Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Marilyn Monroe
Bert Stern Photograph, Acrylic Paint
Photo Copyright Bert Stern 1962
Marilyn The Classic by Norman Mailer
Galahad Books


quinn the eskimo said...

Damn Billy, what the hell am I supposed to make of that? It just feels like a defacing & a defiling to me.

I mean, Madonna was bad enough. To say I despise her is to put it VERY kindly. But this? Shit man, it makes me feel worse.

So, let's apply your "what I like" in art list. Where's the Redemption here? Magic? Melancholy? Heroism?

Maybe it could be captured under "women in retail," but only if that included graverobbing & disfiguring. Anyhoo, that's how it feels to me.

i.e. I'm the Philistine here. Concept?

Billy Glad said...

When Ed Kienholz moved to Houston, he put together a small show for a couple of his proteges. I went with my friend Michael Tracy who was achieving some international recognition at the time. Kienholz was intergalactic. Tracy had brought his nephew along and started to point something out to him about one of the pieces. Just stuck his hand out to point at something on the painting, and, suddenly, we heard this booming voice -- Kienholz it turns out -- hollering: "Hey! Hands off the art, asshole!"

quinn the eskimo said...

Ok. So knowing nothing about this Kienholz fella - and being offered no assistance by the traditional providers of such knowledge (ahem) - I'm forced to turn to.... the Wiki gods. All the while thinking to myself, "another one of Billy's touchy-feely, nancy-boy, poser-artists." For such are the thoughts I think to myself, when being told to keep my hands off the goddamn art.

But what do the Wiki gods provide? A PROPER artist, this Kienholz guy. Farmboy, for starters. But that TWA episode? Damn. Dude's got it happenin'. Taking an ax to a TWA desk.

Beauty, that.

And the letter, "Good morning, my name is Ed Kienholz... you broke my lampshade and I’m really unhappy... so I’m going to cause TWA an equal amount of damage. I’m going to destroy a desk for TWA.”

Which strikes me as the clear ancestor of that line from the Princess Bride, "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die."

So the way I score this one is, 3 points for me (the MM paint-job still sucks... Wiki kicks ass... and I worked a Princess Bride quote in), but you pretty much took me downtown by anecdoting that Keinholz guy... Which means we should probably call it a tie.

However, being playoff season, no such thing as a tie. Gotta go to overtime. And... for the win... Quinn puts it in the top of the net. Assist, Flumagillin.Unless you got a SECOND Keinholz story. AND a good link. That'd probably trump the colony collapse cure.

Billy Glad said...

Ha! Touche! What's going to pull this colony through, until we can lay in a supply of the Flumagillan, is a sense of humor, jen, and a good night's sleep. Next time I'll try a moustache.

Tom Manoff said...

I'd have to see it again among pictures in the Mailer book. Alone, I hate it.

Billy Glad said...

Well, Tom, as Ed told my friend Michael .... So? Gee, I guess you guys left your pom poms in the echo chamber. I'm really not interested in boos and cat-calls or in ooos and ahs and best this or that crap around here. If you and quinn have helpful questions, ask them.

Tom Manoff said...

Doesn't it make more sense in a greater context? My memory of the Mailer book (what is it? 25 years?) is that it dealt with a range of iconic imagery. Wanting to experience it in a greater context seems a useful reaction for me.

As someone who used to play in a band backing up strippers, I've long passed through all kinds of porn filters.

I've heard my music in an actual porn film, sold as background music years back. Sometimes it shows up in a documentary about birds, whatever. Hearing my own music, conceived as nothing more than "musical porn" to pay the rent, and under another name, that was interesting. Like the stripper who goes by "Cherry" or "Deseire" -- I'm embarrassed that some of that shitty music ended up with my name on it....

I had a good friend who worked at the same club as I did. She was working on a Phd in philosophy at City College. We talked existentialism in the breaks.
After work, we'd have some coffee and breakfast and go to school. I could go and study Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring." Talk about your real sex in public.

quinn the eskimo said...

Question for Billy. If you like the piece, where does it fall in your "What I Like in Art" list? Or is there a new category?

I liked the few Kienholz arrangements I saw more than this. I don't mind mess and mud and damage, if it opens out into something... or even if it just tears something apart that I hadn't imagined torn apart before.

The problem with this is that we all know about Marilyn being torn apart, or being a monstrous mad/bad woman, or whatever. Maybe this piece originally helped accomplish that, I donno. But for me, this image, appearing on its own in 2009, felt like a curb-stomping.

Tom Manoff said...

But how much do we "all know" about her? Until I started reading the memoirs of Kazan and Arthur Miller, I didn't know squat. Playing Meph now, that could be something good that comes from the post.

If there was some discussion from it? I dunno.

What's the symbol for not sure? It's not ;)

Billy Glad said...

quinn, I don't necessarily "like" everything I do. If I had to relate to my list of things I like, I'd look at busting up the old order. Literally. Start with a photo in a classic work. Tear the page out. Put on some red acrylic paint to reconstruct the mouth. Scan it, accentuating the image as print. Crop it to make the mouth the center of attention. Publish it on your blog as a recycled image. Compared to a Kienholz, the image is trivial, hardly as emotionally moving as a curb stomping, although if I thought it was it would sure make my day. And there ends the lesson, quinn.

Tom Manoff said...

I'm the guy who wants a naked dwarf in a film. I think it serves the greater purpose, and also frees the sense of prejudice against little people.

Billy Glad said...

Well, hell, Tom. Put up some naked dwarfs then. I put up the concentration camp science experiments. Your turn to put up some health and beauty.

Remind me to tell you about my friend, Peter, and the mental dwarfism of the Pacific Northwest.

Tom Manoff said...

My sense is to provide two sides of a "structural opposition" as it's called in structural anthropology.
The issue is the mythic energy flowing between opposites and finally, that the opposites are about the same thing. Too much detail for a comment. But in the oft promised river/Live wire post which I'll get to.

quinn the eskimo said...

Billy, you got me laughing with the labels you're putting on this post. I can see a whole new form of argument coming out of all this. Come to think of it, I may go back and relabel my old posts...

I make no bones about being the Philistine on a lot of aspects of art. Sure, part of it is a pose, but a lot isn't - I come at it with very little armour or acquaintance. I'd seen 3 movies in theatres by age 18. Painting, sculpture, installations - it's another world for me. I'm happy to engage with it, and have found some real joy there. But I really do still have that peasant/petit bourgeois chip, and it's about 3 feet high.

So I thought on this a bit. I like Mailer, for instance. He can be an asshole, in words and in life I guess, but he had some insight. Knew some stuff from the gut.

But I've got a Marquis du Farmkid 'fists up' response to certain things in art. Number One, you don't hurt the harmless, the weak, the damaged. No shitting down. You don't put garish lipstick on a dying African woman or a 30's dust-bowl widow. My read on Marilyn was that there was something beautiful, something monstrous in her - but ultimately, she didn't harm too many people, and died a suicide. Now, if an artist wanted to do it UP the foodchain, to Hillary or Palin or Coulter or somesuch, they should feel free. That lot can defend themselves.

I have lots of friends who argue with me for inserting moralism etc. into this, where it's just images, and should be discussed without all that baggage. To which I say, cobblers. What pathetic, self-serving, gutless, art gallery-black wearing, let's step outside and sort this out nonsense. (See? These conversations with imaginary friends escalate quite rapidly.)

Because that whole stance DEPENDS on there being assholes like me, people who hold images as meaning something more. The piece requires the other meaning, the one we unwashed put into it.

90% of the time, I don't mind if those unthinking meanings are torn apart. But if I feel that it's a dynamic of tearing apart the weaker... then how is the dynamic - not the degree - different from those WW2 experiments you mentioned? The citizens of Nanking, as a piece of art.

It's why you can do damn near anything to a flag, an anthem, a nationalist symbol, and I don't react. Because I see them as the creations of the powerful, tools that they use. But if you see those symbols as representing the little guy, the troops, your neighbours, the reaction is different. Same way as the nature/power of the artist matters.

Next Up: European films, why
they're a never-ending cliche & how they could REALLY use a few happy endings.

Tom Manoff said...

What about that sculptor who made a Madonna figure with dung, the one that Giuliani wanted to ban? How is that different than this?

Tom Manoff said...

Just as a start. In my view of mythic response, repulsion and attraction come from the same place. That's why they work.

quinn the eskimo said...

Because Madonna IS a piece of crap. ;-)

Seriously, I regard her as one of the most destructive culture bombs of the 80's, I resent the way she blew dozens of better female artists off the charts, and her legacy is that highway paved with shit like Spears & Aguilera & & &.

Anyone that wants to hold up Madonna and then complain about the shit music of today needs their neurons rearranged.

In short, Madonna is plenty powerful, rich, and she's on the side of the powerful. Hell, I'd like to see dung statues of her, surrounded by dung beetles to represent the media & all those men who fell for this shite.

It's a simpleton's take, granted - but I've heard plenty of sophisticated pro-Madonna arguments from men which amounted to them being unable to tell their dick from a fencepost.

Billy Glad said...

quinn, you sure are making a big deal about a little acrylic paint on the page of a book. Not on a person. Not even on a photo of a person, but on a reproduction of a photo in a book. Give me a break on the protector of the downtrodden, please. You're the one bringing all that baggage to the post. You're putting it there. When I look at it, I see pixels and paint.

Billy Glad said...

quinn, he might be asking about a dung sculpture of this Madonna.

quinn the eskimo said...

I accept that it's my baggage. No problem. But I don't buy that it's just pixels and paint. Imagine if an artist took a picture of a dead U.S. Marine, and put lipstick on it. Maybe gave him a purse. Dressed him a nice little pink number.

Now, would YOU have the same response - i.e. it's just pixels and paint? Or do we all bring some "baggage"?

My baggage was also pretty clear when those Fox clowns mocked the Canadian troops. Now, I may not agree with a lot of things about that war, nor with the reasons some of those young people provide to support their being there, etc. BUT. I still found it unacceptable to mock or disfigure them in some way.

So there's the question. Are we allowed any baggage? Or is everything just pixels and paint?

P.S. The piece you linked to doesn't bother me in the slightest somehow. Fantasies of fucking the Virgin Madonna seem far more sensible & acceptable to me than fucking the Like A Virgin Madonna. ;-)

Billy Glad said...

Next time, instead of drawing lips on Marilyn, I'm going to draw a moustache on the Mona Lisa. Nobody get pissed off about that anymore.

quinn the eskimo said...

Is it apparent to anyone that I'm in the process of quitting smoking? ;-)

Gotta say, feel like I'm in my 20's again. Edgy, irritable, waiting for, hell, looking forward to, a bench-clearing brawl.

Strange what this shit does to your brain. Not sure I'm gonna be able to function in public without some form of equivalent medication. I'd take up drinking, but our family seems to have no liver left.

I think you're gonna have to create a new feature Billy. One post a week where you let in all your old favourite trolls, and one of us gets to wade through, hacking and insulting and putting people on iggy. Those always looked satisfying - the blogging equivalent of a hockey brawl.

Decidere said...

Leave Christina Aguilera alone. You can have Britney (though I'll miss the song "Toxic"), and of course without Madonna, Courtney Love would have achieved the superstardom she deserved.

But even without Madonna, there's no way Garbage and PJ Harvey were gonna represent America's youth. We. Do. Banal. And trite. Janis was probably the last authentic one to reach serious acceptance. And if you want to feel depressed, consider that "In the Year 2525" is the #10 single of all time, while "Coração de Luto" comes in at #8. Truly sick and disturbing society we live in.

But at least I don't expect Shirley Manson to be doing workout videos anytime soon(she's Scottish, ferchrissakes), having lost her solo contract for being "too noir". How the fuck can someone be "too noir"?

Decidere said...

And we of course know what song #1 is, subtext "Lives of a Blonde" via Forman/Kundera. Out out, damned spot.

Decidere said...

Gulp, "Loves of a Blonde". Disculpenme.

Tom Manoff said...

The issue of meaning depends upon characterization and whether there is some intention to imply the opposite, that opposites are related. Shock is stylistic.

But everyone's response is valid. I would see that as the normal operation of art, outside any moral judgement. Which is not to say that people don't have rights to moral judgments. If the energy unleashed leads to a deeper sense of ANTHING one way or another, at least one is changed, the purpose of art.

GirlfromtheBronx said...

Cuando defiendes mi Aguilerita, te desculpo todo, Deciderito!

This whole thread reminded me of a theme of German Theater, having worked with directors who are disciples of the "theater of provocation."

For example: Hans Neuenfels is a stage director known for this tendency. In the Mozart opera, "Idomeneo," he called for King Idomeneo to present the hacked-off heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and Mohammed to the audience. That scene triggered huge protests from the audience during the staging's premiere in December 2003. The list goes on and on. The obsession with swastikas during my time there was rampant. I think 3 out 5 productions were staged to arouse a reaction, provoke, stimulate the imagination in a different way.

The night we premiered a new staging of Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, the audience went nuts. There were choirs of BOOOS and BRAVOS. It was absolute pandemonium for at least 20 minutes during the final bows. The director couldn't have been happier.

Billy Glad said...

When L'Avventura was shown at Cannes, the petite bourgoisie, who, for the first time were experiencing long scenes in "real" vs. "film" time, constantly booed the film, and, after the show, attacked the screen with the little box cutters they used to open boxes in their shops. That's what Cannes is about.

GirlfromtheBronx said...

I love it! "The petite bourgoisie, who, for the first time were experiencing long scenes in "real" vs. "film" time.."

Yeah, that seems to about describe what the fuss was about in our situation too.

We did an updated translation and staging using what was at the time slang German expressions that drove the prim and proper types totally bonkers. No box cutters, though. Pity.

Billy Glad said...

You got lucky. Without a screen to work on, they'd have had to go after you!

Billy Glad said...

By the way, girl, that MM image is one I've played with off and on for Live Wire in her role of Animarum Venator (Soul Hunter). I have one of her vagina full of teeth (Vagina Dentata), too, but I
can't use it because of your coffee and bagels. Haha!

GirlfromtheBronx said...

Funny thing about that production.. about four years later, it was given a "wiederaufnahme" I don't think we don't have a word for that, it just means resurrecting an earlier production. Anyway, it eventually became one of the most popular productions.

PS, my bagels thank you. Haha.