Sunday, August 17, 2008

Girl in a Mirror

I came across this painting for the first time recently. I feel very strong emotions when I view it, and I would like to hear all of your opinions on this painting. Any and all please :)


32-P said...

I flinched when I looked at her lap and saw the magazine. At first I was tempted to think, "Ah, she thinks she looks like Rita Hayworth (or whoever) and is trying to imitate the characteristic expression. How cute!"
But she doesn't look happy, exactly... she looks apprehensive, thoughtful, almost worried. I wonder if she's thinking that she'll never measure up to the woman in the magazine. Propping up the mirror, moving the stool, discarding her doll, bringing her mom's grooming tools... she's put a lot of thought into her idol. And she's really an enormously pretty little girl, but probably too young to realize that we don't grow up to look like the people we want to look like.

Cara said...

Sorry to sound like a twonk but paintings like this capture something sad and deep in the human soul that make me think that beyond his obvious illustrative talent, Norman Rockwell was a gifted observer of human psychology. His work is ubiquitous and easy to dismiss because of that, but I think he's underrated in that way.

I feel sorry for the girl, and I imagine she is feeling inadequate. I think that's what the painting is meant to convey. Poor kid.

Anonymous said...

I agree with what's already been said, but I wanted to point out what's on the floor at her feet. The girl looks no older than 10 or so, and has obviously cast aside her childhood already in favour of makeup and so-called adulthood.

Perhaps it's a commentary on how quickly girls grow up? They shouldn't have to.

nuckingfutz said...

I didn't even realize it was a magazine at first. I thought it was just a photograph - possibly of her mother. Now that it's been mentioned, I can see that it is indeed a magazine, but my first impression was different.

I agree, she looks sad. I recognize that look, for I saw it in my own mirror often enough as a child.

And Cara, you're absolutely right. Norman Rockwell was an exceptional artist, not just for his paintings but for what they portrayed. The longer you look at them, the more you notice.

And jamboree, I think you make a good point, too. I think the growing up too fast thing probably is part of what Rockwell was trying to portray.

Personally, I would guess that Rockwell was trying to portray ALL of those things: the sadness, the feeling of inadequacy, the growing up too soon, etc.

At least I'd like to think so.

tawdrysuki said...

Nuckingfutz, I totally agree. Rockwell was just so, so good at capturing complex emotion in his subjects. His work is so often dismissed as kitsch, but he really was a true observer of people, and he only seemed to get better as he got older. His civil rights paintings, particularly "The Problem We All Live With" are up there with Goya for me. As a painter, his work really inspires me, but it also almost makes me want to quit because I'll never be that good.

(Hello, btw. I wandered over from the fatosphere and had to comment because I totally love that painting, too.)

CL said...

To me, this painting speaks to how our culture's obsession with a certain image of female beauty affects even young children. It's not just teenagers and adults who obsess about their appearance and compare themselves to an unattainable ideal. Little girls learn very early what is considered beautiful, sexy, and desirable, and they learn early that they should try to be that ideal if they want to be loved and admired. When I was little, I spent a lot of time staring in the mirror trying to look pretty and sexy even though I had a child's body and should not have been worried about it... so that's what I see in this girl.

Anonymous said...

For me, she's going through what I'm going through right now. As much as I would love to be a part of FA/SA, lately, I've been thinking that I may have to leave the movement.

I may actually go on a diet or consider gastric bypass surgery. Not that I really want to but it's coming up on six years now that I haven't had a boyfriend. I have an ex-friend that is a complete asshole, treats men like dirt, is not even that pretty and men fall over her simply because of her size 6 body.

It's easy for other people to say that we should love ourselves but I just don't have enough of a strong support network to continue down this path.

From my size 16 mother, to my father, brother, neighbors, former friends, etc. All it seems is that people talk about is weight. It's sad but true. I want children some day and a husband. I'm getting to the age where everyone around me is settling down. I'm so tired of being alone.

Yes, as a size 24 woman with a "pretty face," I do meet men but it never goes anywhere. The size acceptance movement can do a lot of things but they can't change the sobering reality: that my life would be better if I was thin.

I think those around me would treat me better. I've even called people on this and they've admitted that's true. I'm sorry to disappoint you but I think I must go. I see this little girl as a painful reminder of the choices facing her.

caseyatthebat said...

Anon - I feel your pain, and I know the catch-22 that you're in. I'm also a size 24 single, and I haven't gotten past the first date in about a year. It's all well and good to cheer on accepting yourself, but when it feels like you're the only one doing the accepting, it's hard to keep doing what you're doing.

Only you know what you have to do to be happy, but please do not leave FA entirely. There is a lot of love and acceptance to be found here, and you can never have too much of that. Also, whatever you decide, please take excellent and loving care of yourself.

wellroundedtype2 said...

I've seen this image many times several years ago, but seeing it now I'm not sure if Rockwell was trying to capture something he thought was poignant but normal, or did he see the sadness of the girl. In the past, I interpreted it as a sort of "pat on the head" -- aren't young girls funny? but now I see more empathy than I did before.
I wonder how universal this experience is for girls transitioning to adolescence or how it is mediated by magazines, mirrors or images. Any anthropologists out there want to comment?
Status, meeting the standard of beauty in the society, deciding how much to conform (if that's even an option), these all must depend on how much oppression a young woman is facing.
Beauty and pain, whether physical or emotional, seem to often go hand in hand.

karen said...

I don't think the emotion is sadness; the girl looks more pensive to me. The image she has in her lap is just a woman's face, nothing overly glamorous or sexualized. The doll seems to be casually discarded as a symbol of leaving childhood behind. Perhaps the magazine symbolizes the future and this is a moment caught in the middle. Adolescence is a time of moods in any case. As the little girl is fairly pretty, I don't think measuring up to an ideal factors in here.

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