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.

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.'”

Kirkland Exhibit in Toronto

douglas-kirkland-photographing-marilyn-monroe

Canadian-born celebrity photographer Douglas Kirkland’s iconic 1961 images of Marilyn wrapped in silk sheets (as well as his 2001 remake with Angelina Jolie) are featured in a retrospective at the Izzy Gallery in Toronto, Canada, as Nigel Hunt reports for CBC.

“Kirkland recalled how, as a young photographer, he went to meet the movie star in her apartment to discuss ideas for the photo shoot.

‘She said: I know what we need. We need a bed, a white silk sheet, Dom Pérignon champagne and Frank Sinatra records. We don’t need anything more. And I’m going to be in that bed with nothing on!’

‘Could you imagine what a young man like me was thinking?’

That session produced several images that count among the most iconic shots of the much-photographed screen starlet.

For that, Kirkland credits the sexual energy in the room that emanated from his subject.

‘She was just under this white silk sheet, nothing on. And I’m a kid from Fort Erie!'”

Liz and Marilyn in Toronto

'Let's Make Love' (1960)
‘Let’s Make Love’ (1960)

The TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto is screening a series of movies starring Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn this month, including almost every major Monroe film from Don’t Bother to Knock to The Misfits. This is a tie-in with a current exhibition, Andy Warhol: Stars of the Silver Screen, on display until January 24, 2016.

“One raven-haired, the other blindingly blonde, the actresses form a kind of dark/light chiaroscuro — a term mostly inappropriate to Warhol’s jewel-toned, flatly rendered paintings and silkscreens of the two. Dissimilar in image and sensibility (one vulnerable, the other seemingly invincible), Liz and Marilyn were nevertheless sisters in notoriety by the time Warhol turned them into icons of Pop Art — Monroe for perishing young, quite possibly a suicide, Taylor for her unapologetic avarice in accumulating husbands, lovers, jewels, and the highest salary ever paid an actress, all with ferocious alacrity. Their shared talent for scandal and reputations as miscreants on set — ‘No company can afford Monroe and Taylor,’ a spokesman for 20th Century Fox stated after Monroe was fired from Something’s Got to Give — were equalled, for Warhol, by their ability to make the screen shimmer with an ineffable allure. If, as he famously averred, ‘beauty is a sign of intelligence’, no stars were brighter.”

You can read more about Liz, Marilyn and Warhol here.

Megan Fox Explains Tattoo Removal

While promoting her new comedy, Friends With Kids, at last week’s Toronto Film Festival, actress Megan Fox explained to CinemaBlend why she has removed her Marilyn tattoo. (She initially told Amica magazine last month that the tattoo had ‘negative energy’ and that Monroe was ‘bipolar’ and ‘addicted’. Fans were annoyed by this seemingly rather glib remark, but to her credit, Megan has now tried to set the record straight.)

“The tattoo on your arm [of Marilyn Monroe’s face] is in the movie, and I don’t think I had seen it before on screen.
It’s in the movie? We didn’t cover it with makeup? I wonder if that was a mistake. Maybe she let me have it because of the character. I didn’t even think about that.

Has that tattoo been tricky for you?
Just the logistics of having a call time that’s three hours earlier than everyone else’s because you have to cover your tattoos. That’s enough to make you want to remove them.

So is that the reason to get rid of it?
That’s not the first reason. I went through a phase where I just wanted to get rid of anything that I felt had any negativity surrounding it at all. There’s been so much debate about did she commit suicide, was she murdered, there’s so much negativity around her. It’s not like I needed to have it on my body. It’s not that I don’t love her–I got it in the first place because everyone loves Marilyn. But she suffered a lot.

And that’s another part of growing up too.
Yeah, the things you love as a child as a teenager, and you grow out of them. You’re not as connected to them the older you get. That’s something I’m experiencing with my tattoos and other parts of my life.”

Trans Film Night in Toronto

Some Like it Hot gets a free screening at the Centre for Women and Trans People, Toronto, on August 22 at 6.30 pm. All welcome.

“Let’s revisit this film to see what it has to say about gender. Or, just come have fun. Let’s explore how the film speaks to poverty, kink, notions of play, disguise versus transformation, problems of sexual difference, subversion, parody, censorship, stereotypes, white appropriation of jazz music and the entire history of cross-dressing on screen. Or, just come have fun. Come dressed in your best “Marilyn”. Or, just come have fun. In the heat of August we offer a social, low-pressure and casual evening.”

Meeting Bert Stern in Toronto

Over at The Mmm Blog, Melinda Mason recounts her meeting with photographer Bert Stern – now 82 – at his ‘Jewels’ exhibition in Toronto’s Izzy Gallery.

“Marilyn fans the world over have fawned over Stern’s photographs that he took in July 1962 shortly before her death.  Regardless of your view on whether he should have published photos that Marilyn herself had X’d out there is no denying his photographs are truly legendary.  I am personally a big fan of this time period and Marilyn style and The Complete Last Sitting is one of my favourite books.”

Gallery owner Izzy Sulemanji was interviewed in Canada’s National Post:

“‘This is the top of the mountain to get Bert,’ Sulejmani says. ‘The biggest thing is that he’s coming, because if it’s not New York or a big museum, he doesn’t go for his openings.’

Now in his eighties, Stern rarely accepts interviews and makes few public appearances. But there was something about the friendly gallery owner that he liked. Sulejmani says that after remaining largely silent during a New York City business lunch two months ago, the photographer said at the very end, ‘You’re OK, Izzy. I like you. I’ll see you in Toronto.’ After signing the contract, Stern left.”