Jeanette Hayes, “DeMooning” series
Jeanette Hayes, “DeMooning” series

Considering social media her sketchbook and GIFs a material, Jeanette Hayes has a particular penchant for Sailor Moon, whose image she superimposes onto her own recreations of high Modernist works, as in her “DeMooning” series and the stand-alone painting Les Demoiselles de’Animeme. Stating that “all portraiture is fan art,” Hayes also sends her work to fan art pages, demonstrating her desire to make obsolete the boundaries between “high” and “low” art.

In the 1990s, “Sailor Moon” went from cult to mainstream—what began as part of the Japanese Shōjo and magical girl genres soon developed a separate western fanbase via a heavily altered Cartoon Network dub. As young, almost entirely female adults, these fans may feel a twinge of nostalgia for the 1990s dub, but now opt to watch Sailor Moon in the original Japanese and conduct meta-analyses of the characters’ motives, themes of queerness and femininity, and more.

Sailor Moon/ Soft Grunge Tumblr community
Sailor Moon/ Soft Grunge
Tumblr community

The chat rooms of the late 1990s and early 2000s are all but obsolete in com¬parison to social media platform Tumblr, and the GIF has become the ideal medium for the obsessed fan, who can watch his or her favorite character’s movements on repeat. Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the anime and prompted the reboot, Sailor Moon Crystal, with CGI transformation sequences that have created a miniature schism within the fandom, as well as collectibles from Premium Bandai, limited-edition toys, jewelry, cosmetics, and clothing that have been appropriated by other internet subcultures. Pastel Goth, also known as Soft Grunge, is an aesthetic propagated by Tumblr. Drawing from both 1990s American fashion (heart-shaped sun¬glasses, jelly sandals) and Japanese Lolita style (colored circle lenses, wigs in shades of lilac and pale pink), one can see why Sailor Moon’s Miracle Romance Makeup Powder might appeal.

With platinum blonde hair and red lipstick, Jeanette Hayes looks more like Lady Gaga than Lana Del Rey (the poster child for Soft Grunge), but there is no doubt that she has created an online perso¬na with an awareness of this particular sub¬culture. There are undoubtedly elements of kitsch and cynicism in her work, most superficially in her comparison of herself to Jeff Koons. On a deeper level, however, “DeMooning” demonstrates how internet memes rid images and objects of meaning, their recirculation eliminating original context. To all but a select few, Sailor Moon has become a sort of simulacrum, like a DeKooning or a Picasso. Canonical art¬works also become reproductions printed onto umbrellas, postcards, shower curtains, and mugs. As Hayes Tweets, “When I stud¬ied art history I couldn’t understand how ppl made all of these paintings but now that im re-painting them all, I kinda get it lol.” Maybe DeKooning and Sailor Moon aren’t so different after all.