Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Ladies of Burlesque

This week I thought I'd share with you a comtemporary artist I've recently learnt about. I was directed to Sadie Lee as both her and my own subject matter and painting styles have many similarities. During her career Sadie Lee has exhibited works such as 'A Dying Art' - 'Ladies of Burlesque' at the National Portrait Gallery. This series of work is especially exciting to me as it features famous names from old school 1950's American burlesque like Dixie Evans, touted as 'the Marilyn Monroe of burlesque'. But the twist with Lee's work is that she painted portraits of these glamour girls as they are now, mature ladies in their 60's and 70's.

Dixie Evans by Sadie Lee.

In 2007 as part of the Queerupnorth International festival, Lee exhibited at Salford Museum and Art Gallery with her show, 'And then he was a she', a selection of ten large portraits of the legendary drag queen Holly Woodlawn, part of Warhol's Factory set, immortalised by Lou Reed in Walk on the Wild Side...

"Holly came from Miami, F.L.A., hitch-hiked her way across the U.S.A.,
Plucked her eyebrows on the way; shaved her legs and then he was a she
She says ‘Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side,’
Said ‘Hey Honey, take a walk on the wild side.’”
Walk on the Wild Side Lou Reed (1972)

The paintings are a facsinating look a an icon without the veil mystery. They show a eldery and fragile individual in an honest portrayal complete with walking frame and sagging skin, but Lee has still mananged to show a glamourous and proud character in Woodlawn.

Image taken from www.andthenhewasashe.com

I can't believe that this show was exhibited in a gallery just around the corner from my own studio and I never knew it was on until recently! I would have loved to see the paintings up close.

A quick post script about Dixie Evans
Dixie Evans is now in her late 60's and still performs. She is responsible for curating Exotic World (or the Burlesque Hall of Fame), a museum of burlesque memorabilia with a stunning collection from the golden age of bump and grind. She also initiated Miss Exotic World, an annual pageant and fundraiser for the museum which showcases famous names from past decades as well as up and coming personalitles from the neo burlesque scene.
In her day, Dixie went under the headline, 'The Marilyn Monroe of burlesque' and looking at her photos it's easy to see why! In an age where attitides to sex were still pretty prudish and even sex symbols like Monroe never showed more than a mid rift on the screen, Evans could let your imagination run wild. If you couldn't have Monroe, you could have the next best thing!

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