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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    New exhibit explores ideas of symbolism and materialism

    The University of Arizona Museum of Art will open a new exhibit, “”Audrey Flack’s Marilyn: Still Life, Vanitas, Trompe l’Oeil,”” onFriday.

    The exhibit developed from the ideas in Audrey Flack’s “”Marilyn”” painting. The painting is the second of three in a series that Flack produced between 1976 and 1978.

    “”This really, I think, is one of the most significant paintings,”” said Susannah Maurer, assistant curator at UAMA. “”It’s written about quite a lot, mentioned quite a lot, reproduced quite a lot.””

    The exhibit is serving as a welcome home showcase.

    “”This painting went out on loan to an exhibition organized by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art,”” Maurer said. “”It’s been gone for almost two years. So we thought as a kind of welcome to its return, we’d do an exhibition that puts it in context a little bit using work from our permanent collection.””

    The exhibit displays the three main elements encased in “”Marilyn.””

    The first element is still life. Fruit, beauty products, photographs and other objects serve as subjects for the painting.

    The second is vanitas.

    “”Vanitas is a particular kind of art with its origin in Dutch 17th century painting that simultaneously celebrates the material world and kind of sensual pleasures, while at the same time alluding to their hollowness,”” Maurer said.

    Vanitas is visible in “”Marilyn””, an image of Marilyn Monroe and traditional vanitas symbols.

    The third element is trompe l’oeil.

    “”Trompe l’oeil means ‘trick the eye’ in French,”” Maurer said.

    An artist invoking trompe l’oeil aims to make the viewer believe that all of the objects are three-dimensional, she explained.

    However, Flack also has some non-traditional elements within the painting.

    “”What’s unusual from the still life tradition is that she’s inserted herself into the painting,”” Maurer said. The substantial scale of the image is also unorthodox, she said.

    Finally, the placement of the objects is unconventional.

    “”While the objects are very realistic, you can see there’s a strange kind of floating going on so it’s not really realistic,”” Maurer said.

    The rest of the exhibit is used to further demonstrate the elements contained in Flack’s painting.

    Illustrating still life is a Dutch painting depicting a large catch of fish. The tone of the painting matches the idea of vanitas.

    “”It’s celebrating the great catch, but it is also very morbid: dead fish are being cut for consumption,”” Maurer said.

    Representing trompe l’oeil is a print based on a painting, “”The Old Violin,”” by William Harnett.

    “”It was opened in Cincinnati,”” Maurer said. “”All of the newspapers have these great accounts of the opening day. A policeman had to stand watch by the painting because people were trying to pull the envelope off. It provoked a great response among viewers.””

    The exhibit also contains a print of Marilyn Monroe created by Andy Warhol and three more pieces by Flack.

    Maurer believed students could identify with the way that objects signify things and the notions of commercialism Flack displays.

    “”Also, the way that images function to create a persona that’s different from the real person – that’s true of Marilyn,”” she said. “”Flack was interested in the way she created herself into this sex symbol, an object of beauty through make-up, and I think that still resonates people trying to create themselves into what they want to be.””

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