Contemporary Artists Portray Surrealistic Children

Artsy Editorial
Nov 13, 2013 3:24PM

Surrealism is alive and well in the work of artists Kyla Zoe Rafert, Margo Selski, Maggie Taylor, and Eugenio Cuttica, each of whom have painted a number of works with a poignant, innocent focus on children amid unexpected, dreamlike scenes. Although the artists differ in terms of style and practice, together they offer an intriguing selection of work, paying homage to childhood.

Kyla Zoe Rafert presents scenes of young girls in party dresses portrayed on a small scale, within expansive, intricately patterned interiors. Though the girls are dressed festively and portrayed in bright colors, the scenes are often melancholy with the girls crying, in an exhausted slumber, working with mysterious large mounds of powder or precariously surrounded by reindeer or horses. Rafert’s inspirations include fairy tales, 17th-century Dutch genre paintings, and sentimental 19th-century literature. Despite the portrayal of children, the compositions are meant to represent the romanticized retrospect of an adult looking back on childhood.

Margo Selski’s paintings also use Northern European art and fairytales as a reference point. As an artist, she sees herself as Shakespeare’s Prospero, from The Tempest, “coloniz[ing her] paintings with an ornate cast of characters.” Among her cast she presents a number of children, including a young blonde girl with Rapunzel-like braids that have a life of their own. Her works blend classical and contemporary conventions, set in front of blank white backdrops or dramatic brocaded interiors, presenting fresh-faced girls in elaborate dresses, carrying baby pigs or scepters.

Photographer Maggie Taylor creates digital prints by making pastel drawings of jarring surrealistic scenes and scanning them into Photoshop. She portrays young girls and boys, dressed from another era, often translucent, suggesting they are spirits rather than living beings. Set before Magritte-esque landscapes and skies or within dark cathedral interiors, the children appear concerned or entranced as they sit among ghosts, are split in half, hold magical orbs, and are surrounded by magical creatures.

Eugenio Cuttica taps into an alternate dimension in creating his paintings, transporting viewers back to childhood and acting on his belief that all children are artists and “an artist is a child that survived.” Cuttica’s paintings often feature a little girl, Luna, who wears a white dress, stands on a chair and is rendered with a ghostlike transparency. Luna appears before scenes of nature, including lush trees, flowers, and idyllic fields of grain. Her delicate presence serves as a reminder that there are some childlike qualities that an adult never outgrows.

Explore more artists from Richard J. Demato Fine Arts Gallery on Artsy.

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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019