The Sisters Grimm
by Neverne Covington
When a young child hears, “ You are going to be the death of me ” threatened by the most trusted person in their world, their mother or father, what do they think? What ideas enter the child’s mind when commanded to “Bite your tongue?”
Part sass, part satire, the Sisters Grimm skitters across the landscape of language to probe the puncturing of innocence, to dismantle the sinister sensuality of the childhood scold.
This ongoing project, the Sisters Grimm, combines oral history, visual art, and viewer participation. It consists of an ongoing series of drawings of characters I have created based on idioms I have collected, spoken to young children over generations and different cultures. The series is based on and titled with common phrases every child has heard probably more than once, such as “This is going to hurt me more than it will hurt you” and “Always wear clean underwear.” Before starting the series, during exhibitions, I have continued to interview people for phrases they remember most. At the exhibitions, viewers are asked to sit in an old school desk and write what they remember. I have collected many pages of such idioms from written in four languages, from many different cultures. In addition, and sometimes unsolicited, I have been sent photos of people as children who want to be included in this project.
1. Always wear clean underwear
2. Hold your tongue
3. Don’t put it in your mouth
4. Don’t point that at your sister
5 Wipe that grin before it sticks forever
6. You are going to be the death of me
7. Step on a crack, break your mothers back.
8. Don’t cut your nose off to spite your face
Drawn with a sensual line and somber color, this series of drawings of young girls with large heads and diminishing bodies probe the puncturing of innocence, as they dismantle, with a child’s inherent wisdom, the rebukes from adults. Then gaze back at you with a stare you cannot avoid. With humor and with irony, they wink at us from across the divide of language, questioning why such statements are perpetuated and how are they to be interpreted. Although they appear prim and proper, they look back at you with – like stepping through the looking glass, from a complex and humorous world, and one that is a little wicked.
A short video on the making of the Sisters Grimm and more drawings in the series can be viewed here