This Marilyn mural, in the Woodley Park district of Washington D.C., was commissioned almost 40 years ago by a local hairdresser. Roi Barnard, former owner of Salon Roi (and author of a new memoir) has shared the story behind this much-loved local landmark with the Washington Post.
“What do you see when you look at Marilyn Monroe gazing down at the corner of Connecticut and Calvert streets NW? A beautiful woman? A movie star? An icon?
Roi Barnard sees himself.
‘When I saw Marilyn for the first time on screen, I just went, Whoa, you’re not happy either,’ said Roi, the District hairdresser who helped commission the famed mural in 1981. ‘And I saw it in her eyes.’
‘My love affair with Marilyn started when I was 12,’ said Roi as he gently, but firmly, tilted my head to the left. ‘Her star was just beginning to rise. I forget which movie I saw first, but I saw her, and I saw in her eyes, my eyes. We had sad eyes. No matter how happy she was, I knew she was sad. And I related to that.’
Roi doesn’t seem sad now, at age 81. It wasn’t always that way.
‘I was a sissy little boy,’ Roi said. That was not an easy thing to be where he grew up: in tiny Poplar Branch, N.C., a place of dirt roads and outhouses … Roi came out of the closet in the 1960s, determined to be honest about his sexuality. He became a model, changing his name from ‘Roy’ to the more memorable ‘Roi.’ He learned to cut hair and worked as a hairdresser at the Washington Hilton. In 1969, he and Charles Stinson — his business partner and onetime romantic partner — opened a salon together.
In 1981, Charles commissioned artist John Bailey to paint the Marilyn mural. It’s become a landmark, even if most passersby don’t know how personal the image is to Roi.
‘She carried me through a very troubling part of my life,’ Roi said. ‘I would just go see her movies or read about her. I connected with her.’ Putting Marilyn on the wall wasn’t advertising, Roi said. It was homage.”
One of the best-known, and long-lived Marilyn murals – now 37 years old – is profiled on DC Curbed.
“On the upper outside wall of Salon Roi, passersby can find a massive mural of pop culture icon Marilyn Monroe. The work was completed in 1981 by John Bailey. It was later restored in 2001 after the artwork faded over the years. New lights were also installed. In 2014, Washington City Paper’s Reader’s Poll named this piece one of the the best murals in the city.”
On the eve of the UK general election, a stencil painting of Prime Minister Theresa May wearing her favourite leopard-skin stilettos, in a recreation of Marilyn’s ‘subway scene’ from The Seven Year Itch (originally photographed by Sam Shaw) signed by street artist ‘Loretto’, has appeared in London’s West End, reports Fitzrovia News.
The merging of Marilyn, an icon of youth and beauty, with a right-wing politician is either comical or grotesque, depending on your perspective. However, comparisons of this kind are nothing new, especially in the art world. Photographer Philippe Halsman started the trend with ‘Marilyn Mao‘, blending his own 1952 portrait of MM – her first Life magazine cover – with the head and shoulders of the Chinese premier, Mao Tse-tung.
Perhaps it’s the rumoured affair with President Kennedy that triggered this strange phenomenon, or just that Marilyn’s own cultural reach rivals that of our world leaders. For me, these images evoke the contrast between her radiant humanity, and the dangerous aura of those who wield power.
FranCisco Vargas, the artist who painted a mural of Marilyn in downtown Fresno, California, has died aged 64, the Fresno Bee reports. He had suffered a stroke after being diagnosed with cancer in July. The mural, first painted in 1992, stands on the Weco Welding Supply building on Ventura Street near Eighth. In 2012, Vargas changed the cigarette held by Marilyn (after a 1953 portrait by Frank Powolny) to a paintbrush. Last year, he completed a ‘postage stamp mural’, celebrating Fresno’s icons.
The town of Hutchinson, Kansas received a surprise visitor on Saturday, November 22, when a mystery graffiti artist (or, for some, a mere vandal) spray-painted four stencil images of Marilyn’s face – two red and two blue, perhaps denoting the colours of the American flag – on a limestone column built on a roundabout a few years ago, marking the foundation of the Hyde Park neighbourhood in 1915, reports KAKE.com.
Public art featuring Marilyn always seems to cause a stir. Just two weeks ago, a mural by Paul Archer, depicting Marilyn between the sheets (inspired by an iconic photo session with Andre de Dienes), was stolen from the wall outside Floyd’s Diner in downtown Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. But as the Times Colonist reports today, the mural has now been found in a nearby alleyway, with only minor damage.
Happy Independence Day to all our American readers! This ‘paste-up’ by street artist Pegasus – blending MM in The Seven Year Itch with the Statue of Liberty – can now be seen in the Bushwick area of Brooklyn, NYC.
London street artist Pegasus – who has created several tributes to Marilyn – pays homage to Australian singer Kylie Minogue in a new Chelsea artwork. There’s more than a hint of MM, too – Kylie is wearing Marilyn’s ‘Blue Dragon’ costume, from that famous scene in Bus Stop (1956.) In her unforgettable role as beleaguered nightclub ‘chantoosie’ Cherie, Monroe sang ‘That Old Black Magic’ to an audience of rambunctious cowboys.
Kylie is a well-known Monroe fan, having performed ‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend’ in the past. And this isn’t the first time Pegasus has merged two icons, either – he once recreated Betty Grable’s most famous pin-up pose, using the face of Queen Elizabeth II.