What makes us love a villain the most? Is it their eccentricities? Their abhorrent nature? Their haunting glamour? Or Is it our own curiosity of what avenues it takes to become so heartless, so evil, and yet so powerful?
I preface these questions with my own story of wonderment and questioning as I finish this piece called “Birthday Wishes” which is a painting derived from the comics of Sleeping Beauty of the wickedest fairy named Maleficent. In this personal rendition of this sequential cell, Maleficent, who, sore from being snubbed by the King and Queen’s celebration of their Daughter Aurora’s birth, bestows a wicked wish with the words “The princess shall indeed grow in grace and beauty, beloved by all who know her. But… before the sun sets on her 16th birthday, she shall prick her finger, on the spindle of a spinning wheel… “. This cell shows her final words of her blessing which is: “and DIE!”. This painting both displays the campy frame of her idiosyncratic speech, as well as the encompassment of villain emotion through extreme audaciousness. This allure that brought me to this piece has a distinct history in why I would want to create such a portrait.
I found myself many years back, before working for Disney, in San Francisco painting portraits of the Disney Villains. At the time, I was working for a small fan club company for musicians I didn’t really listen to (Whitney Houston Platinum Club anyone?) in the daytime, and moonlighting as a performance artist for the radically artistic nightclub called Trannyshack in the evening. My first hosting gig which I had originally wanted to title “The Liar, The Bitch, and My Wardrobe” was converted to “Vicious Villains”, but nonetheless, the overall theme was the same. I had spent most of my time preparing these portraits of the villains to display for that night. I chose The Evil Queen from Snow White, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and Ursula from The Little Mermaid. They were painted in day-glo colors so that they popped for the audience during our numbers. My opening number was in honor of the White Witch, Jadis, from The Chronicles of Narnia. I file these memories under the some of the best years of my life.
My days after work I’d spend hours downstairs in our basement, which served as my art studio. For weeks I painted these portraits of the evilest characters I had ever known. While I learned the contour of their faces and expressions, I often mulled over exactly why I was fascinated with the often abhorrent nature of these characters.
Years later, working at Disney, I found myself painting them again for a series I called “The Darkest of Sparkling Hearts”. This collection, which was for their Fashion & Home creative pitch, was based on their ghostly silhouette painted in phosphorescent white against a starry black and gold spray painted background. I was back in that time of fascination again, with why I loved them so.
I suppose my first acknowledgement could be of their often eccentric garb, which was so ostentatiously over exaggerated against their simple protagonist foe. Here the villains displayed such color, which much like their grand personality, was the antithesis of the innocent, plain, and unaware heroine (well, until their happy ending to which they were more extravagant). Their outfits displayed a sense of strong authority and hunger for power, which often mirrored their intent.
One of the key points of my wonderment was that they were alone physically, but completely fulfilled by their desire for power. In essence, their often narcissistic nature, ultimately left them alone physically, yet fulfilled by a inanimate relationship with the quest for power. In my own opposite nature, where I revel in my own naivety, I find myself curious to how one gets to that position of wanting complete unadulterated control.
Villains exercise their tribulations through the very same outlets of desperation as their protagonist does, except through routes of immoral code. Like traffic that stalls through the highways of our lives, we make decisions to get to the same place through obstacles of right or wrong. It is in this where we can ultimately identify with our inner hero, and as well our inner villain. Yet unlike the stories which we read, where there is only routes of good OR evil (rarely ever in between), the human condition is plagued with both… We are never just either or, we are both good and evil at the same time, often bobbing up and down in the playground of our mortal coil on a karmatic teeter totter with the universe.
There are an infinite number of reasons for all of us to grasp on to our attraction to these characters. These are just the few personal reasons/questions that are floating to the surface of my brain as I write this. This painting is a part of the sequential series which debuts this fall at Disney Fine Art Collections. This is one of three paintings. The other two are of Sleeping Beauty Crying , and Snow White Biting an Apple. This series will be unveiled alongside The Villains Series, in which I am excited to explore further into the depths of their psyche as well as my own.