There are at least three other bodies of work I can think of that cover similar ground to Expectations of Adolescence.
The two young women in Expectations of Adolescence are the younger sister and cousin of the photographer.
Here I want nothing more than to dive into an examination of the questions as to where excessive stylization begins and where is crosses over into a kind of over hyper-realism–however, benevolent Satan must be smiling down on you tonight because you are saved due to more pressing matters.
See: I was moderately squicked out by this–at least initially. I mistook Blake for a masculine first name–it’s feminine here.
(And it’s not only me–several people I’ve showed this to had the same reaction.)
Interestingly, not an hour before I found discovered this huge piece of information I had carelessly missed–I had been screaming about that change.org petition demanding the NYC The Metropolitan Museum of Art remove Balthus’ Thérèse Dreaming from their collection.
I wasn’t going to read the petition but I went and did it just now and I was wrong to give it the benefit of the doubt–it’s 100% grab the pearls reactionary concern fapping.
And I just so happen to have a previous version of of this post with my approximation of what the gist of the petition: in the wake of the #MeToo movement, the petitioners view this work due
to it’s ‘voyeuristic’ nature as well as it’s ‘sexualization of young
I am going to just skip over the part about taking a gallery to task for exploiting voyuerism–it’s a bit like saying: that new pope sure is great except for that whole Roman Catholic thing.
I’m curious how many of the folks signing on for this petition have actually engaged with the work in good faith?
I mean–yes: Balthus was almost certainly an hebephile. I’m with Dan Savage on this one: it is absolutely possible for someone to have a fetish that they cannot morally sate. And there are such things as gold star examples of those folks who–due to the inability of the other party in their desire to consent to sexual contact: they abstain.
So the question is: if Balthus did have a thing for adolescent girls but never acted on it–in part because through art he found a means of transferring his fantasies–are his works more or less socially acceptable due to their being less morally bankrupt?
Are we–through the act of viewing–also rendered guilty by osmotic association?
Lastly, the notion that the work glamorizes the sexualization of young girls is maybe even more offensive. The semiotics of the composition from her expression to her pose to the behavior of the cat all communicate an inaccessibility. Or to put it another way: it takes some work to look at that picture and think I want her even though she very clearly does not want me? And that makes you a creep. (There’s this whole thing akin to that whole thing about whether the angle of the dangle in Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring’s bauble indicates whether she’s looking towards the viewer or away from them.)
I mean full disclosure: it’s one of one of my all-time favorite paintings. So–of course I’m going to defend it; but am I wrong, too? It’s something I’m mulling.
This post brought to you but the letters T, H & C.