Category Archives: Art and Photography

Gladys: Portrait of Marilyn’s Mother

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Marilyn Monroe was one of the world’s most photographed women, but her mother Gladys, who suffered from severe mental illness, was a more shadowy figure. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, Katherine Yamada reveals how Louie Deisbeck of the Glendale News-Press, who died in January this year, captured a rare image of Gladys Baker Eley as a 60 year-old on the run from Rockhaven Sanitarium in July 1963.

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“Less than a year after Monroe died, the 60-year-old Eley fashioned a rope out of two uniforms, climbed through an 18-inch-square closet window and lowered herself to the ground. After climbing over the wire mesh fence surrounding the property, she began walking.

Twenty-four hours later, she was discovered some 15 miles away in a church on Foothill Boulevard. She had spent the night in the church’s utility room, sitting near the water heater to keep warm.

The minister who found her called the police; they were soon followed by Glendale News-Press photographer Louie Deisbeck and a reporter.

Deisbeck, who had been with the newspaper since 1957, had many contacts in the city.

Glendale photographer Louie Deisbeck
Glendale photographer Louie Deisbeck

‘Police and firemen contacted him all the time in those days, they knew to call him directly at home,’ his son Rusty said in a recent phone interview.

Deisbeck was met at the church by two female police officers. ‘It was real hush hush,’ his son recalled.

After he got the photo — the first taken of Eley in more than 20 years [although several family photos of Gladys were taken in the late 1940s] — Deisbeck raced back to the News-Press, leaving the reporter to get the story.

The police officers told the reporter (who did not get a byline in the July 5, 1963 article) that Eley stated she wanted to get away from the sanitarium and practice her Christian Science teaching. After determining that she was unharmed, they returned her to the sanitarium.

Deisbeck’s photo earned front-page coverage in many newspapers.

‘That was the most famous picture he ever did,’ son Rusty said. ‘He sold it to magazines and newspapers all over the world.'”

Bruce Davidson: Magnum’s ‘Misfit’

Director John Huston with Marilyn during filming of 'The Misfits', 1960
Director John Huston with Marilyn during filming of ‘The Misfits’, 1960

Magnum alumni Bruce Davidson, who photographed Marilyn behind the scenes during filming of Let’s Make Love and The Misfits in 1960, is the subject of a new book by Vicki Goldberg in the Magnum Legacy series, reports CNN. (It follows the first Magnum Legacy book about Eve Arnold, another photographer of Marilyn’s, which was published last year.)

“What makes Davidson’s photographs so compelling is that they stem from patience and an ability to empathize with his subjects.

‘I stay a long time,’ he said. ‘My eyes open to their lives. In my silence, they feel secure. My philosophy is to stay until it becomes a subject. I am an outsider on the inside.'”

Andre De Dienes Exhibit in New York

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Andre de Dienes: Marilyn and the California Girls – a rare solo retrospective for the European-born, West Coast photographer – will be on display at the Stephen Kasher Gallery in New York from June 9-July 30, reports the British Journal of Photography.  As well as his extraordinary work with Marilyn, the exhibit will also showcase De Dienes’ exotic nudes, taken against the spectacular natural backdrop of California’s desert landscape.

‘Zimbelism’: New Doc + Book On Marilyn, and More

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Zimbelism, the long-awaited documentary about photographer George S. Zimbel, had its premiere at the recent Hot Docs Festival in Toronto. Zimbel, now 86, spoke to Laura Goldstein for mashumashu.com about his 72- year career in ‘humanist’ photography, and his memories of Marilyn as she filmed the ‘subway scene’ for The Seven Year Itch. A retrospective of Zimbel’s work, Momento, was published last year.

“‘I am more of a determined photographer than a pushy photographer but that night I did something atypical. I started to shoot as the filming commenced. (Strictly forbidden!) There was enough street noise to cover the discrete click of the Leica shutter, but someone obviously didn’t like what I was doing and I was removed from the press photography area and escorted behind the police lines by two of New York’s finest. I used the new viewpoint and kept shooting from there. I remember when all action stopped as two men walked across the set. It was Joe Dimaggio, (Marilyn’s) husband and Walter Winchell, the Broadway columnist. Dimaggio was furious about the scene (remember it was 1954.) Every publication that could find an excuse to run photos of that event did so. And here is my personal mystery – I decided not to throw my shoot into the editorial pot.’

I ask George bluntly, ‘Why did you do that? Didn’t you kick yourself afterwards?’

‘We all have our priorities,’ he says without regret, ‘and I was working on a photo essay on Irish Americans that had to be completed first. You know we had to fight just to be paid $100. Of course I checked the Marilyn negatives first and then I filed them away unprinted and unpublished. They even survived a fire in my darkroom in 1966 and my move to Canada in 1971.’

Amazingly, the Monroe photographs weren’t shown until over 20 years later, in Zimbel’s solo exhibition in 1976 at Confederation Centre of the Arts, Prince Edward Island, Canada. The full set was shown for the first time in 1982 at Galerie Art 45 in Montreal.

As Zimbel reminisces, ‘In January 2000 I had a retrospective in Valencia Spain and my Marilyns were exhibited on the walls of Sala Muralla, a gallery fashioned from an ancient archeological site at Institut Valencia d’Art Modern where they shared space with an ancient plaque of a Roman goddess. I felt it was a homecoming for her image.'”

‘Dream of Dew’: Chen Ke Retells Marilyn’s Life Story

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Chinese artist Chen Ke has mapped the different stages of Marilyn’s life in her debut gallery show, ‘Dream-Dew’, at Hong Kong’s Galerie Perrotin until June 25, Samuel Spencer reports for BlouinArtInfo.

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“Whereas previous artists have focused on Monroe as an image or icon of a certain era of Hollywood glamour, Chen’s paintings focus on Monroe as person, a woman with hopes, history, and dreams.

For example, in ‘1932 Los Angeles 6 Years Old,’ 2016, Chen shows a young Monroe in the flower garden of a house straight out of an early 20th century American landscape painting. The image is put into question, however, by Monroe’s shadow, which seems to suggest she is posing against a backdrop rather than a real landscape, and by the fact the image is totally removed from the reality of 1930s America, with young Monroe’s blonde hair and clean blue dress at odds with our images of the Great Depression.

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Chen’s idea to paint Monroe’s dreams and real life came from the Chinese character translation of ‘Monroe’, which literally means ‘dream of dew.’ As the artist puts it in a statement, ‘Dream refers to Marilyn’s dreams, also the American Dream, the Hollywood Dream…the large paintings represent dreams of Marilyn’s childhood, youth, adulthood and an imaginary old age,’ while ‘dew is the real, as opposed to dreams.'”

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And finally, here’s part of a personal statement from the artist, Chen Ke:

“A Marilyn Monroe in her teens catches my eyes right away. Innocent and alive, slightly withdrawn and shy, with brightness and darkness like shadows in the sun, the girl was none of the sexy icon she would later be…

In Marilyn’s case, the success of dream pursuit and its attendant life force in the end, are no match for the dark influences planted deep in her unfortunate childhood, making her sad ending a kind of fatalism. In watching her strivings all along, we as knowing viewers can’t help feeling tragic for her, just as we would for Sisyphus who endlessly pushes the rock to the mountain top.”

Curtis Sneary’s ‘Marilyn Monroe Selfie’

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Curtis Sneary, a pop artist living in St Petersburg, Florida is the subject of a new exhibition, as Janelle Faignant reports for Creative Loafing. And on his own website, Sneary shows how he created his painting, ‘Marilyn Monroe Selfie‘, a tongue-in-cheek update to her famous ‘subway scene’ in The Seven Year Itch.  (Fans will know that Marilyn visited St Petersburg in 1961, while ex-husband Joe DiMaggio was coaching the New York Yankees.)

“Sneary and his wife have lived in St. Pete for 14 years now. They are a team in his artwork, with Beth handling business issues and modeling for many pieces, (her body became Marilyn Monroe’s in that painting) and their goal is to make their whole house into a studio in the near future.

Sneary says the answer to the question ‘How long does it take to finish?’ is a lifetime.

‘Because you put all this knowledge into it,’ he says, adding that the physical work averages about 40 hours, or a month to six weeks.

Sneary has shown the landscapes in galleries and sold well but his satirical pop art has been slower to sell, despite its popularity with audiences.

‘It’s not over-the-couch kind of work,’ he says.”

Marilyn Goes ‘Behind the Scenes’ at Cannes

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Marilyn never went to Cannes, but as the 2016 film festival gets underway, she’ll be there in spirit, W Magazine reports. Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson’s shot of Marilyn with co-star Clark Gable and director John Huston during filming of The Misfits in 1960 is featured in ‘The Art of Behind the Scenes’, an exhibition of images captured on the sets of movies old and new, on display at the Hotel du Cap in Antibes.

‘Women in Dior’ Exhibit in Normandy

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Women in Dior: Sublime Elegance of a Portrait, opening at the Christian Dior Museum in Granville, Normandy on May 5 (through to September 25), features Marilyn – as photographed by Bert Stern in a black Dior dress – among other iconic women who wore Dior, reports the Malay Mail.

“The exhibition focuses on the elegant women who have showcased Dior’s dresses, garments and accessories in style, from 1947 to the present day. Their personality, style and key moments from their lives are explored through a selection of dresses, photographs, letters, paintings and drawings.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a book, also entitled Women in Dior – Sublime Elegance of a Portrait, written by fashion journalist Laurence Benaïm and published by Rizzoli. The book takes a closer look at the famous figures who marked the history of the French fashion house, exploring their tastes, their memories and — of course — their Dior ensembles.”

Sandra Chevier on Marilyn’s Superhero Struggle

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Canadian artist Sandra Chevier’s Cages, currently on display in Hong Kong, blends images of Marilyn and other iconic women with comic strip superheroes, reports Time Out. (The portrait above is based on Richard Avedon’s 1957 photo, while the image below draws on a 1953 studio shot by Frank Powolny.)

“Cages is about women trying to find freedom from society’s twisted preconceptions of what a woman should or shouldn’t be. The women encased in these cages of brash imposing paint or comic books that mask their very person symbolise the struggles that women go through [facing] false expectations of beauty and perfection, as well as the limitations society places on women, corrupting what truly is beautiful by placing women in these prisons of identity. By doing so, society is asking them to become superheroes.”

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Recreating Marilyn’s ‘Potato Sack’ Shoot

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Lucy Mecklenburgh for Asda

Reality TV star Lucy Mecklenburgh has recreated Marilyn’s famous ‘potato sack’ photo shoot as part of a campaign to promote ‘healthy carbs’ for UK supermarket Asda, reports The Sun.

Marilyn by Earl Thiesen (1951)
Marilyn by Earl Thiesen (1951)

“There are two theories as to why Marilyn Monroe originally wore a sack of potatoes in her 1951 photoshoot.

One is that Twentieth Century Fox capitalised on a female journalist suggesting the actress would look better in a sack of potatoes than a particular vulgar red dress.

The other is that someone simply made an off-the-cuff comment about her being so attractive she could make even a sack of potatoes look good, Twentieth Century Fox then taking the stills to prove him right.”