BY Brandon Voss
June 06 2011 5:50 PM ET
What’s a mother to do when her 12-year-old son has a passion for long hair and lovely dresses? If she’s surrealist artist Margo Selski, she lets him pose as the subject of her fantastical paintings in the exhibition “Hitherto and Henceforth,” which runs through June 30 at West Hollywood’s Glass Garage Fine Art Gallery. Also painting an unpleasant picture of her son Theo’s torment in their small town of Ellensburg, Wash., Selski explains how she always colors on the right side of the line between empowerment and exploitation.
The Advocate: Tell me about the inspiration behind the paintings in “Hitherto and Henceforth” that feature your son Theo.
Margo Selski: This series of paintings was intended as a celebration of balancing between two things. They’re neither entirely classical nor entirely contemporary, neither entirely realistic nor entirely fantastical, neither entirely familiar nor entirely alien. That balancing point between old and new, comfortable and uncomfortable, safe and unsafe is what this exhibition is all about. Theo is himself on a balancing point. On the one hand, he is an athletic, rambunctious kid who loves to roughhouse, play basketball, play noisy video games, go camping, and spend half the day on his heelies — those shoes with wheels in the heels. On the other hand, he is gentle and loves beautiful, fine things, and loves dressing up as fantastical figures, both male and female, to pose for my paintings. Thus Theo is balanced between two extremes himself. However, he has also recently turned 12. Everything changes at 12. Your body changes, your voice changes, your peers change, your world changes. The world begins to pressure you to be one thing or another. You’re balanced not only between being a child and becoming an adult, but you’re faced with choosing an identity in the social system you live in. This series of paintings is intended thus as a larger portrait of the kind of choices that nature and society place before us at the difficult age of 12.
What’s the significance of the dramatic royal fantasy scenarios in which you’ve imagined Theo?
The royalist imagery has to do with power. The figures that Theo portrays in these paintings have the sort of confidence and power that children are drawn to. Theo is shy and quiet. The royalist imagery is a normal reaction to counter that.
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