Category Archives: Art and Photography

Korea Veteran’s Lunch With Marilyn

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George Burgtorf of Saramac, Michigan, has shared his memories – and photos – of meeting Marilyn as a young sergeant stationed in Korea during her morale-boosting 1954 visit, in an interview with the Ionia Sentinel-Standard.

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“George Burgtorf of Saranac was a 20-year-old sergeant in the United States Army’s 2nd Infantry on a cold day in February 1954 when Marilyn Monroe performed in the Chorwon Valley during the Korean War. He carried with him a small Brownie camera and a pass that granted him access to everywhere, except the top secret code room, that is.

He was nearby when she landed by helicopter at the camp and later he ate lunch with the movie star and dozens of other service men in the mess hall. In the afternoon, he was near the front when she went on stage and performed several songs.

‘She spoke to most of us, she just said, Hi,’ Burgtorf said. ‘She seemed very nice.’

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‘The food was generally very good at the mess hall. She seemed to enjoy herself.’

Burgtorf’s job was taking care of telephone communications for the army. It brought him close to generals, movie stars and future president Gerald Ford.

‘I could get into any building because of the telephone,’ Burgtorf said. ‘The mess hall was really just a tent, and I was the only one with a camera that day.’

He said he saw one or two other USO performances with the 2nd Infantry at the Bulldozer Bowl, but he doesn’t remember who performed other than Monroe, which stands out in his mind.

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‘It was many years ago,’ Burgtorf said. ‘It was very, very cold that day. I think they must have had a heater blowing towards the stage, because she was in some skimpy clothes.’
‘We were right in the valley, there were mountains on both sides of everything.’

Burgtorf said after Monroe performed she quickly got onto a helicopter and went to perform another show.’She was on a very tight schedule,’ he said.”

Reading Marilyn: A Cultural Fetish

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In her review of Reading Women, a new exhibit by multi-media artist Carrie Schneider at the Haggerty Museum in Marquette University, the Milwaukee Record‘s Marielle Allschwang references Eve Arnold’s endlessly analysed portrait of Marilyn reading Ulysses.  (Incidentally, Stefan Bollman’s 2009 book, Women Who Read Are Dangerous – which explores the same subject in art history – will be reissued in April.)

“Last week, I was shown a photograph of Marilyn Monroe reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. She is near the end, seemingly lost in Molly Bloom’s punctuation-less, sensual reverie, immersed in the flows and throes of memory and pleasure that finally submit to sleep. This is the famous soliloquy that transforms ‘no’ into ‘yes.’ It is the chapter of the ‘mountain flower,’ the ‘sea crimson,’ of ‘breasts all perfume yes and his heart going like mad.’ Those familiar with the passage may imagine it as a sort of mirror to Marilyn and the inscrutable world within her mythologized body. Others may find a mesmerizing dissonance. But there are more—many more—photographs of Marilyn Monroe reading. A Google search yields 1,490,000 results. She reads American classics, scripts, plays, magazines, newspapers, and a self-help book called How To Improve Your Thinking Ability.

There is a general thirst to know what and whether Marilyn Monroe read. Articles include, ‘The 430 Books in Marilyn Monroe’s Library: How Many Have You Read?’; ‘Marilyn Monroe’s Books: 13 Titles That Were On Her Shelf’; ‘What Was On Marilyn Monroe’s Reading List?’ They are littered with doubt and objectification: ‘Did she read them all? I don’t know. Have you read every single title on your shelves?’ ‘Nerds everywhere have drooled over photos of her thumbing through books…’

Does Schneider give us the opportunity to witness women creating, like [Susan] Sontag, the texts before them? Are we creating the women as we witness them? And if so, are we not left where we began, projecting what Marilyn is thinking?”

Jimmy Collins Photo Archive Sold at Auction

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In a blog post for Immortal Marilyn, Marijane Gray reviews the recent Heritage Auctions sale of the candid photo archive released by Monroe Sixer James Collins.

“A massive collection of 183 snapshots, divided into sixteen lots, was auctioned off to collectors and fetched the high prices that Marilyn memorabilia always draws. Prices realized ranged from $800 for a group of eight snapshots of Marilyn at the Gladstone Hotel up to $5,500 for a lot of 22 snapshots of Marilyn at various public events, including the premieres of The Rose Tattoo, The Pajama Game and Gigi.

Also included in the auction were seven individual snapshots that had been autographed by Marilyn. These special pieces garnered between $1,450 and $5,000 each.

Other highlights included several items that were owned by Marilyn herself. A terracotta planter and wooden candlestick each sold for $2,000; a small wooden chest inlaid with colored marbles sold for $2,200; and a unique star shaped light fixture that hung in her last home reached $7,500. A wood engraving by Edward Gordon-Craig that was owned by Marilyn remained unsold.”

More About Marilyn at MAMA

Artwork by Belinda Fraser
Artwork by Belinda Fraser

John McDonald, art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald, has reviewed Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon, the touring exhibit now at MAMA Albury, Australia.

“The paintings in this show, put together by an American exhibitions agency, are a strange mixture of minor works by well-known artists, and major pieces by lesser-known practitioners from Europe and America. There is, for instance, a suite of sketches by Richard Lindner, along with prints by Eduardo Paolozzi, Arnulf Rainer, Robert Indiana and Mimmo Rotella. These are the artists I’d call ‘well-known’, but none of them has one iota of Warhol’s public profile. MAMA has also added a couple of paintings by Australia’s most prolific Pop artist, Richard Larter.

The best part of the show – in terms of both quality and quantity – are the photographs, taken by figures such as Cecil Beaton, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Ernst Haas, Eve Arnold, Alfred Eisenstadt and Bert Stern (although not, alas, Richard Avedon, who produced one of the greatest portraits). It’s a study in contrasts, with Beaton’s work being as ornate as a Baroque sculpture, while Cartier-Bresson captures Monroe in an introspective mood on the set of The Misfits.”

The show also includes a program of supplementary events, including a series of public lectures, a screening of Some Like it Hot, and day trips to Bendigo Art Gallery, where another Marilyn exhibit opens in March.

Most intriguing of all, a fully accredited elective subject — Exhibiting Culture: Marilyn — will be available to La Trobe University undergraduate students and to members of the general public, ABC Central Victoria reports.

“Taught by Dr Sue Gillett, the subject will explore the wider context of the era in which Marilyn Monroe was created.

Dr Gillett said she was interested in women’s roles in cinema and especially exploring the historical context Monroe fits in.

Despite the strong role models in cinema during the forties, with the likes of Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall, Dr Gillett said Monroe came into her stardom in the post-war fifties when there was a push to get women back into the homes after their active role in the war years.

Musical comedy became the genre Monroe was typecast in, and excelled at, even though her aspirations were to become a serious actress.

It was this ‘bind’ that Monroe was in that Dr Gillett said she was interested in exploring.

‘It’s almost like she performed her way into a trap,’ she said.

Her life story was then refashioned by the studio publicists into the American Dream, according to Dr Gillett, which became effective in establishing her as an icon.

Contracted to Fox Studios at a time when actors were controlled by their studios, Monroe struggled to gain some independence and have control over her choice of movies.

Although she had some input into crafting her own image she was working within a system that was very much a men’s club, according to Dr Gillett.

‘She was both a victim but she wasn’t without power.'”

An ‘Itch’ for Marilyn in Palm Beach

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Photos of Marilyn filming the ‘subway scene’ for The Seven Year Itch in New York, 1954, are currently on display at the Norton Museum of Art, as Jan Sjostrom reports for the Palm Beach Daily News. They are owned by Beth Rudin DeWoody, whose vast collection of 20th century photography and video is showcased in a new exhibit, Still/Moving, open now until May 15.  (The unidentified author of these images may one of several photographers who covered the event, including Elliott Erwitt, Sam Shaw, and George S. Zimbel.)

Marilyn’s ‘Bus Stop’ Exhibit in Poland

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Over forty photographs taken by Milton Greene during filming of Bus Stop in 1956 are currently on display until March 24 at the Dom Miedziorytnika in Wrocław, marking the city’s year as a European Capital of Culture.  The exhibition includes several rare shots, and is drawn from the Greene archive which was donated to Poland by an American businessman as a partial debt repayment.  Andrzej Owczarek took photos at the exhibition for Radio Poland, and you can watch news footage of the event here.

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Warhol, Avedon and Marilyn in London

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‘Warhol Avedon’, a new exhibition combining the works of pop artist Andy Warhol and photographer Richard Avedon, is on display until April 23 at The Gagosian in Britannia St, London (King’s Cross/St Pancras area.) Ash Moore reviews the exhibit for The 405, exploring the different ways in which Warhol and Avedon approached Marilyn as a celebrity subject. (The exhibition is also covered in Harper’s Bazaar‘s UK March edition.)

Marilyn (1962) portrays the superstar in a deadpan expressionless aesthetic. It is the commentary rather than the portrait that seeps through and Warhol’s darker fascination with both her mortal death and her death of self is disclosed. The cheapening of her image through serialization and reproduction is a statement made by Warhol about the nature of society and the way personas could be marketed and consumed like products…

Unlike Warhol’s assembly line reproductions, Avedon set out to capture the genuine sentiments of celebrities. This is entirely poised in his portrait of Monroe in Marilyn Monroe, actress, New York, May 6 (1957). The comparison between the two sets of work is without precedent. In Avedon’s portrait, we see a more vulnerable or innocent looking Monroe, a side to her that wasn’t necessarily depicted in the public domain.”

Thanks to Fraser Penney

Audrey Flack’s ‘Heroic’ Marilyn

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Heroines, an exhibition by artist Audrey Flack, will be on display at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio, from February 14-May 10, and includes a portrait of Marilyn among a range of female icons from Medusa to Mother Teresa.

P14513Marilyn has been a recurring subject in Flack’s long career. One of her early ‘photorealist’ paintings of Marilyn graced the first edition cover of Carl Rollyson’s Marilyn Monroe: A Life of the Actress. By contrast, the Heroines portrait – inspired by Marilyn’s 1953 photo session with Ben Ross, and first seen in 2011 – is moody and bleak.

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‘Flack’s drawing of Marilyn Monroe conveys a sad version of the sex symbol as a 30-something dependent on drugs and alcohol, lost and faded,’ Rebecca S. Nieminen writes in The Vindicator. ‘Unlike glossy, glamorous renditions of the late movie star, Flack’s depiction of Monroe requests sympathy. ‘

Marilyn: An Icon in the Making

 

Exhibition curator Bianca Acimovic
Exhibition curator Bianca Acimovic

Marilyn: Celebrating an American Icon – the touring exhibit focusing on the imagery that made MM go global – is due to open at MAMA Albury in Australia on February 12, with a late addition of rare photos depicting a young Marilyn, taken by Art Meyers in Chicago during the Love Happy promotional tour of 1949, and provided by a local businessman, Colin Glassborow, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

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“Mr Glassborow, 71, says he was bequeathed 12 photographs of the star by his American friend Art Meyers, a freelance photographer who was hired to follow Monroe around Chicago’s Wrigley Stadium in 1949.

Later that day Meyers also photographed the then 23-year-old starlet sitting with the actor Roddy McDowall at Chicago’s infamous Ricketts’ nightclub.

Mr Glassborow, who owns Albury Building Supplies, said he met Meyers when he visited the Playboy building in Chicago in 1974. They became friends after Meyers offered to show him and his brother around Chicago, and over the years holidayed together. Meyers also visited him in Albury in 1995.

‘There are 12 altogether,’ Mr Glassborow said of the black and white photos, prints of which he started selling online via his website marilynmonroe-photos.com to help Meyers financially before the photographer died, at the age of 90, in 2010. He loaned eight images to the museum, six of which will go on display from Friday.

‘He was a freelance photographer at the time and he happened to be there … they were having a pro celebrity match with old legends and Hollywood celebrities,’ Mr Glassborow said of the Wrigley Stadium event Meyers photographed.

‘He was asked if he would take photographs at the old Ricketts’ nightclub … Al Capone used to visit there apparently.’

‘She was there with Roddy McDowall,’ he said of Monroe. ‘She’d only been in bit parts in three small movies, but the next year she got more with it and in a couple of years she was a household name, she quickly took off.’

‘A lot of people are in awe of the photograph,’ he says of the image of Monroe with McDowall, which he has had colourised and blown up, and displays in a gold frame in his secretary’s office.”