When I look at the art of New York City artist Molly Crabapple, there is only one word that comes to mind – naughty! Yes naughty! with an exclamation mark attached. Naughty in erotic content, naughty in sensual style, naughty in forbidden narration, just naughty! It’s no wonder then that a cheeky monkey features in some of her Victoriana inspired paintings and illustrations that depict the racey, saucey and elicit aspects of life behind the red velvet curtain. Even pictures of her floating around the web show her in naughty attire with a devilish twinkle in her eyes – I half expect to hear a little bell sound and sparkled star appear in her eye when looking at photographs of her out and about in the wonderous Gotham City.
Self portrait – Molly Crabapple
Photo by Seth Kushner
Photo by Steve Prue
Art and photos from mollycrabapple.com
Image from mollycrabapple.com
So many nouns describe Molly Crabapple; artist, intellect, illustrator, activist, performer, writer, entrepreneur, muse – I could just go on but I think the one word that sums up the way I see her is, Laydee. Yeah I know, that’s a made up word – but it is fitting given the make-believe characters and wicked scenes she creates of women entwined in octopus arms or dangling precariously by the ribbon of their garter – all the while appearing rather cavalier in the face of their predicament and drinking champagne. That my friend is a Laydee.
Images from mollycrabapple.com
I first found Miss Crabapple during the height of my obsession with all things Vaudeville and Burlesque. It was through hearing about Dr Sketchy’s Anti Art School coming to Australia that I found the movements founder – Molly Crabapple. So I guess I came to her in reverse – which again is fitting given the reversal of some of the characters she creates, like the Reverse Mermaid. This is another element of her work that appeals to my daydreaming myth-loving personality – her adoration of the mermaid – and in my mind these are mermaids for women, not seen by the eyes of men as they are far too delicious and precocious for the male species eyes to see without aid of a magical monocle.
Art by Molly Crabapple featured on blog Brooklyn Art Project.
The scenes Molly creates are reminiscent of the sketches and characters of early comic illustration used in war times and for political propaganda. The lines are rough yet appear to be well planned and considered. The colours are bold yet toned with grit and ink. The images are sometimes garish and confronting and more often than not there is some underlying or rather obtuse message of activism – a call to arms of sorts via visual communication.
Art by Molly Crabapple. Images from mollycrabapple.com
I consider myself rather lucky to own a little piece of Molly Crabapple art in the form of this deliciously wicked octopus burlesque piece. The illustrations being done during this period were of pink haired bawdy women, not technically aesthetically pleasing but alluring in their own way. They kind of seem to me to be the women that Toulouse-Lautrec would have spent his time with in the bordello’s and rudimentary theatre stages of Paris. At the time I was enamoured with this lifestyle and often daydreamed I was one of his apprentices being dragged along to every cabaret house, drinking murky vin rouge and languishing in the absence of time. Can you see the allure?
I am certain to write again about Miss Crabapple as she has far more to offer than the illustrations I have curated here for this post. But for now, I think I have curated an introduction to a young laydee who is forging herself an anti-art empire. A naughty one that screams viva la artists revolution and risks being arrested for her causes!