‘Russian Doll’ – Remembering Female Victims of War

'The Russian Doll', red, black, blue and green Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

‘The Russian Doll’, red, black, blue and green Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken

Adopting the iconic image of the Russian doll, this drawing was made as a memorial to women and young girls  who were/are the victims of violence during war.  A Russian Doll painted with the tranquil scene of Ivan Shishkin’s ‘Morning in a Pine Forest’, 1889, one of Russia’s most popular paintings, is layered with the image of Russian soldiers fighting in the Battle of Stalingrad during WWII.  Now a well documented fact, graphically conveyed in such writings as Anthony Beevor’s ‘Berlin: The Downfall 1945’ 2002, this piece represents the genocidal rape perpetrated by the Red Army as it surged towards Berlin.  The novelist Vasily Grossman, a front line war correspondent with the Red Army, dismayed at the mass rape committed by so many Russian soldiers on not only German women but liberated Polish and Russian women wrote,

“Horror in the eyes of women and girls” (‘A Writer at War: Vasily Grossman with the Red Army 1941-1945’).

The consequences of such violations often resulted/result in suicide, unwanted pregnancies and lifelong psychological and physical scars. By layering a self-portrait as part of the Russian Doll’s face, thus bridging awareness between statics and reality, this representation suggests that during war violence is indiscriminate and targets females of all ages and backgrounds.  Often a strategic weapon of war that has been used in conflicts since records began, it is still common today, recently in the Democratic Republic of Congo and with many incidents of rape being reported in the current conflict in Iraq.   At the very edge of the drawing appear the legs of a young girl, a reminder of the very young victims of war rape.

For further images from this series please visit my website.

Take One Puppy, her First Bed and a Proud Nation of Animal Lovers!

'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’, 2007

For all those who requested to see the photo-shoot of Lily for the drawing ‘Red Horse and the Wolf Cub’ – here it is in brief!!

Lily on location relaxing during the shoot!

Lily on location relaxing during the shoot!

Lily’s first bed was a red velvet affair with gaudy gold tassels – we called it her ‘Princess Bed’ as it reminded us of the fairy tale ‘The Princess and the Pea’ (for all us children of the 70’s, remember the Ladybird edition of the tale and those fabulous illustrations?).

Lily is given Pengy as a gift for her hard work modelling.

Lily is given Pengy as a gift for her hard work modelling.

She loved her wee bed!  Sadly it went the same way as the demise of ‘Pengy’, reduced to a small rag of red velvet!  Pengy was latterly known as ‘Pengy’s Foot’ when Lily realised she had teeth and would use them!  Sid from Toy Story would have been be proud of her.

"I have teeth woo hoo!"

“I have teeth woo hoo!”

"I'm getting bored and sleepy now!"

“I’m getting bored and sleepy now!”

Pengy’s foot resides somewhere in the dark recesses of Lily’s toy box!  Yes Lily has a toy box – for all you cynics out there who can be heard saying ‘typical childless person treating her dog like a baby!’ dogs are intelligent enough to differentiate between their toys and Lily knows each of her many (hence the need for a toy box!) toys by name and can often be found rooting around in her toy box looking for the particular mutilated creature she wants to play with at 5 o’clock sparrow am.  I always see play as an important part of Lily’s daily routine as it keeps her young at heart.  And can she play!

"I'm tired of the camera flash now!"

“Shh, Lily’s asleep!”

On a serious note many people, whether they have children or don’t have children, sadly or contentedly, or are dog or animal lovers, experience a strength of love for their dog that equates to the love of a family member because dogs are intelligent, pack animals with similar character traits to humans and therefore respond positively to love and affection.

Me and Lily, 2007

Me and Lily, 2007

And what the hell if there are many of us out there who love our dogs like children – they are after all as innocent and reliant upon us, in my opinion as a child is and to give dogs a happy, loving home is surely what they deserve after the legacy we have created through domesticating canines.  Should we not celebrate and promote positively that many of our species share an empathy with and a love for animals? Such empathy defines a nation as a compassionate modern society and a nation of animal lovers is something to be proud of.

Lily and me, 2007

Lily and me, 2007

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated   Gandhi

'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

And this is the result of the photo shoot, Lily as the ‘Wolf Cub’.

Limited Edition Luxurious Archival Pigment Prints of the ‘Red Horse and the Wolf Cub’ crafted by one of the best printmaker’s in the UK Jack Lowe Studio are available from my website

What the Children Saw – ‘LORE’ and Generation War Child

'The Sideboard II', 2009, red Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCrackenThis triptych portrays memories of a small child at play in a sideboard, within the safety of ‘home’, before the onset of war. It was inspired by the girl in the red coat from the film ‘Schindler’s List’, 1993, Steven Spielberg, as she wanders through the Kraków Ghetto while it is being ‘cleared’’. The Artist uses her niece to model for this piece to highlight the indiscriminate nature of war and how it can affect ‘anyone’ and to provoke understanding of loss by seeing victims as individuals and not statistics.

‘The Sideboard II’, 2009, red Biro drawing by Jane Lee McCracken part of a “triptych (which) portrays memories of a small child at play using a sideboard, within the safety of ‘home’, before the onset of war… inspired by ‘the girl in the red coat’ from the film ‘Schindler’s List’, 1993, Steven Spielberg, as she wanders through the Kraków Ghetto while it is being ‘cleared’. This piece highlights the indiscriminate nature of war and how it can affect ‘anyone’ and provokes understanding of loss by seeing victims as individuals and not statistics.”

No child should see what generations of children growing up during war have seen or are seeing.  Their eyes are forced to soak up the bloody spillage engendered by the very generations who are supposed to guide them safely to adulthood.  ‘Collective guilt’ particularly after WWII often dictates a rule of silence leaving many children and young adults unable to express the horror they have witnessed.  Dealing inwardly with a recurring nightmare spawned from observing the grotesquery of war, can cause psychological catastrophe for many and a lifetime of suffering.

Saskia 'Lore', 2012

‘Lore’, Cate Shortland, 2012

‘Lore’, Cate Shortland’s 2012 film presents us not only with all of the above but ultimately shares a reality that has echoed down the years, ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’, Plato

Lore and her siblings, 'Lore', Cate Shortland, 2012

‘Lore’, Cate Shortland, 2012

Through a fluttering curtained window into the cinematically exquisite trampled fairy tale of a fleeing Nazi family, teenage Lore turns her beautiful face towards the camera and commences the unravelling of her contorted mind of lies.  The chorally haunted forests of Schwarzwald provide the setting for an epic journey’s beginning, as Lore’s high ranking Nazi parents disappear into the forests deep in the American enclave, leaving their five children to find a way through the aftermath of WWII to Grandmother’s in Hamburg.  The extraorindary Saskia Rosendahl’s ‘Lore’ is forced to confront her Nazi indoctrination, anti-Semitism and hero-worshipping of her father whom she discovers to be a war criminal responsible for genocide; she witnesses the scaling denial of a nation, all whilst leading her young brothers, including baby Peter and her younger sister Liesel to safety.

'Lore',

Saskia Rosendahl’s ‘Lore’, Cate Shortland, 2012

Adam Arkapaw’s stunning cinematography often gentle and sun-blanched, has wisps of Gerhard Richter’s paintings flickering through it.  A motion parallel to Richter’s ‘Betty’, 1988 (Richter was himself a child during WWII) and homage to his blurred photo-paintings echo throughout the film especially in the sequence when Lore dances with her sister Liesel.

'Betty', 1988, Gerhard Richter

‘Betty’, Gerhard Richter, 1988

Many refugees experienced chance, often fleeting encounters with strangers who changed the course of their lives in the unwinding chaos of WWII Europe.  A Jewish concentration camp survivor, Kai Malina’s ‘Thomas’, covets Lore and eventually becomes the siblings guardian angel whilst Lore’s beliefs and body crumble in the rubble and decay of ‘Gomorrah’. The greatest achievement of this impressive film, for there are many, is to communicate a picture of what discovering the unfolding horror show of war looks like, as if we too are there sharing the unearthing with the children.  This film gifts us within a closer proximity than others of its ilk, of trying to comprehend the aftershock of WWII.

Lore and her siblings, 'Lore', 2012

Lore and her siblings, ‘Lore’, 2012

It is often impossible to put into words something you have never seen or experienced yourself, but “A picture shows me at a glance what it takes dozens of pages of a book to expound”, Ivan Turgenev. Perhaps images more than words help us ‘the unexperienced fortunates’ gain any sort of understanding of what witnessing the horror of war actually means.

Detail of Julien Bryan's "Ten-year-old Polish girl Kazimiera Mika mourning the death of her sister, caused by strafing German aircraft, near Warsaw, Poland. 13 Sep 1939"

Detail of Julien Bryan’s “Ten-year-old Polish girl Kazimiera Mika mourning the death of her sister, caused by strafing German aircraft, near Warsaw, Poland. 13 Sep 1939”

For further information about ‘The Sideboard’ triptych, please visit my website

From Moscow with Love

'The Russian Doll', red, blue, green and black Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken

‘The Russian Doll’, red, blue, green and black Biro drawing, 2008 by Jane Lee McCracken

The Russian Doll… Back in my home town of Edinburgh in 2005, with money in my pocket and a premeditated mission to visit ‘The Russian Shop’, my target was a Russian doll and successful return to Northumberland the same day with my own matryoshka.

The little shop on St Mary’s Street just off the High Street was overflowing with an impressive array of magnificent Russian dolls, lacquer boxes and wooden toys.  I wanted a special doll, something unique.   All the dolls were wearing coats of glistening varnish, except one which had a matt finish – she had the prettiest face, and on her body was a representation of Ivan Shishkin’s painting ‘Morning in a Pine Forest’, 1889. All her children had Russian landscape paintings on their bodies too and the same pretty face as their mother.  This was my doll!

Russian doll and her four children on 'The Wolf's House', mixed media, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

Russian doll and her four children on “The Wolf’s House”, mixed media, 2012, by Jane Lee McCracken

I took her to the counter to pay and the shop owner pointed to a woman I had noticed earlier who was sitting at a small desk painting a lacquer box. “This is the artist who made your doll, she has just flown in from Moscow this morning to give a demonstration of her work”.  Such excitement, such a lovely, gentle woman, we spoke to one another about her art and like a child holding out an autograph book to a living legend, I held out my dolI and asked if she would sign a dedication. “To Jane, with Love, 2005” it says.

'All I have left', 2001

“All I have Left”, 2001

Found objects and my own possessions feature a lot in my work.  I love the simplicity of using what is close at hand, a Biro, my dog Lily, objects I find on Ebay.  Working on  a series of drawings from 2008 called ‘Tales from the East’, I wanted to employ the iconic image of the Russian doll and create my own doll.  I used my Russian/Scottish doll as inspiration and a photograph from 2001 of myself, that was made for a series of digital montages called ‘All I have Left’ .

"Red Riding", All I have left' 2002, digital montage

‘”Red Riding”, All I have Left Series’ 2002, by Jane Lee McCracken, digital montage using artist’s photograph of the Black Forest

Like all my work, the drawing of “The Russian Doll” made with red, blue, green and black Biro acts on several levels and is symbolic of issues relating to war.  The self-portrait layered over the doll’s face, represents ordinary women “like you and me”.

For further information about the symbolism of this piece please visit my website: :http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_4657711.html

Luxury Archival Pigment Prints crafted by http://mrjacklowe.com/  are available from my shop:http://www.janeleemccracken.co.uk/photo_8181965.html

'The Russian Doll', Archival Pigment Print

“The Russian Doll”, Archival Pigment Print series