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Big-T & the Bada-Bings


Virtual Girls
By Elva Ramirez

This edition of Cyber*Kool originally was featured in the Spring 2000 issue of ATOMIC Magazine.

What is there to say about pin-up art? Sure, you can discuss its historical significance, or recount anecdotes about famous artists and models from the pin-up's heyday in the 1940s and '50s. But that's all secondary to enjoying a pinup, and act that is wholly visual. The images of scantily clad pretty girls derive their power not only from the art direction or styling, but also from the voyeuristic, caught-in-the-act scenario they portray. Until recently, the pinup was restricted to paper: magazines, postcards, and pictures. But the advent of the Net has provided a whole new wall for pin-ups to be pasted upon, whether it's by downloading images as screen-savers, bookmarking the most tantalizing sites, or printing out a selection of girlies at 1440 dpi to hang up in one's gym locker. Even in the digital age, the pinup retains a special place in the collective eye.
Our top pick, The Pinup Page is comprehensive, well-organized and professionally designed. What's more, the site is so popular that users are asked not to pilfer the image archives to bolster their own amateur pinup pages on the Web. Devoted to pinups from the 1940s and 1950s, the site's library boasts some 400 images culled from girlie magazines, such as Beauty Parade and Flirt; classic photos of Bettie Page and Marilyn Monroe; and pictures from Vargas, Elvgren, and Petty, among others. The pictures are organized by artist or subject and include short bios.
Although this site holds only a dozen pinups compared to the hundreds of pictures in other sites, it offers something special: an art historian's critical eye and a journalist's wise-ass commentary.

Titled Art Frahm: A study on the effects of celery on loose elastic, the pinup section features a running essay spread across several pages, and is only a small part of journalist James Lileks' witty and elegant Web site on retro culture. The essay studies a selection of infamous images from artist Art Frahm, who had a penchant for painting attractive young women caught in an embarrassing situation while doing their everyday chores. The women are usually stymied my their lacy underwear fluttering around their ankles, and almost invariably a uniformed working man appears somewhere in the image, as do a fallen purse or errant puppy at the subject feet...and, oddly enough, celery. As Lileks points out, the very presence of celery apparently causes panties to fall swiftly to the ground at the most inopportune moments. The fantasy settings and running can-you-believe-the-nerve-of-this-guy commentary are wildly hysterical, and Lilek's entire site is worth a long visit.
Artist Shannon Finch's site features a library of her own images, some of which are for sale. She also makes custom pieces if you ask nicely enough. Currently, there are roughly 20 images in her Pinup girl section. Finch's pinups are all original designs but with classic roots; their clean, thin lines owe much to Roy Lichtenstein's comic pop art, while the flirtatious subjects are clearly related to Gil Elvgren's sexy girls. These kittens have tons of charm and exhibit a certain present-meets-past irony. Our favorite is the blonde in a lilac blouse, whose clothes and hair are styled like a 1940s bombshell, yet she's smiling at us while sitting at her desktop computer. If you're looking for something to fill that space on your left bicep, a few of the Shannanigan designs also have traditional tattoo motifs (the devil girl, flames, eight balls). as well as neat, simple lines that translate well onto skin.
Don't go here if you don't have cash to burn—that is unless you enjoy pining away for things you can't have. This is a site for the Vanguard Gallery, home of Daniel Vanca's reproductions of Gil Elvgren pinups Mr. Vancas is one of the few artists authorized to replicate Elvgren designs by hand painting classic images onto a new canvas. In many cases, Elvgren's originals have been lost and Vancas' replicas are the only record of his work. Visitors claim they cannot detect a difference between a replica and the original. A hand-painted canvas replica runs about $4,000, but the gallery also has sales and affordable options in the few-hundred-dollar range for beginning collectors. For an additional fee, collectors can have their artwork signed by Myrna Hansen, one of Elvgren's original models. And supposing you do have a few thousand bucks to spare, the Vanguard Gallery has an extremely rare Alberto Vargas original painting, The Blue Nude (1928), for a mere $75,000 (valued at $125,000), with reproductions available for $2,500. Wow.
Classic glamour meets newfangled technology at, which boasts impressive photo galleries of golden-era Hollywood beauties. While the gallery for Jayne Mansfield borders on the obsessive, there are also collections for Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable, Audrey Hepburn, Carmen Miranda, and Jane Russell, among others, as well as short bios on each starlet. (Only complaint? No Ava Gardner; but, maybe they're working on it.) Other fun features include the Clickable Bombshells section, which presents a full-size image of a siren and lets you click on different parts of her body to hear audio clips from her movies. Bombshell e-postcards are also available, as well as a small selection of downloadable songs.


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