“Save Us!” – The Wolves Propaganda Poster

'"Save Us!', Propaganda poster for the Wolf's House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

‘”Save Us!”, Propaganda Poster’ for the Wolf’s House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

Originally conceived as the design for a miniature poster to adorn the interior walls of ‘The Wolf’s House’,  ‘”Save Us!” Propaganda Poster’ is a photo montage using prints of my original black Biro drawings of Lily, as a puppy and as a mature dog.  Her lupine features as well as her trusting expression seemed to lend perfectly to the theme of the poster.

The foundation for this piece is the famous Soviet World War II propaganda poster by Viktor Koretsky, “Red Army Soldiers, Save Us!”, 1942.  Although the Russian cyrillic translation for “Red Army Soldiers” has been removed from the design, I have left a trace of where it was originally placed, indicating the war I envisaged the inhabitants of The Wolf’s House to be planning or already waging against humans.  Retaining the Russian translation for “Save Us!” from Koretsky’s original poster in my design, incites a message that is woven throughout the symbolism of The Wolf’s House, promoting conservation of threatened species.

"Red Army Soldiers, Save Us!", original 1942 Soviet WWII propaganda poster by

“Red Army Soldiers, Save Us!”, original 1942 Soviet WWII propaganda poster by

The Kafka-esque images I imagined of wolves holding secret meetings in ‘The Wolf’s House’, planning their epic battle against humans were perhaps triggered not only by my drawing of 2010,  “TV Screen III – ‘East Meets West, Forests’ Memories'” but also by my husband’s description of  the music video for ‘There, There’, 2003, whilst we were listening to Radiohead’s ‘Hail to the Thief’ during a car journey to Scotland.  His description was powerful as I didn’t get round to watching the video until last year, a year after the creation of The Wolf’s House.

'"Save Us!', Propaganda poster for the Wolf's House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

‘”Save Us!’, Propaganda Poster’, Archival Pigment Print

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints of ‘Save Us!’ made by the excellent Jack Lowe studio are available to order from my website

The Wolf’s House

"The Wolf's House", 2012, black Biro drawings and mixed media by Jane Lee McCracken

“The Wolf’s House”, 2012, black Biro drawings and mixed media by Jane Lee McCracken

Outside a white-out blizzard howls, while war is waged through it.  Mrs Wolf throws open the door of ‘The Wolf’s House’ and looks out at the soldiers fighting around her cottage.

‘The Wolf’s House’ is symbolically one of the simplest pieces I have created for it simply asks “who is more civilised, man or animals?”.  A take on the iconic cuckoo clock, it was inspired by a cuckoo clock my father brought back to Scotland for me after a trip to Switzerland, when I was a child.

Black Biro drawing of Lily and 'Mrs Wolf'.  'Mrs Wolf' is made from a cast taken of wolf's head from my wedding cake-topper and the body of a vintage Polish Capeila doll as is 'Mr Wolf' who sits by the window.

Black Biro drawing of Lily and ‘Mrs Wolf’. ‘

The piece explores the juxtaposition of the roles of man and animals suggesting the idea of the ‘innocent’ instinctive nature of animals as opposed to the cerebrally determined brutal nature of man.  ‘The Wolf’s House’ is a beacon of light representing civilised society whilst chaos reigns outside; but it is occupied by wolves not humans.

"The Wolf's House", 2013, 'The Woodcutter's Cottage' exhibition, The Mercer Gallery, Harrogate

“The Wolf’s House”, 2013, ‘The Woodcutter’s Cottage’ exhibition, The Mercer Gallery, Harrogate.

Soldiers fight in the snow around the Wolf’s House whilst Mr and Mrs Wolf witness war, as animals of the forest play peacefully inside the house.  However there is an ever present threat from humans.

'The Wolf's House' roof detail, black Biro drawing of Lily on painted MDF

‘The Wolf’s House’ roof detail, black Biro drawing of Lily on painted MDF

Further inspiration for the piece came from a photograph of Russian soldiers fighting through a village towards Germany after the end of the battle of Stalingrad when the tide of war has changed.  I imagined a cottage somewhere in Eastern Europe encircled by soldiers fighting a brutal war.

Official USSR photograph of Red Army in combat WWII, Artist's own collection.

Official USSR photograph of Red Army in combat WWII, Artist’s own collection.

‘The Wolf’s House is a mixed media piece which includes original black Biro drawings of Lily drawn on painted, sanded MDF.  Model railway snow and glitter were used to create the winter snow scene on the roof and base.  Printed transfers on fabric formed the wallpaper of the interior walls, complete with propaganda posters specifically designed for the piece.  I sourced replica Russian F1 hand grenades which were then painted with white enamel as were the model soldiers, German Assault Infantry in winter gear and Russian Army Assault Infantry.  An authentic cuckoo clock chain bought from a clock shop holds the hand grenade weights of the clock.  ‘Mr and Mrs Wolf’ were made from casts taken of the wolves heads from my wedding cake-topper and the bodies of vintage Polish Capelia dolls bought on Ebay.

'The Wolf's House' interior

‘The Wolf’s House’ interior

Mr Wolf sits by the window surrounded by propaganda posters and watches bears, a wolf, a fox and a tiger cub playing together.

'The Wolf's House' interior shot through window.

‘The Wolf’s House’ interior shot through side window.

'The Wolf's House' interior shot through front window.

‘The Wolf’s House’ interior shot through front window.

Their play indicates that each species has it’s own social structure and behaviour which is rarely disregarded but whilst humans have a highly developed sense of morality, the moral codes by which we live are often breached.

'"Save Us!', Propaganda poster for the Wolf's House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

‘”Save Us!’, 2012, Propaganda poster for the Wolf’s House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

Ultimately the futures of many species’ are held in our hands and this is symbolised by ‘The Wolf’s House’ and the ever present battle around the house and its occupants.

Russian model soldiers fighting in the snow around 'The Wolf's House'

Russian model soldiers fighting in the snow around ‘The Wolf’s House’

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints of ‘Save Us!’ made by the excellent Jack Lowe studio are available to order from my website

'"Save Us!', Propaganda poster for the Wolf's House, photo montage by Jane Lee McCracken

‘”Save Us!’, Propaganda poster for the Wolf’s House, Archival Pigment Print

The Transylvanian Miller, her Two Sons and ‘The Red Horse and the Wolf Cub’

'Red Horse and the Wolf Cub - After Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone', 2009, red and black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Red Horse and the Wolf Cub – After Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone’, 2009, red and black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

Not Long Ago, there lived a Miller and her two sons in a watermill, in a hamlet near the Transylvanian village of Miklósvár.  The mill was the prettiest building in the hamlet with the most beautiful cottage garden and chickens clucking through the flower beds.  Although she was very old and very petite the Miller ran the mill as she had for many years with the help of her sons.  Her sons had the bluest eyes in the land and were very tall.  All she needed was contained in one small, dark room, her bed, her kitchen range, a table, a chair and her loom for weaving tapestries and rugs.

The Miller's room at the watermill, Transylvania, 2008

The Miller’s room at the watermill, Transylvania, 2008, Jane Lee McCracken

Sometimes she welcomed travellers to visit her mill to make extra leu.  One day a Scottish visitor and a Geordie visitor came to the mill.  She had baked them fresh pastries with jam which were delicious.  Her sons showed the visitors how the mill and its water wheel worked, then the Miller allowed the Scottish visitor to try weaving a rug on the loom.  Whilst weaving the visitor noticed a vibrant tapestry, hanging on the wall above the bed.  The tapestry depicted a fairy tale and underneath it the Miller sweetly slept in her bed each night.  When the tour was over the Miller stood in her garden in the sunshine waving goodbye to the visitors and her sons blinked their bright blue eyes”.

Wolf-tracking, Transylviania, 2008

Wolf-tracking, Transylviania, 2008, Jane Lee McCracken

So many aspects of our trip to Romania in 2008 have stayed with us, the breathtaking landscapes, the beautiful villages, wolf-tracking, bear-tracking and the friends we made and two wonderful nights spent with them in The Shed – a glorious watering hole in a Transylvanian village.

The Geordie and commonly known by himself, "George Bush",  The Shed, Transylvania, 2008

The Geordie and commonly known by himself, “George Bush”, The Shed, Transylvania, 2008

And the Miller and her mill.  I never forgot her standing in her garden waving to us.

The Miller's garden, Transylvania, 2008

The Miller’s garden, Transylvania, 2008, Jane Lee McCracken

During our Romanian adventure, partly in the footsteps of Patrick Leigh Fermor, (see 175 Steps with Patrick Leigh Fermor) we learned a lot about Communist oppression of the Romanian people, Communist State Terror and the purges resulting in many thousands of  lives lost at the hands of the Securitate – the Romanian Secret Police.  A tragically broken country and people, Romania only emerged from the shadow of Communism and Nicolae Ceaușescu’s regime in 1989.

Cottage in mountain village, Transylvania, 2008

Cottage in mountain village, Transylvania, 2008, Jane Lee McCracken

Remembering the Miller and her precious fairy tale tapestry, I thought of the communist purges and the Romanian peoples forcibly torn from their homes by the Securitate and the possessions left behind in the many empty properties we saw across Romania, grave memorials of the state’s barbarity.

'Join the Red Army', 1920 Ukrainian recruitment poster, artist unknown

‘Join the Red Army’, 1920 Ukrainian recruitment poster, artist unknown

To commemorate such loss during the purges I decided to make ‘The Red Horse and the Wolf Cub’.  It represents an interpretation of mass produced prints made in the 20th century of a fictional fairy tale about a ‘wolf cub’ and a ‘red horse’ and is reminiscent of Soviet Propaganda posters.  The drawing signifies how subjective art is and once selected by an individual, and displayed in their home it becomes a statement of ‘this is my taste’.  When the art work is left behind on the walls of abandoned homes, the home-owners ‘taste’ is exhibited to a silent audience or rediscovered by soldiers, refugees, other villagers or by nature.  The drawing also pays homage to Ivan Bilibin’s illustrations, particularly ‘The Red Rider’ in the Russian tale “Vasilisa the Beautiful”.

'Red Rider', "Vasalisa the Beautiful", Ivan Bilibin, 1899

‘Red Rider’, “Vasalisa the Beautiful”, Ivan Bilibin, 1899

I wondered had the Miller loved fairy tales as a young girl just as I loved my first fairy tale book illustrated by Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone.  Incorporating a drawing in red Biro of a gypsy horse after Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone, one of my favourite childhood illustrations, I placed Lily as a puppy playing the wolf cub, riding on the horse’s back.  On the saddle is a projection of a Russian animation of a wolf which the wolf cub is watching.

'Lily' aged 15 weeks during the photo shoot for 'The Red Horse and the Wolf Cub'

‘Lily’ aged 15 weeks during the photo shoot for ‘The Red Horse and the Wolf Cub’

The drawing also memorialises our wonderful trip to beautiful Romania.

'Red Horse and the Wolf Cub - After Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone', 2009, red and black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘Red Horse and the Wolf Cub – After Janet and Anne Grahame Johnstone’, 2009, red and black Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

Luxurious Archival Pigment limited edition prints of ‘The Red Horse and the Wolf Cub’, made by the excellent Jack Lowe Studio are available from my website