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Molly Crabapple

I learned to draw in a Parisian bookstore. My pen and ink technique comes from hours spent copying Alice in Wonderland and A Tart's Progess. I soon fell in love with the feel of making ink lines- the crackle of … Read More

By / June 20, 2007

I learned to draw in a Parisian bookstore. My pen and ink technique comes from hours spent copying Alice in Wonderland and A Tart's Progess. I soon fell in love with the feel of making ink lines- the crackle of the paper, the scratch of the pen nib, the sensual pleasure in drawing a curve.

Back in New York I came across the subject most dear to my heart—artifice. As a model, I work in an industry where girls turn their bodies into art objects. It's a beauty doubly poignant because it's so short-lived. Most girls won't last past thirty. My time as a burlesque dancer showed me plain women emerging from the club's dressing room as goddesses. Through paint, feathers and pasties, they made themselves gorgeous. It's beauty as a garment, a shell, a mask.

In the two time periods I draw from most in my work—Victorian England and Rococo France—people tried to make their entire public lives as artificial as a burlesque dancer's face. My characters, bewigged aristocrats and corseted ladies, are creatures of the polished surface. They're molded by ornament—their corsets and cage skirts—and sometimes trapped inside.

But as with any mask, there's a face underneath. And the face in my work is smirking. For any mask, or mask like society, has a weakness. If you want to crack it, you only have to laugh. Thus, my characters have arched brows and sarcastic smiles. They want to let you in on a secret. It's all terribly silly, isn't it?

See more of Molly's work on her website