A portrait of Anna Maltz
Artist, knitter, activist
I discovered the work of Anna Maltz happening upon an apparent portrait of a family wearing what can only be described as knitted nude suits. The little girl examining her father’s woollen penis. The image was posted uncredited on an internet notice board accompanied by a litany of incredulous comments.
It had to have been the work of an artist – a simple and wonderfully executed concept that throws open all the moral and social contradictions in public displays of nudity. I would see it pop up again in unexpected places, each time eliciting a search to find the creator.
When Sasha Baron Cohen premiered “Bruno” in Berlin wearing a similar outfit a year later I made a concerted effort to find the artist, to express my admiration and congratulate her on finding mainstream exposure. Emailing Anna I learnt the Bruno costumes were not by her.
Artists frequently have their ideas purloined by advertising, take Gillian Wearing’s “Signs that say what you want them to say” and the Volkswagen advert by BMP DDB. In a “creative” industry not crediting a concept is ironic as well as unjust.
It’s probable Baron Cohen was unaware of her work but I would be surprised if no-one in his team had not seen the image, given the similarity in the versions. Five years had passed since Anna exhibited her suits and the emergence of the ones to promote Bruno. It seemed a shame to me that the latecomer and conceptually less brilliant version may become the one posterity remembers. So I thought a formal portrait of Anna in her creation would be in order. I must admit that I may also have had a sneaky desire to try one one for myself.
(Although we corresponded the portrait didn’t happen immediately, since, for a while, Anna thought I was asking her to pose nude. A lesson learnt and now I state clearly when propositioning artists and authors that I’m expecting them to keep their clothes on.)