Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Trippiest Thing Around: Victorian Photocollage

Tim Burton’s hyper-stylized version of Alice in Wonderland is all the talk this weekend (if you don’t count the gay man’s Super Bowl, the Oscars). And those bold, crazed color schemes favored by Burton reminds me of these tantalizing, century-old photocollages on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

As noted in this slideshow on Slate, the fad had its origins in the detailed, startling drawings of human forms in works like Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859):

English ladies started cutting up photos of their friends and relations and pasting bits and pieces of them (particularly their heads) into alien landscapes and onto foreign bodies. Was it just a new pastime, like staging parties or playing the piano–yet another way for Victorian women to show off their class and their wits? Or was it more?

My favorite is a blue-hued collage of a butterfly with the faces of old white guys in the wings. It’s entitled “Untitled Page From the Madame B Album,” by Marie-Blanche-Hennelle Fournier, and created sometime in the 1870s.

The imagination of these everyday Victorian folks–oftentimes hampered by the stuffy privilege of the period–makes for an interesting study in contrasts. The predecessor/inspiration to great outsider artists like Henry Darger in the 70’s?

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BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
March 2010
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https://rsiasoco.wordpress.com/about/

About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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