red outline drawing of nude bald man seated with bulldog in lap; bulldog wears jersey with American flag motif; solid blue background with various hats and shrouds rendered with tabs to look like paper doll cutouts

%C2%A9 May Stevens %2F Courtesy Ryan Lee Gallery

Big Daddy with Hats, 1971

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A leading feminist artist and political activist, May Stevens created "Big Daddy" in the mid-1960s as a symbol of reactionary, patriarchal politics and to protest American involvement in the Vietnam War. Stevens based the character of Big Daddy on her own father, whose stanch patriotism and blind allegiance to conservative beliefs had poisoned their relationship. Her mocking depiction renders him naked, bloated, and sporting a bullet-shaped head, an unmistakably phallic symbol signifying male dominance and the capacity for violence. Here, she portrays Big Daddy as a paper doll, to be dressed in the guise of a soldier, police officer, executioner, or Klansman. In this parody of authority, she renders him powerless, nothing more than a child’s game.

Details
Title
Big Daddy with Hats
Artist Life
1924–2019
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2017.122
Provenance
The artist, Santa Fe, N.M.; (Ryan Lee Gallery, New York); given to MIA, 2017.
Catalogue Raisonne
Coppel, Daunt & Tallman 160
Curator Approved

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red outline drawing of nude bald man seated with bulldog in lap; bulldog wears jersey with American flag motif; solid blue background with various hats and shrouds rendered with tabs to look like paper doll cutouts

© May Stevens / Courtesy Ryan Lee Gallery

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