ever happened to Linda Higgs? Has she become an optometrist? Does she own red tights? Have crying children? Will we ever know?


  5. Anon -- Linda Higgs? Good question. I guess she matured and became a 7th grader. I lost contact.


    jervaise -- you have said that girl-y times. Make your own world, buddy. Nobody will do it for you and in your way.

  6. I love this story. Cheers for posting these striking images. Couldn't agree more about their elusive and haunting effect. I had very similar, clandestine experiences with some lesbian pulp covers in my youth.

  7. i likes your blog, Phantom of Pulp :-)

  8. Tim S -- I appreciate your comment, and thanks for stopping by. Hopefully, there's something for the like-minded.

  9. Tim S/jervais -- why the nic change?