Frances Bean Cobain: No Apologies

We asked the elusive artist Fiddle Tim what her mother thinks of her artwork: “That’s like me asking, ‘What does your mom think about your interview questions.’ It’s irrelevant to the work.” It is, of course, a rude question, although it’s one people will likely not be able to help asking this artist, whose real name is Frances Bean Cobain, the 17-year-old daughter of the opinionated Courtney Love. Cobain’s solo showing of drawings at La Luz de Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles is provocatively titled “Scumfuck,” after a tattoo on the arm of politically incorrect punk performer GG Allin. In fact, a portrait of the brooding Allin, a drop of blood, or sweat, or both dripping down his face, is the show’s centerpiece. Other drawings, all crude or abject in their content but delicate and washed in their execution, in the sold-out show feature a wickedly grinning moon-like face, with the words, “Be civil, or I’ll eat the sun,” scrawled below. A rolling, obese man appears in several drawings, naked and off-center, liquid dripping from his mouth.

Cobain cites Al Columbia–the cartoonist and occasional musician and filmmaker–as the biggest influence on her work. And though she rejects any categorization of her pieces as cartoons, she admits that they are funny, at least to her: “Most of my artwork is geared towards being humorous in some light. I thought every piece was funny, but I’m delighted to discover that it was only funny to me,” she says.

For Cobain, the child of two of the most influential and notorious artists of the past ten years, the most rewarding kind of rebellion is anonymity. Her drawings are the products of teenager-dom—emotionally raw and intentionally nasty, an aesthetic for which she is proudly “unapologetic.” But the biggest shock—at a moment when celebrity art shows abound—is Cobain’s genuine desire to remain nameless, and to do so in the context of a skate art gallery. And like the work itself, Cobain finds comedy in her odd choice of a pseudonym. “I’m thrilled by the prospect of being referred to as ‘fiddle’ in a professional setting. That’s hilarious.”