Little Miss Muffet

(My very own piece of art work)

Nursery rhymes and fairy tales can be scary things. As we mature, leaving behind our childhood, we never forget our favourite childhood story. Beauty and humour have always been aspects of nursery rhymes and fairy tale stories; however another aspect which I can recognise is the distortion of truth. They are fake and unrealistic; they shape our gender perceptions and present an often distorted reality for children.

Marie Larkin’s fairy tale characters reflect this propensity for distortion that is seen in various children’s stories. This was the inspiration for my own ideas. Her exaggeration of the eyes and head in her portraits Red’s Revenge and Mis-Muffet reminded me of this distortion that is presented in fairy tales and nursery rhymes.  The characters that Larkin present offer a new interpretation to the nursery rhyme for her audience; her figures are genuinely scary. They are not for a child audience, but rather reference adult memory of childhood experiences.

I too also wanted to present this distortion of and the connection to fairy tale stories that change for us as we grow to adulthood. My previous study of Del Kathryn Barton had opened my interest to the distorted female figure, principally the big eyes and big head on a small body. Children begin to draw this way – creating human figures with outsized heads on stick bodies. Even when small, children recognise the importance of eyes as a means to communicate without speech.  Del Kathryn Barton understands this cognitive development in children’s drawing and perception. She exploits this in her highly adult orientated art works which in many ways, although highly decorative, are quite disturbing.

(Marie Larkin, Mis-Muffet)

A quote from Larkin inspired me in the process of my own practical; ‘Nursery rhymes can be quite scary things… they are humorous but it’s a dark black humour…’[1]   This influenced me in developing a different perception of a nursery rhyme. In my practical, I have taken Little Miss Muffet as my central character. She is loosely based on a year eight student whose mother read the rhyme to her often as a small child. My dark twist comes through representing my female character “Miss Muffet” in a power suit. She is a business woman made vulnerable through holding her bowl full of curds and whey. The “spider” is the glass ceiling and male sexism in the workplace. My study of Women’s Studies has informed the way I have interpreted this seemingly simplistic nursery rhyme. Nursery rhymes in themselves are intrinsically sexist and mirror much of society’s gender construction that children learn almost from birth.

(Del Kathryn Barton, Keeper of the Polka-dots)

4 thoughts on “Little Miss Muffet

  1. How lovely to come upon your references to my art! I was even more excited to be alongside Del Kathryn Barton, who I much admire, and who I have always included in my teaching. My girls in Rhyme and Reason are indeed strong females who are quite capable of turning a narrative on it’s head to assert themselves!

      • That’s very kind of you. I’m not in the league of Barton but I work quite hard. I loved your take on Muffet. Keep up the great work and enjoy your art, and if I can be of any help to you let me know. Oh and send me you address I would love to send you a little something from the Muffet range for your interest in my artmaking!

  2. Thank you so much, this was quite the unexpected outcome I had when writing my blog post. I would love to talk to you some more about your artwork! You have had a major influence on my own art work and still do (I am loving your Irezumi Angels at the moment).

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