Sunday, August 5, 2012

Famous for More than Fifteen Minutes

Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 16 x 11''
painting #209, 2012

Today, marks the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe's untimely passing at the age of 36. The circumstances surrounding her death has been the subject of much speculation and mystery. There are a few actresses of the golden age of cinema that still continue to mesmerize me and these include- Marilyn Monroe, Ingrid Bergman and Grace Kelly. For Marilyn, her vulnerability and timeless beauty captured both on film and in photography makes her immortal. Her ever growing appeal continues to fascinate half a century later. 

Ed Feingersh photography

 The genesis for this painting was ignited after viewing two films this past February. My week with Marilyn for which Michelle Williams received a Golden Globe and an Academy Award nomination and the 2009 film Coco before Chanel starring Audrey Tautou.  A most famous photograph of Marilyn taken by Ed Feingersh was the catalyst that sparked the whole concept. In the 1950s the glamour of Chanel No. 5 was reignited by Monroe, whose unsolicited endorsement of the fragrance provided invaluable publicity.“What do I wear in bed? Why, Chanel No. 5, of course,” the Daily Mail quoted Monroe as saying in the ad. In another 1994 ad, model Carole Bouquet was morphed into Marilyn for a clever Chanel No. 5 video commercial. (click HERE to view)

Coco Chanel

Coco Chanel was born Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel in Saumur, France in 1883. She first branched out into fashion as a hat designer. She revolutionised the fashion industry with menswear-inspired design done in simple elegance which made her a rebel in the 1920's and 30's. She rejected a lot of the feminine fashion of her day and created a more androgynous look. Her House of Haute-Couture became famous for her tweed suits, little black dress, costume jewellery, top-stitched bags, chain belts and of course the world's most famous perfume, Chanel No.5 The scent was developed by Russian-French chemist and perfumer Ernest Beaux. In 1921, the perfume's first 100 bottles were given as Christmas gifts to her best clientèle. The following year, it was made available to the general public, marking 90 years in 2012.  A bottle of Chanel No.5 is sold every 30 seconds.

After doing a bit of research I realized that I was also able to pay homage to my favourite Pop artist Andy Warhol, who's anniversary of his death also coincides with the milestone year of 25. And tomorrow, he would have turned 84.

The Chanel No. 5 bottle, over decades, has itself become an identifiable cultural artefact, so much so that Andy Warhol chose to commemorate its iconic status in the mid-1980s with pop-art silk-screens.  Even empty, the bottle are highly collectable. It would take me more than two weeks to acquire one on eBay that was not going to cost upwards of $20. For it's 75th anniversary, Chanel issued a special edition of No.5 using one of Warhol's serigraph images on the box that holds the decanter. The title for the painting was inspired by the famous Warhol quote, ''In the future, everyone will be world famous for 15 minutes''

The image of Monroe used in the painting appears on the cover the slip case of a massive two-volume book set entitled ''Modern Art'', published by Taschen in 2011. (Marilyn, 1964, silkscreen on canvas 40'' x 40'' by Andy Warhol). I came across these books at the Museum Shop of the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC during a visit this past Easter. Since I was travelling light with only a backpack, at a hefty 11 lbs, I opted to buy it on-line through upon my return. For this composition I used a crystal ball much like a clairvoyant would do to channel their spirits. The lives of all three did become intertwined because of their fame. All three are iconic figures of popular culture for the significant contribution to the arts.

On a personal note- Monroe died in 1962, seven months after I was born. Warhol died on February 22 1987, the same month I completed my first original painting. In 2006, we vacationed three days in Oiron, France to visit a family friend living there. We spent a full afternoon in Saumur where Coco Chanel was born, visiting châteaux along the Loire River in this very scenic town with black slate roofs.

This painting will be exhibited in ''The Still Life'' Invitational group show during the month of October at the Elliott Fouts Gallery in Sacramento, California. Details to follow.

Elliott Fouts Gallery
1831 P. Street Sacramento, California, USA , 95811