Little Angel

Sesow, Matt

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Painting

Annotated by:
Lam, MD, Gretl
  • Date of entry: Jun-28-2016
  • Last revised: Jun-28-2016


Two harshly drawn figures make up this painting, an adult cradling a baby. Both figures stare out and confront the viewer with round bulging eyes. Their wide red mouths are drawn into grimaces, displaying long rows of teeth. Their bodies are pale, but are outlined roughly in black, and marked by gashes of blue, pink, and red. They stand, highlighted in yellow, against an angry and energetic backdrop of red and orange.  

A small black halo sticks out stiffly from the head of the baby, while two sharp black horns protrude from the crown of the adult. The adult’s disproportionately large thick hand presses the baby close to their body. Is this an adult or is it a monster or a devil? The viewer is left to decide. Whoever or whatever the figure is, it holds the baby in a way that is protective and menacing at the same time.


The artist, Matt Sesow, suffered a horrific trauma at the age of 8, when an airplane propeller sliced off his left arm. Although doctors tried to reattach the limb, his left hand could not be saved. Sesow has learned to channel the anger, grief, and intensity from this physical and emotional trauma into his paintings, which are raw and dark and vivid. The two figures in this painting illustrate this style exactly, with their ugly faces and pale bodies against a flaming red-orange field.  

In an interview with the Washington Post, Sesow says, “When I was hit by the plane, I always tell people, there was a guardian angel there… But was it to protect me or to push me in front of the plane?” He appears to explore this question in this painting. The baby, whose innocence and helplessness is represented by its small body and angel’s halo, is clutched firmly by a larger being. This larger figure cradles the baby close to their body, pressing their cheek against the baby’s cheek, much like a parent might hold their child close, suggesting some level of affection and protection. But this figure also bears the horns of a devil or a monster, along with a grotesque face and a possessive stance, which challenges the idea of a benevolent guardian.


Acrylic on Paper