Tuesday 27 January 2009

Aint what cha do....it's the way that you do it!

I have now uploaded a picture of my most recent painting for the series,' My Baby's Got a Secret' onto my website! You can see 'Parfait Amour' here!: www.gemmaparker.co.uk
I have also been researching nautical tattoos for some time now and have begun a series of paintings inspired by the old school pin-ups that decorated many a well travelled sailor's arms. If anyone has any interesting info to pass on or a sailor inspired tattoo please get in touch!

On other news:

Last week I was lucky enough to go and see the
'Blonde Bombshells of 1943' at The Lowry. This nostalgic musical is the story of an all girl swing band run by band leader Betty. The only trouble is her band members keep disappearing every time they play a GI camp, and with the chance to play live on the BBC tonight, Betty is pushed to find new recruits and fast! Cue the entrance of a naive school girl, a singing nun, an upper class army toff with an eye for the boys, and a male drummer doing everything he can to avoid being drafted into the army.

The story focuses on Liz, the young schoolgirl, who in one day, learns about love, betrayal and death, oh and also the saxophone.
All the girls (and guy) are tremedous musicians and each in turn gets the opportunity to show off their talents. But I have to say that it was Lilly the nun's oblivious rendition of a George Formby classic full of inuendos that made me giggle the most. Another high point that stuck fast in my memory is when Miranda, the curvacious army toff decides to put her 'posh frock' on for that nights performance, in front of the other girls, and the auidence. It was mesmorising to behold a 1940's hottie reveal her silk undies (not army issue, you wouldn't believe how they chafe!) and nylons. Rosie Jenkins who played Miranda was obviously having a ball with her character and was very sexy to boot.

The music was brilliant with such classics by Glenn Miller, Fats Waller and The Andrews Sisters and I left the theatre singing the tunes for a long time afterwards. The finale where the most glamourous girl band of all time don blonde wigs and red sparkly numbers proved beyond doubt that it don't mean a thing if it aint got that swing!

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!

Tuesday 13 January 2009

A fallen Hollwood starlet, a painting that never ends and the spangles that never happened. This week I have been mostly...

Non sewing
Well the sewing venture for The Chantilly Belles new piece of stage attire didn't go 100% to plan over the weekend, which made both myself and Rene La Rouge very cranky. Basically we didn't realise you have to check what your material is made from before ironing on tranfers (duh!) and as it was full polyester we got stopped in our tracks. We are now exploring a Plan B route...

I was at the studio yesterday, where I had a lovely long chat and cup of tea with Salford's Art and Cultural Developments Manager about my practice. It was so good to talk to someone who opened up a lot of possilbities to me and understood the pros and cons of being a freelance artist.
I am now buzzing with ideas and more aware of directions I can take my art into.
We talked for so long painting time was cut short so I didn't have much of a go at finishing my latest painting. I can't wait to get the bloodly thing out of the way now!

I can't put down 'Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye, The Barbara Payton story'.
I first knew about Barbara Payton, the tragic 40's/50's Hollywood starlet when she made an appearance in the excellant fictional novel 'This song is you' by Megan Abbott. A dark and violent thriller that was based on a true story of missing actress Jean Spangler. (Incidentaly the true story is just as compelling as the book and well worth investigating!)

I was fascinated to learn that the beautiful troubled and provocative character of Barbara really existed and did some research on her on the internet. When I saw there was a book relating the tale of her life I had to read it.

'Kiss tomorrow Goodbye, the Barbara Payton Story' by John O Dowd is a heartbreaking account of how a free spirted highly sexed glamour girl fell from Hollywood's favour to slowly rot on its streets in skid row.
Barbara had everything going for her, incredible beauty, talent and intelligence, which makes her story even more unbelievable.
After acting in films next to James Cagney and Gregory Peck it seemed this blonde starlet was on the brink of making the big time and becoming another name to match the likes of Monroe. But her erratic private life became more of a focal point to the public as Barbara certainly knew how to party.

Her name became linked with drug dealers and mobsters and she made frequent trips to court because of her bad choice in 'friends.' Her reputation got torn irreparably when she began to see both highly esteemed and well loved classical actor Franchot Tone and B movie muscle man Tom Neal. The breaking point of which was a massive punch up (with Neal doing most of the punching) which left Tone close to death in hospital. Barbara's 'Bad gal' image was sealed as a nation held her to blame.
Her career took a massive nose dive and she appeared in only a few more B films as the major film studios systematically turned their backs on her until it eventually fizzled out completely. But Barbara's tragedy wasn't just the loss of her film star dreams, it was her blatent need for self destruction which took the form of acloholism, drug use and nymphomania. Over the years she had numerous steamy love affairs with everyone from leading men to car hop boys. In the 50's the only word for her was tramp.

But Bab's wasn't a bad person, in fact by all accounts she was a kind generous and fun person to know. However with her slow free fall from success she went all out to destroy every part of herself including her character. By the early 60's with four failed marriages under her belt and forcibly estranged from her young son, the once glamourous and impeccable actress had gone from earning $10,000 a week at Warner Bros to turing tricks on Sunset Boulevard for $5 a time. She eventually died an all too early death at the age of 39.
The book is so welll written and O Dowd has put forward an objective series of events with great detail and sensitivity. I have enjoyed reading it greatly but have to admit to reflecting on it with feelings of sadness but also fascination.
One of Barbara's most famous films was the campy B movie 'The bride of the Gorrila', enjoy:

Tuesday 6 January 2009

New year, big plans and giggles

A happy new year to you! Well, I fullfilled my goal to eat as much chocolate as physically possible over Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed every second! It just feels like the festive season has flown by so fast this time, well nevermind as I have big plans for 2009 which I hope you will learn about through this blog when and as they happen. In the meantime here's quick update on recent happenings:

Myself and Kirsten at the private view in Sunderland in front of one of my paintings

I've now uploaded the images and information from my burlesque art residency in Sunderland onto my website which you can see HERE
It's good to see all the final images together and read all about them, it was a fun project to work on and it gave me a good oppertunity to learn about Sunderland as well as many other things, take a look!

The Chantilly Belles are revving up for the new year and last Saturday myself and Rene la Rouge went into Manchester to buy some provisions to customise some new stage attire. We're planning on making up said attire this Saturday so hopefully I should have some pictures for you next week! We are also developing our new act which is going under the working title of 'Boogie Burl' but this might change. All I can say is get ready for more cheeky fun, but make sure you're not of a weak disposisition as this act might put the willies up you!

Until next week here's a little video which has nothing to do with burlesque or pin-up but does make me giggle! No-one will ever top the madcap genuis of Sesame Street!