This whole awful nonsense with Trump, his foul mouth and his belittling bullying tactics has brought up a lot of issues for me. I’ve said it before, but Trump, with his bravado, his swagger and impotent rage reminds me of my own bullying father and I just can’t bear to look at his piggy little face (my porcine friends please forgive the comparison ). When the stunning “p*ssy” comments were made public I thought of all of the women in my life who have endured such boorish , bullying and belittling treatment. My own sister, unbeknownst to me at the time, endured repeated childhood sexual assault by our neighbor, out-and -out rape and perhaps more damaging, hideous psychological torment by this fiend who escaped unpunished back to India. He was a respected member of the community, a doctor I think and we were the oft-ridiculed white trash family of the neighborhood. My sister, a young girl, delightful, bright and eager to please, was easy pickings. To this day she suffers mental illness, I do not know if the abuse she endured is the sole cause of her afflictions, but I seethe with rage when I see Trump’s smug, pursed lipped entitlement, he so reminds me of the tyrannical behavior certain men of privilege can so easily exploit. I grieve for my sisters, blood or not.
So as the awful details of Trump’s comments came out , and my women friends on FB opened up in such brave and powerful ways , I was reminded of one woman in particular who had suffered the oppression of men silently and yet harbored wickedly delightful schemes of revenge, the great Pirate Jenny! David and I were traveling north to Sacramento and I packed a bunch of cd’s to pass the time. Amongst the treasures were recording by Lotte Lenya and Marianne Faithful of Seerbäuber Jenny (Pirate Jenny) from Brecht’s Three Penny Opera (link:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pirate_Jenny.)
Both artists captured the despair of oppression but also the spark of divine revolt, sometimes those fantasies are all that can sustain you during times of pain. I know from experience, a child of violence and abuse, how nursing revenge can thrill you into creative action. My father was one mean motherf*cker, but boy I created some truly fabulous faggy art as a young kid, duct tape, spit, glue and hubris are powerful weapons.
And in that spirit I decided to start crafting a body of work that would capture that moment, when after living her life in subservience, Jenny (Diver), barmaid, whore(?), ill-treated servant, has her revenge on all who have oppressed her. As the groveling tormentors are presented to her , Jenny, now queen of the Pirates, has the power and it is thrilling:
“In the midday sun a hundred men will step ashore
All tramping where shadows crawled.
They’ll lay their hands on men, hiding shit-scared behind doors
Lead them in chains here before this silent woman,
And they’ll say, “well, which ones shall we kill ?”
They’ll say, “which ones shall we kill ?”
Come the dot of twelve, it will be still in the harbour,
When they ask me, “well, who is going to die ?”
And you’ll hear me whispering, oh, so sweetly, “all of them!”
And as the soft heads fall, i’ll say, “hop-là!”
Hop-là indeed and from that inspiration I’ve decided to take what had been a studio folly, rag-doll making , into a large installation of all one hundred heads of Jenny’s “shit-scared” bullies!
So I have three down and ninety seven more to go; suffice to say I needed more poly-fill. Needles sharpened, embroidery floss and paint brush in hand, I am on to a sissy-boy-doll-making marathon! Given Jenny was a barmaid, each of the heads are made of used and NASTY dishrags, seems appropriate.
And although the work is essentially a feminist response to patriarchy and its abuses it can easily be understood to be a battle cry to oppression in all of its ugly manifestations: gender, sexual identity, race. For me another vital cause is the continued, and dare I say it, enslavement of animals for food,clothing, experimentation, even our base pleasure . What would it look like if animals had the upper hand (paw, hoof, wing) as our fair Jenny. I imagine a battle cry of ‘Hop-là” across every factory farm, every slaughterhouse and science lab.
Heads would be a-rolling!
In closing I thought I would include a few videos of both Lenya’s and Faithful’s recordings, both found at the bottom of this post; both are excellent, Lenya’s is probably truer to the original intentions of Brecht, but Faithful drives me mad with her gravel voiced contempt, yet she is so vulnerable as well.
I’m also enclosing a link to the lyrics Faithful is employing with such power, it is a slightly different translation from Brecht’s original, but it truly has visceral appeal.
My three complete “Trophies” will in the near future be employed as neo-baroque passementerie ( a pretentious way of saying decorative tassels) for my Orpheus’ Lament , a faux tapestry that will included in the Zoomanity show at ArtShare in downtown LA, opening festivities, November 19th. So if in town, take a peek!
acrylic on un-stretched stitched canvas
59 by 93 inches
Have a great weekend and down with the patriarchy!
4 thoughts on “Pirate Jenny’s Trophies”
I like this project a lot! You’ve outdone yourself and you are showing much growth as an artist. By the way, I recommend you listen to Nina Simone’s version of Pirate Jenny as well.
I love this! thank you, I hadn’t forgotten her, just trying to keep the post at a manageable length, but there is always room for Nina!
What a fantastic response to what more and more seems to be just…unmanageable information. These things freeze you or impel you forward–it’s always best to be impelled forward, and kudos to you, this is FANTASTIC! I love these heads, hope you do bunches more, and the painting, also, is wonderful.
Thank you 🙂
I’m happy you like it. Yes , being propelled forward is certainly more satisfying than being frozen – though that is an understandable response.
I will be back at trophy making next week- I post their progress in Instagram @leonardgrecoart , check it out when you can!