Review: Bastards of the Party

As the New York Times puts it, Bastards of the Party is the “genealogy for the institution of the gang. This feature-length documentary “traces the origin of black American gang history, from the great migration of African-Americans from the South to northern and western industrial cities, to the rise and demise of the Black Panther Party and the Organization Us of the mid- 1960s, ultimately to the formation of the 1990s and 2000s gang culture in Los Angeles. Through the eyes of former gang member and co-producer Cle “Bone” Sloan, Bastards focuses on LA gang culture as a micro-community reflective of bad social policies all through the U.S.

We misunderstand the gangs when we assume that they have no history or purpose apart from brute violence, but we romanticize them when we imagine that they’re bands of brave vigilantes.

Clear-eyed history — shot through with archival film — begins to set the record straight. Mr. Sloan begins with a myth: that gangs like the Bloods and the Crips started in 1972, when they formed in response to a dispute over a leather jacket. That’s rubbish. The film shows that gang animosity in Los Angeles dates to the 1940s and ’50s, when the police had set up an extortion racket on Central Avenue to bilk the black music clubs.

Then Bastards points an abject finger at the role of the Los Angeles Police Department, and explores how Chief William H. Parker bolstered the ranks of the LAPD with white recruits from the south during his tenure from 1950 to 1966, who brought their racist attitudes with them into the police force and police work processes. Parker’s racist sympathies helped to lay the groundwork for the volatile relationship between the black community and the LAPD that persists today, and led to the rise of gang culture. The “bastards of the party” are gangs who are, according to Sloan, the “bastard children of” revolutionary black political movements. This is what happens, he says, in a pressure cooker of no jobs, no social safety net, and a militarized police presence, and when the hopes of the prior generation turn into the resentments of the present. He ultimately lays responsibility for the allure of LA gang life at the feet of law enforcement and their complicity with and promotion of generations of racist policy.

This is an intensely political documentary that would be appropriate for all audiences interested in social justice, urban American politics, solutions to poverty, maladaptive youth cultures, discussions of gang violence, underground economies, Black American history, and Los Angeles history.

REVIEW: Blue Apron

A friend gave me a free week of Blue Apron, a weekly cooking and grocery service that provides you with high quality produce, including seasonal ingredients directly from farms, importers and family-run purveyors, and easy instructions on how to use them. I like good food and I’m a good cook, so I decided to try it out.

How does it work?

  • Start an account with Blue Apron.
  • Select the type of plan you want – meat and fish or vegetarian – and the number of people you will feed. Your weekly cost is determined by the number of mouths you feed, about $10 per person.
  • New menus are posted one week in advance.
  • Free delivery via FedEx.
  • You get all the fresh ingredients you’ll need to make 3 meals. Many of the ingredients are pre-measured, but NOT pre-prepared. You don’t have to be a gourmand, but you should be comfortable in the kitchen.
  • You will need salt, pepper, olive oil and basic cooking equipment like pots, pans, and a good knife.
  • You can cancel anytime before the weekly cutoff and/or skip a week if necessary.
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Pork brats with caramelized red cabbage and roasted potatoes. I’m not a food photographer, but trust me, it was amazing.

Last Friday, a big box showed up on my porch full of high quality proteins and produce and other ingredients. This delivery included a salmon Caesar salad, brats with red cabbage and roasted potatoes, and a lovely pad Thai. Since I have a hungry teenager that likes to cook, we quickly unpacked the box — a large box packed down with ice coolers and insulation to keep the ingredients cool despite the shipping and weather conditions — and started on the brats, his choice. They were delicious. The red cabbage, especially, seasoned with autumnal flavors like cinnamon and allspice, was great and new to me. A couple of times, the big kid put down his fork and kind of nodded his head like he had to grant his plate extra approval.

Like the brats, the pad Thai and Caesar salad were excellent, easy to prepare, and also quite pretty. The Caesar salad is something I make at home quite a bit, and this version was easier to prepare than my usual recipe and was just as good. The instructions are clear and detailed, printed on high quality card stock with color photographs of each major step.  The servings are also a healthy size, enough to feed my family, including one ravenous teenager, without any leftovers.

Pad Thai with chicken and baby bok choi. Yum.

Pad Thai with chicken and baby bok choi. Yum.

There is no bland food here. The flavor profiles are restaurant-quality, and they are spicy, exotic, and include ingredients I can’t easily get in central Indiana.

I could see this being a valuable service for busy professionals who like to cook, or for people who want to eat more home-cooked meals but who don’t like the process of meal-planning and grocery shopping. But the major drawback is the price. $10 a head for three meals a week is way more money than I would spend buying my own groceries and planning my own meals. Because of the cost, I wish there was an option to receive only one or two meals a week.  And while some people hate leftovers, I love leftovers. Over the years, I have cut so much fat out of my budget by cooking at home and eating the leftovers — legumes, y’all — for lunch at work the next day. Packing my next day’s lunch is part of my cooking routine. I love the Blue Apron cooking experience, but the cost in my budget is akin to eating out twice a week, and I still have to cook for myself the next day.

Looking at the packaging and the quality of the ingredients, however, I’m surprised that this service is only $10 a head. It’s very well done.

Leaving Home

Michelle Goldberg quoting Katherine Cross at The Nation on “Feminism’s Toxic Twitter Wars“:

Being targeted by other activists, she says, “leaves you feeling threatened in the sense that you’re getting turned out of your own home…. The one place that you are able to look to for safety, where you were valued, where there is a lot less of the structural prejudice that makes you feel so outcast in the rest of the world—that’s now been closed to you. That you now have this terrible reputation… To suddenly be tarred by the very people that I’m supposed to be able to work with, my allies, as being a sellout or being infatuated with power or being an apologist for this, that and the other privilege—if that kind of reputation gets around, its extremely damaging,” says Cross.

There’s a lot here to critique, especially the positioning of Mikki Kendall and other prominent WOC and womanists on Twitter as finger-pointing bullies, and the implicit suggestion that the feminist blogosphere was all dandy until people of color raised their hands wanting access to the lunch counter. Because, look. This is well-trod ground.

If we’re arguing about whether racism exists and whether black women have the right to express anger over structural, personal, and professional inequalities – in public! — and whether or not we can honor the humanity of POC as individuals and as a movement by treating their feelings and experiences and opinions like real things, you’re in the wrong movement. Kendall’s is an argument about power, who has it, who doesn’t, and why not.  The implication by the Nation article is that the real feminists doing the real work just happen to be mostly white ladies and Feministing and/or Gawker alumni who live in NYC, while the apparently-not-real online feminists, who happen to be POC, disabled, and/or poor, and/or who don’t live in New England and are not Feministing and/or Gawker alumni, just happen to not have access to prestigious professional resources and have sour grapes for the well-meaning, working (i.e. published, writing, prestigious, industry) feminists.

What’s weird is that it’s almost like the people who are systematically denied access to premium personal and professional  resources just so happen to suffer the biggest consequences from being denied access to premium personal and professional resources! And it’s almost like we are discussing a movement dedicated to uncovering and alleviating this very issue — that happens to be ignoring this very issue when it comes to our upper-crust friends organizing professional events! Folks’re angry about it!  We have a name for this very thing! Weird!

Okay then, not every conference and workshop and meeting can encompass all feminisms. Not every figurehead can encompass every view. Okay. But advising that less anger and accountability and more complicity is the solution to resolving the systemic oppression of creative, activist POC is rich.

WELL. RT @PlayVicious: It’s not an accident the most socially acceptable form of feminism mimics the posture of historic American racism.

— surly murdock (@dopegirlfresh) January 30, 2014

I’ve said for years that industry feminists, by which I mean the paid, careerist, publishing feminists, could fill in a lot of gaps by purposely reaching outside of their industry circles and lighting the way for people who didn’t go to Barnard, Vassar, Columbia, and NYU to get a leg up. Nobody wants to talk about how a lot of lady journalists were part of this community only long enough to get boosted into brick-and-mortar publishing careers, and don’t seem to understand why that’s offensive for those of us doing the same work and nevertheless getting shut out of their meeting rooms.

Whether all this critical heat is actually affecting the research and funding for other projects? I’m open to hearing it. But show us the numbers. What research was affected? How many projected dollars were lost? Otherwise all this conjecture looks like institutionally-ratified shade.

Feminism’s “sisterhood problem” is a big question that is decades old and a messy subject with a lot of complicated personalities involved. It is not a question that can be answered in one article or in a hundred blog rebuttals. None of this, alas, is new.

Taking the argument on its face, I do agree with one thing: The women’s political blogosphere can be an emotional minefield.  It can be toxic for a lot of reasons, including regular grown people being assholes to other regular grown people. There is a lot of that, in fact. Some of that assholishness is bigotry. Some of it is vigorous debate. Some of the assholishness is Mean Girls bullying and cults of personality. Some of it is other things. Some of it is culture and geography. Some of it is the prevalence of earnest kids talking out loud to their own detriment and working out personal questions in public that are best kept private. Some of it is personal baggage that ekes into the activist sphere and that a lot of people participating in online feminism have an extreme emotional investment in this beast over other social experiences and outlets that are probably healthier for them. Compound this with a movement that pushes bad news at you all day long, all week long, all year long, and it’s like trying to drink from a fire hose. It’s impossible, and man, are you thirsty.

The hidden blessing in toxic online culture is that you can turn your computer off. The sad part, having been one of the bloggers who faded out because of the increasing pressure to monetize and the increasing pressure to perform a public fight with your adversaries (which usually includes identity policing and assigning the worst possible intentions to everything they say and do),  is having to cut yourself off from the community that once sustained you.  The only reason I was inspired to post anything about this, not that anyone knows about or reads this blog anymore, is that the pullquote above rang so true. I was one of those folks who was “tarred by the very people that I’m supposed to be able to work with, my allies, as being a sellout or being infatuated with power or being an apologist for this, that and the other privilege.” It was extremely damaging to my sense of self to have to walk away from this community and what I felt was my body of work. Choosing to extract myself from this toxicity from my friends and allies also shut a lot of personal and professional doors as well.

Latoya Peterson had some beautiful reflections on this awfulness this week. Yes, your feelings are yours and they are important, but no, your feelings are not a social movement. You have to work with people you disagree with sometimes if you want to reach common goals — in feminism, in social justice, in your boring old day job, in your family, and in your life. If you don’t share goals? If folks aren’t playing nice? Walk away. Take care of you. But scorched earth methods are toxic.

In hindsight, and I can only speak for myself, I think this dynamic of viscerally hurt feelings and deep personal resentment is just endemic to problem-focused communities.  It will always be a part of the landscape. People who gather to talk about the persistence of oppression will naturally be on the lookout for oppression, and elevate these observations to the forefront of the community. On the flip-side, people with loose boundaries who are eager to appear non-oppressive and non-judgmental, a huge portion of the social justice community if you ask me, will bend over backwards to avoid creating conflict with genuine bad guys (re: the persistence of He Who Shall Not Be Named against all logic and reason) because they’re looking for cookies and developing super deep think pieces (I’m guilty!), and not, you know, using good judgment. The anxiety of constantly trying to fix things that are completely out of our control — and frequently out of the control of the person being criticized for embodying the offending privilege — can’t be part of a positive social movement or a happy person’s life. Not mine, anyway.

Karpman Drama Triangle

Exhausting!

My focus today is on more immediate outcomes: my local area, my immediate influence on my family, my neighborhood and my city, the things that create passion in me and make me feel abundant and full of gratitude. Some of this happens online, most of it happens offline. But leaving the online feminist community, and the heaviness of that loss, weighed on me for some years. I guess it’s like grieving a toxic family. Eventually all the positive things you’re getting out of the relationship are over-shadowed by the emotional beat downs every Thanksgiving.  You can’t thrive when steeped in that level of anxiety.  You can’t think your best thoughts, or feel your best feelings, or be in the moment with these people in this house. Eventually the laughs can’t be outweighed by the side-eye and passive-aggression and fear of failure.

It’s about time for the community to fret and collectively ask, “How do we move forward?” I don’t know. Other than talking about this situation peripherally and very occasionally, I moved on.

When I had some distance, I realized how much time and energy was spent policing that space and the people in it, and not living intentionally and with purpose. The people who are able to thrive personally and professionally inside the fray? No lie, I wonder about them a little.

How to Spot a Narcissist Online

It’s a truism that the internet will make narcissists of its users, but now that everyone is online, and it’s unrealistic that every internet user is a budding narcissist, how do you spot actual narcissists online? We’re all noodling around on social media incessantly, but researchers believe that the difference is in our motives. And they believe that real narcissists are more likely to be active on Twitter (gulp!) than on Facebook. Why?

One recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior dug into the how and why of narcissists’ social media use, looking at both college students and an older adult population. The researchers measured how often people tweeted or updated their Facebook status, but also why, asking them how much they agreed with statements like “It is important that my followers admire me,” and “It is important that my profile makes others want to be my friend.”

Overall, Twitter use was more correlated with narcissism, but lead researcher Shaun W. Davenport, chair of management and entrepreneurship at High Point University, points out that there was a key difference between generations. Older narcissists were more likely to take to Facebook, whereas younger narcissists were more active on Twitter. “For older adults who didn’t grow up using Facebook, it takes more intentional motives to use it, like narcissism.”

Additionally, narcissists who would normally gain a lot of friends but lose them through their callousness benefit by the non-narcissistic population’s laziness around unfriending annoying social media contacts — as well as the high entertainment value non-narcissistic folks experienced when witnessing a narcissist bloviate in public. Call it the reality TV effect.

Unsurprisingly, narcissists also respond very strongly to gaming and the status felt with a constant positive feedback stream:

Though social media is an obvious and much-discussed bastion of narcissism, online role-playing games, the most famous being World of Warcraft, have been shown to hold some attraction as well. A study of 1,471 Korean online gamers showed narcissists to be more likely to be addicted to the games than non-narcissists. The concrete goals and rewards the games offer allow the players to gather prestige: “As you play, your character advances by gaining experience points, ‘leveling-up’ from one level to the next while collecting valuables and weapons and becoming wealthier and stronger,” the study reads. “In this social setting, excellent players receive the recognition and attention of others, and gain power and status.”

So the internet and everything on it is a massive narcissistic supply. Weird! For folks who want to understand how the internet affects this personality disorder and  its attendant maladaptive social behavior, read the rest here.

 

Riding Bikes With a Teenager

Not my kid(s).

Not my kid(s).

There are so many pieces out there about riding with young kids, but not many about riding with older kids, so when I started riding with my older child, a young teenager, I felt like we were on the steep end of the learning curve. The Big Kid learned to ride a bike when he was little, had no issues with balance, distance, or speed, but I found that street riding in a more serious way was an exercise in parent-child anxiety. I was constantly yelling, “STOP!” “GO!” “WATCH OUT!” “OMG!” and freaking out about nearby drivers, intersections, and near-accidents, which inspired a serious lack of confidence in BK.

Confidence and safety go very much hand in hand on the road. The two things I noticed that were crucial to his success as a new cyclist were:

GEAR

If riding bikes with a toddler is about having the right gear, riding bikes with a teenager is about having gear that is both for safety and for confidence.

Convincing him that a helmet was a necessity and not a fashion item was the first hurdle. Admittedly I was not the best role model until we started riding on a regular basis. Once I had some real solo experience on the road — and with the aggression of drivers — we wore helmets. No excuses, no exceptions.

Another crucial step was finding a bike that fits his body. Teenagers seem to grow inches overnight. They are constantly growing. Can’t keep this kid in shoes or jeans. While he once was fine on a youth bike, very suddenly he was too tall for it and required an adult bike — but still one small and light enough to fit his frame. We went through several used bike configurations* before finding one that was comfortable that he could navigate with feet on the ground at stops, and that he could start easily at intersections. That said, some cool lights, some bike stickers, and a helmet that didn’t make him feel dorky were pretty important too.

KNOWING THE RULES OF THE ROAD

At some point I realized that in order for him to feel confident on the road, I had to get myself to a level where I was confident and knowledgeable myself. I started reading bike blogs, paying more attention to the local biking advocacy group, and asking annoying questions at my local bike shop. I also had to learn the local laws of the road and get familiar with using turn signals and taking the lane.

As I learned these rules, I’d pass them on as we were riding together. With practice, BK began signaling his movements and taking the lane alongside me. He knew what to to at stop signs and stoplights and when a car was approaching in any direction. He got comfortable in bike lanes on busier stretches of road, and began to learn the side streets in our section of town. I haven’t given him carte blanche freedom to go wherever he wants by bicycle, but I’m confident in his skills.

OTHER RELATED OBSERVATIONS

  • This time riding together has made us closer. This is the time we have to be fun and playful together, to race, to joke, to tease one another about our skills (i.e. “Mom is so slow”), and leave behind stern conversations about life and school and household responsibilities.
  • The confidence = safety factor was never clearer to me than the day we added another teen to our bike crew that didn’t have the experience we do. The addition of an inexperienced, hesitant rider to our group made us all less confident and more jumpy on the road. Over the course of the ride, BK and the other teen were commiserating about how to ride, where to go, and what to do, which bolstered the other teen over the course of the outing. BK got to be the authority and teach his buddy some of what he knew. It turned out to be a really fun day. Which is to say, as I always do, that it’s beneficial to all to build one another up rather than leave one another behind.

All this said, before I sat down to write this post, I googled a lot about teenagers and bikes and found that most of the top stories online are of drivers targeting teen cyclists for violence nationwide. Kids are shot at and run off the road for the offense of sharing the lane. This is terrifying. It both underlines the need to educate the greater public about cyclist safety and road rights, and emphasizes the pervasive social enmity we have against teens and older children. Even living in a bike-friendly — or bike-friendlier — community, we have experienced some scary interactions with angry and/or ignorant drivers that remind me that no matter how safe and knowledgeable we are out there, we are always at the will of the people behind the wheel. My job as a parent is to make sure that BK knows how to minimize that risk on the road as a cyclist, and later as a driver as well.

* Craigslist Bikes is your friend.

 

Hilda the Pin-Up: Chunky but Funky*

The allure of Hilda is not that she’s sexually available, but that she is active, curious, adventurous, and unconscious about her zaftig body. She had a full and romantic (if fictional) life, was kind of a goober, and possessed the magnetic, sexy goodwill that comes from living a life of happiness, much like many of the magnetic women you may know. Imperfect, and yet perfect in their imperfection. Continue reading

I Wrote a Thing: Secret Fine Dining, Local Food, and Red Tape with Pop-Up Lafayette

popupthinklala-014-500x333A review of Pop-Up Lafayette, the new, elusive, all local and organic “supper club” that is taking over the imaginations of area foodies.

“Our political philosophies are layer upon layer,” one chef said. Another said, “We just want to cook beautiful food in an interesting way.” Another said, “We want to cook food we are lifted by.” Another argued that the Midwest doesn’t have an identifiable food culture apart from catfish and tenderloin sandwiches. They made a point of emphasizing their purveyors for the event: Everything was purchased or made or grown locally. Mt. Gilboa Farms from Benton Co., farmer’s markets, local gardens of friends and family, a pork farm from Mulberry, locally sourced honeycomb, Trader’s Point creamery, Union City beer from Indianapolis, all fair trade and/or organic. You get the picture.

The problem is the lack of knowledge and confidence us regular non-chef folks have in the kitchen. They spoke, for example, of the end-of-farmers-market routine, where the participating farmers donate what produce they have left over to local food pantries. The food pantries find that while they are grateful to have all this fresh food, people aren’t always sure what to do with it.

Lavender ice cream served with gooseberry puree, fresh honeycomb, and flaky pie crust.

Lavender ice cream served with gooseberry puree, fresh honeycomb, and flaky pie crust. Photo by Michael Dick of ISPhotographic.

As someone who likes good food and loves to eat, I wasn’t a strong cook until I got into the now discontinued “The Minimalist” columns from the NYTimes, where columnist Mark Bittman used a narrative recipe style to get you to take 3-6 fresh ingredients, add fat, heat, acid, and seasoning, and end up with a great, fresh meal. I kept going back to the squash salad course in my mind. This deceptively simple dish was quite good, perfect on a hot and humid summer day. I’d never eaten raw squash before. When I asked for a quick recipe to put on the site, they shrugged and discouraged it.

What Pop-up Lafayette would rather we do is get motivated, do dinner with friends, and learn how to cook from one another. Another alternative, one suggested, is to get into City Foods in downtown Lafayette for the regular — FREE — cooking classes they offer there as part of their mission. The other thing is to figure out how to repurpose leftovers, so, for example, how to roast a chicken, and then how to reuse the leftovers on days two and three.

Why all the secrecy? We have a serious red tape problem in town for new restaurants and food concepts, thanks to the ever fragmented laws regulating Lafayette, West Lafayette, and Purdue. Talk to any local cook about the combative relationship between the health department and the restaurateur.

We discuss nonsense food codes with Pop-up Lafayette in the linked article as well.

I’ve been talking about the “pop-up” concept with a lot of artists and foodies around town, and these are the first folks to make it happen. On the Think Lafayette Facebook page, we post a lot of pop-up art and parks and food installations in cities around the world. None of these are municipally sanctioned, and they are organically grown from the creativity of the community around them. I’d like to see more of this in Lafayette, and less “public” art with staged press releases so that local government can take the artist’s credit. As Dave Bangert said, city government is at its best when taking a backseat and letting the citizenry shine. Indeed, for artisans too.

Read the rest at Think Lafayette.

More on Thrift Store Shopping

thriftshop1. I don’t thrift in town if I can help it. I travel to the smaller towns in the region, avoid Goodwill and Salvation Army, and hit up the little church thrifts in Nowhere, Indiana.

One major reason I skip town that the tiny towns may not have excellent quality clothing, but they have a ton of clothes and sell them cheap. A thrift store not too far from here offers $2 a bag sales in which the little church ladies force you to fill your industrial-sized garbage bag of clothing before you leave. Another reason is that if you’re like me and don’t mind mending and spot cleaning, you can find some funky clothes that would otherwise be snapped up by hip-minded college-aged students with an eye for vintage t-shirts.

The other major reason is that the ratio of “time capsules” to collectors is smaller in rural areas. A time capsule is an estate by an older person who has passed on or is down-sizing, and all of their curated items from an earlier era. The best time capsule I ever had the pleasure of shopping was a high-end horse ranch in the middle of nowhere, the estate of two well-traveled professors. It was glorious.

2. Know your size. First, know your measurements and your actual dress size based on those measurements.

Better: Don’t just know the number, but be able to eyeball what will fit and what won’t. I know certain styles, shapes, and fabrics will work with my body and others won’t. I can pretty much look at a piece of clothing and know whether or not it will fit me. My safe bets, being pretty curvy and of average height, include A-line skirts, cotton t-shirts, sweaters, and cardigans. I’m not so much worried about what brand label it is so much as it looks wearable, feels machine washable and I like it. After all, I’m getting an enormous amount of clothes for quite literally a few dollars.

3. Go ahead and try it on — over your clothes. My friend taught me how to try on clothing in a thrift store by wearing things in that easily come on and off in the aisle under your potential buys. Nobody cares, I’ve gathered, and neither do I since I’m out of town.

An easy way to figure out if a waistline will fit your body: Hold the pants/skirt flat. Place the pants waistband over your neck where a tee shirt collar falls.  If the waistline of the pant will not meet on the back of the neck, the pant will not fit. If it does and there is some give, there is an excellent chance it will fit around your waist. Seriously.

Yes, you will be wrapping pants around your neck in public like a weirdo, but it works.

4. Don’t go in with a particular item in mind. Think more openly about, for example, what season of clothes you’re looking for, or specifically what you aren’t looking for. Be open and try on a lot of stuff. There are always more clothes. Buy what you’ll actually wear.

Thrift store shopping provides the great majority of my wardrobe — the only things I spend a good amount of money on are pants and shoes, although I have quite a few pairs of thrift store shoes in my arsenal as well. Purchasing a good pair of pants for work is a good investment if you’re an office monkey, because a black or brown pair can be worn with nearly any crazy shirt you pick up at the thrift store and be made to look professional. I have one pair of black pants, one pair of brown pants, and a pair of gray pants. This is all I need for work with my collection of thrifted tops.

Shoes, too, are a good investment, primarily because you have to care for your feet lest you end up with hooves like mine. Get leather, make sure the heels are in good condition, and that there are no signs of cracking. If they stink, shake some baking powder in there before you wear them.

G.G. Drayton

dolly dingle christmas party_edited-1If you’re local to the Lafayette, Indiana, area and you’ve eaten at Arni’s, you are probably already familiar with G.G. Drayton’s art without realizing it. She was well-known in her time for creating the “Dolly Dingle” character, including an extremely popular line of paper dolls — which are featured in jumbo size in the back room of Arni’s in Market Square.

I didn’t know this until recently, when I purchased a pair of watercolors that I knew were probably special, without actually knowing what they were. Once I got them — for a pittance — and got them into the car and into decent cell reception, I looked them up and just about wrecked my car. I had just picked up two original Grace Gebbie Drayton watercolors, framed, in excellent antique condition. I was first attracted to the little orange cat, which read like a mid-century, mod piece. When I saw the little bulldog, it read Victorian/Edwardian to me and I realized the pair was probably much older.

"Tigerey", G.G. Drayton

“Tigerey”, G.G. Drayton

"Bull-Doggie", G.G. Drayton

“Bull-Doggie”, G.G. Drayton

So, score! But wait a minute, who the heck is G.G. Drayton?

I did some research and found out she was a pretty cool person. An Edwardian clothes horse and the most famous of a family of lady artists, Grace Gebbie Wiederseim Drayton was an early comic book artist and entrepreneur whose work wasn’t often taken seriously because it was “overly-mannered” lady stuff. Regardless, she worked surrounded by a generation of young female artists who were fighting to change the perception of women in the male-dominated art world, not to mention the perception of women in general. Many of these folks were early suffragists and bohemians, and early flappers.

5424855413_714d5803a1_zIt’s ironic that she was often dismissed as an illustrator because she penned some of the most iconic advertising images of the early 20th century. Not only was she famous for her Dolly Dingle work, her work is the basis for the early Campbell’s Soup campaign. Those apple-cheeked babies with the stubby noses and fat little legs were her hallmark. Drayton’s early work often focused on the lives of children, and she drew extremely stylized children and animals. When adults showed up in her drawings, it’s notable that they were far more elegant, stern, and refined than the chubby babies that dominated her imagination. Note below, the huge, round, stylized baby in comparison with the young, slim, beautiful mother in Victorian fashion.

image027

When adults do appear in her babies’ worlds, they are stoic, straight-backed forces among round, mischievous and happy kids.

Her animals have the same round, tiny faces and round eyes as the babes. They are also just as naughty, guarded and precocious. What does it suggest that in Drayton’s world, children and animals share the same cute but blunt features? Anything?

OldDesignShop_3KittensGraceWiederseimDraytonPC

From what I can gather, Drayton was extremely prolific, drawing for Campbell’s, Dolly Dingle, collaborating with her sisters, and doing many of the one-off prints like the ones I purchased by chance this month. She drew ads and Valentines and postcards and also completed many fine art portraits of elegant women in fine Edwardian dress.

The paintings I picked up are deft little paintings, simple and practiced. They are also way cute and a total coup. This was, as a Twitter pal put it, an Antiques Roadshow moment. For me, as always, getting the back story is nearly as gratifying as making the score.