To Valerie and Marilyn, in Desparation

Valerie Solanos – the female artist notorious for shooting Andy Warhol – and Marilyn – his most famous subject – may seem to have little in common. But composer Pauline Oliveros thought otherwise, and her 1970 work, To Valerie Solanos and Marilyn Monroe In Recognition Of Their Desperation, has now been restaged in Toronto by the experimental music collective Public Recordings, as Lise Hosein reports for  CBC Arts.

“The work referenced Monroe, whose talent may have been somewhat eclipsed by her objectification, and Solanas, an impassioned figure who shot Andy Warhol. Oliveros saw both figures as ‘desperate and caught in the traps of inequality.’

The appeal of this composition to Toronto experimental music collective Public Recordings may have been in the moment in which it was written. Public Recordings producer Christopher Willes notes: ‘We wanted to bring this piece to people now because the moment that it was created — 1970 — was a moment of conservative backlash to many things. In many ways, we’re living through what feel like similar time politically, socially, and doing this piece because it’s about people finding, in real time, new ways of being together and new ways of organizing themselves.'”

Kirkland’s Marilyn Inspires ‘Skinwork’ Project

Photographer Bettina Bogar was inspired by fellow Canadian Douglas Kirkland’s iconic 1961 shots of Marilyn between the sheets to launch Skinwork, a women’s empowerment project in aid of skin cancer awareness, on display at Toronto’s Artscape Youngplace until March 16, as Wing Tze Tang reports for the Toronto Star.

“When Toronto photographer Bettina Bogar visited a local art gallery a few years ago, she was struck by a picture of Marilyn Monroe, facing Douglas Kirkland’s camera wearing nothing but white bedsheets. ‘I thought, she feels so comfortable in her skin. I’ve never seen a woman feeling that good about herself,’ says Bogar, who decided to create her own shoot inspired by that iconic image … The photos celebrate the female figure and skin in intimate and varied detail, including close-ups of skin tags, scars and markings, all cast in a bright and beautiful light. None of the images were retouched.”

Meanwhile, a Douglas Kirkland retrospective opens today at the Palos Verdes Art Center in California – more details here.

Marilyn Takes ‘Niagara’ to Port Hope

Ontarians, set your diaries now: Niagara will be screened at the Capitol Theatre in Port Hope on October 14, as part of this year’s Vintage Film Festival, sponsored by the Marie Dressler Foundation (the Canadian-born character actress was an idol to Marilyn.) Mark Baker reviews Niagara here.

“The story starts relatively quickly and the tension keeps increasing.  I was surprised at just how quickly the story unfolded.  There are some nice plot twists along the way as well that kept me engaged.

Likewise, the acting was wonderful. I’m not that familiar with Marilyn Monroe as an actress (this is only the second film I’ve seen her in), but her performance here was strong.  You could see her character’s mind working.  The rest of the main cast is just as good, which is one reason why I got so lost in the story so easily.

While the movie was filmed partially on sound stages in California, it was also partially filmed on location.  That gives the sinister story a gorgeous backdrop.  The Technicolor picture adds to the beauty.

The bigger issue are a couple of plot holes.  Yes, you can guess how the characters got to where they are, but it is truly never explained …”

500 Year Itch: Shelley Niro’s Mohawk Marilyn

Shelley Niro, a Mohawk visual artist and filmmaker born in Niagara Falls in 1954, is the subject of a current exhibition at the Ryerson Image Center in Toronto until August 5, Blouin Artinfo reports.

“This retrospective includes both seminal projects and never-before-shown photographs, along with some of the artist’s most recent works. A member of the Six Nations Reserve, Bay of Quinte Mohawk, Turtle Clan, Niro combines beadwork designs, archival images, family pictures, videos, and installation to question traditional representations of Indigenous peoples, with a particular focus on womanhood. Challenging stereotypes, Niro’s portraits explore notions of culture and identity with sensitivity and humor.

She is most noted for her photographs using herself and female family members cast in contemporary positions to challenge the stereotypes and cliches of Native American women. Niro explored the oral history of the Iroquois people in general and the diaspora of Mohawk people in particular. She is known for her photography, which often combines portraits of contemporary Native women with traditional Mohawk imagery. She uses herself, friends, and family members as models. Her 1992 photographic series, ‘This Land Is Mime Land’ and ‘500 Year Itch’ employ humorous pop culture references, such as Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe. Niro often works in diptychs and triptychs, using photographic processes such as photo montage, hand tints, and sepia tones.

Shelly Niro is often compared to the artist Cindy Sherman because they both cast themselves in different roles in an attempt to break down various stereotypes. Niro, however never fully disguises herself. ‘She wants the viewer to recognize her within her manifestations.'”

‘Some Like It Hot’ in Montreal

Some Like It Hot is an interesting choice to open the Film Noir Au Canal festival on the banks of the Lachine Canal in Montreal, Quebec. While it’s primarily a comedy, it also contains elements of the classic crime movie. And there’s music too!

Some Like It Hot will be screened at St. Patrick’s Square this Sunday, July 15. Arrive early for a performance by the Ukelele Club of Montreal at 7:30 pm (the ukulele was, of course, Sugar Kane’s instrument), and an introduction by film critic Helen Faradji, with the movie at 9 pm (in the original English, with French subtitles.) Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Marilyn’s Dress in Winnipeg

Immortal Marilyn’s Leslie Kasperowicz (left) admires ‘The Dress’

Immortal Marilyn’s Leslie Kasperowicz caught up with Marilyn’s ‘birthday dress’ during its tour of Canada’s supermarkets this week, sharing her impressions with the Winnipeg Free Press.

“‘She’s someone I think of when I think I can’t handle things,’ said Kasperowicz, who admires how Monroe rose above the hand dealt to her. ‘I see her as someone who overcame a lot and achieved things that were almost impossible for someone that came from her background.’

Kasperowicz’s obsession began when she was eight and received a hand-me-down T-shirt with Monroe’s face on the front. It was her favourite shirt, and when she read her first book about Monroe a few years later, she was hooked and has spent the past 25 years studying Monroe’s life and dispelling conspiracy theories about her death.

Kasperowicz, originally from Winnipeg, now lives in Minnesota. She just happened to be visiting relatives in Lac du Bonnet when she heard the dress would be here.

‘This was like the grand finale surprise to my vacation,’ she said.

Kasperowicz thinks of Monroe as a feminist and activist, something people often overlook, she said.

More than 10,000 people have been to see the dress over its first four stops in Saskatchewan. Winnipeg will be the dress’s last public showing before it returns to a Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum. The dress will visit Save-On-Foods’ Bridgewater location Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and the St. James location Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The owner of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, Jim Pattison, also owns Save-On-Foods, making it possible for the stores to display the dress.”