As far back as her memory extends, 10-year-old Harlow Manning has wanted to be an artist. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as she follows in the footsteps of her father, internationally known artist, Trent Manning.
“We are launching a business together for the Punk Rock Flea Market,” said Trent. Ever since the pair first collaborated for their exhibition, “Inspired” at Outer Space Art Gallery when Harlow was seven, they’ve been looking for another project to take on. Trent attended the last Punk Rock Flea Market and thought it would be the perfect venue to debut their new business, Cerk Fillet. “All of the sculptures that I did were based on her sketches for our first show. All the paintings originated from her sketchbook,” Trent said. “This time it’s going to be a little bit more me and a little bit more her, and then we’re also going to collaborate.”
The name is an ode to the adorable way Harlow used to mispronounce Cirque du Soleil. Trent remembers, “When we first took her to Cirque du Soleil, she couldn’t pronounce it. She kept saying, ‘I want to go see Cerk Fillet again!’”
“We’re taking our love of the circus and our thing together and we’re going to do this kind of traveling band of sideshow freaks,” he said. Both he and Harlow will have original pieces along with collaborative works.
Beyond the father, daughter quality time, Cerk Fillet will also serve as a sort of rebrand for Trent and an early portfolio for Harlow. Trent hopes to create a line of work with a more approachable price point. “It’s about making a body of work for me that’s more accessible to the masses,” he said. Harlow would like to compile a portfolio impressive enough to one day attend Harrison School For the Arts.
CIRCUS TRIBE MEETS THE ADDAMS FAMILY
Trent’s work is well-recognized for its whimsically dark and detailed narrative. The storytelling aspect is something Harlow has taken an interest in as well. “There has always been a very strong narrative in my work,” said Trent. “I’ve noticed she has that too. When she draws something she usually has a complex story behind it.”
The young artist has been sketching since she was only three. She loves to illustrate books like two she’s currently penning, “The Ultimate Sleepover Guide” and “The Perfect Pool Party.” In kindergarten, she was voted ‘Best Storyteller’ according to her dad. Trent remembers being called into her class by her teacher when he was picking her up one day. The teacher asked if he could pick out Harlow’s self-portrait from the collection on the wall. He said, “Yes, that one’s Harlow’s.”
Her teacher went on to explain that the project was to do a self-portrait. Harlow’s stood out because of the big rainbow in hers. When the teacher told her that wasn’t part of the project, Harlow retorted, “But that’s my rainbow.” When her teacher informed her that she didn’t have a rainbow, Harlow said, “Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.”
The artist works with his daughter diligently, teaching her about filling space, composition and taking her sketches from concept to a complete piece of art. “I encourage her to sketch every night,” he said. He tells her to sketch anything she’d like. “You’re going to make better work, by making more work,” he said.
“The work on her own is her ideas, her original concept, but I’m helping her turn those into finished pieces,” he added.
Harlow’s favorite character she’s ever drawn into existence has become a central figure in her father’s work as well. Zombie Boy made his first appearance in their “Inspired” show. “We loved it so much that it carried over into my work,” said Trent. Dad even cuts daughter a royalty check for anything he sells depicting her signature Zombie Boy – a loveable undead character with a round mouth and gnarled teeth. Zombie Boy and other beloved characters will be a part of their new work too.
The narrative for Cerk Fillet is still developing according to Trent. “The basis of it is this traveling band of friends – a group. I don’t know why I always go back to traveling and this migrant thing. I feel like Americans have never been forced to be displaced and travel,” he said. That doesn’t mean everything they present will be tied in with a gypsysque circus tribe. “I’m giving her free reign to do whatever she wants,” said Trent.
Harlow discussed her inspiration for Cerk Fillet. “For this one, I’m trying to do more circusy and anything that pops into my mind, I put it down on a piece of paper,” she said.
Already selling well are their Pinhead sculptures. The name was inspired by Trent’s love of The Ramones. The sculptures, which were conceptualized especially for the Punk Rock Flea, depict cute and creepy clowns using old bowling pins. Trent only intended to make one batch, but after posting a few photos of them online, the demand exploded.
Cerk Fillet will have sculptures, paintings, stickers, and cards at the market this month for art lovers eager to collect the Mannings’ delightfully creepy aesthetic. “We’re going to try to develop a whole product line,” said Manning. If Cerk Fillet is well received at their first market, the two plan to set up shop at other central markets like the Indie Flea.
“I’m just excited to be working with her again,” remarked Trent. Harlow agreed that her favorite part of their business venture is “being with him.”
The father and daughter will be reserving a portion of the proceeds from their wonderfully weird artwork for a cause dear to them. Trent and Harlow will be donating 20% of their joint proceeds, and 100% of Harlow’s proceeds to her Helpers Club. She was inspired to start the club after witnessing the staggering number of homeless in New Orleans while on a family trip. Her Helpers Club – which consists of Harlow and her friends – buy food, toiletries, and necessities to make bags. The family walks around New Orleans, giving out the bags to homeless folks in the city.
Harlow thought for a moment when asked about what her future as an artist might look like. Beyond attending Harrison, she said, “I would like to continue working with him as long as I can and then eventually grow into my own studio and do my own artwork.”
Harlow’s parents foster her interests. “I’ve taken sewing classes and I’ve been to theatre camp,” she said. She loves fashion, costume, and set design. Harlow even has her own studio space complete with sewing and painting stations at home.
“I feel like if we expose her to everything now, she’ll find her niche much sooner than I did,” said Trent. “It took me a long time until I actually got encouraged by my art teacher. I was almost an adult at that point.”
Encouragement from his high school art teacher meant so much to Trent that he will do anything he can to be that supportive force for his daughter. He said, “Encouragement is 90% of artwork. If you don’t feel like you’re turning out good work and there’s no response from people, no one seems to get it – you don’t have much reason to go in. But if you have deadlines and you have feedback and you feel like it’s appreciated by people, then you have a reason to go in and do that.”
“I just want to encourage her,” Trent said. “Whatever she wants to do, I’m going to facilitate it.”