Tuesday 30 March 2010

Dressing up, Hollywood style

Rita Hayworth 1918 - 1987

Inspired by my find of a photo of Dita Von Teese's dressing table the other day (see Saturday's post) I went on a mission to find other famous people's make up stations.

I found this glorious collection of vintage Hollywood stars and burlesque performers at their dressing tables. I love the way that each woman's femininity is enhanced by being pictured next to, or using their dressing tables. These photos are a real celebration of star power, glamour and female allure...

Ann Sheridan 1915 – 1967

Ava Gardner 1922 – 1990

Greta Garbo 1905 – 1990

Katharine Hepburn 1907 – 2003
This is a still from Bringing up Baby, and although not striclty a picture of her own dressing table I couldn't resist that big pussycat!

Gloria Swanson 1899 – 1983

Marilyn Monroe 1926 -1962

Jean Harlow 1911 – 1937

Lillian Gish 1893 – 1993
Doing her make up by candlelight!

Bridget Bardot born 1934

Lili St Cryr 1918 – 1999
A famous burlesque star who performed in Hollywood as the Anatomic bomb!

Gloria Graham 1923 – 1981
Posing with every girls essential accessory, a gun

Vivien Leigh 1913 – 1967
Again, this is a still from Gone With The Wind, and as I love Scarlett and Viv, it got added. Look at all those hat boxes!

Merle Oberon 1911 – 1979

Natalie Wood 1938 – 1981

Monday 29 March 2010

Dressing Table Gallery

This Monday's photo comes from Helen Davies, who lives just forty minutes up the road from me apparently! Helen has a photostream on Flickr, which explores her inspirations and day to day observations.

Helen says, 'This is my 'dressing table'. Actually I don't own a dressing table. I have the tops of drawers on which to balance precariously all manner of trinkets, books, 'things I'm in the middle of sorting out' and in amongst them somewhere my toiletries.'

I really enjoyed the fact that this photo appeared as part of her photo project 365, a photo for every day of the year, and she has carefully labeled each object giving you just a little more insight into her life. You can see her brilliant collection of photos HERE

Saturday 27 March 2010


Is it possible to have dressing table envy? The answer is YES! Just look at this beauty belonging to none other than the modern day queen of bump and grind, Dita Von Teese!

Now here is a woman dedicated to her art; it's vintage all the way, with a staggering collection of hats on display and gorgeousness from every angle. I have to admit I would be happy to just sit in this room and stare at everything for hours on end, what a temple devoted to female artifice. Dita, I knew you wouldn't dissappoint.

Monday 22 March 2010

The art of dressing up! part 1

I've decided to give the Dressing Table Gallery it's own post each week as I think it was getting a bit lost under the other postings about my other art projects. So keep an eye out each Monday as I post up dressing table photos and project info!

This week I have exciting news! I was recently contacted by The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery based in Stoke. It turns out they are planning a project based around the concept of getting ready to go out perhaps with a burlesque element, and wondered if I would like to get involved as my art work uses burlesque themes and I am currently focusung on dressing tables, and the art of getting dressed up!

Today the Collections Officer for Arts and the Documentation Assisitant came to my studio for a chat and we have planned for me to visit the Museum in early May to view the Decorative Arts and Costume collections! I am so excited! In time we hope to collaborate on an art project using pieces from the collection. We have already discussed ideas, but we all think seeing the space and the actual pieces will bring things together and we should then be able to set things in motion.

I can't wait to see the collection which features costumes dating from the 15th Century to the present day and the Bagot Collection; jewellery, accessories and clothes all belonging to Lord and Lady Bagot between the 1940's and 1970's. The Museum has also kindly offered to help me collect more photos of people's dressing tables for my project! Stay tuned to find out how things progress...

This weeks Dressing table photos come from Zoe James a jewellery artist from the Manchester area UK

Zoe says of her dressing table,

'its a bit messy as I like to have a lot of the objects I collect around in my personal space. Some are gifts from friends like the flowery compact and cake stand others i have just amassed from car boot sales and charity shops. The photos on the wall are all family pictures, I like to have them up as I don't get to see my family as much as I'd like. The flowery images on the wall are old cards given to me by a friend. I am very sentimental!'

To take part in one of Zoe's fab jewellery making classes based in the North West visit her website www.magpieartsworkshops.com
Or take a look at her range of jewellery and metal work at www.zoejamesjewellery.com

The thing I like about these photos is that they immediatley make me think they belong to a story, at first glance the dressing table looks very vintage covered in antique style artifacts; a mirror set, powder pot and what looks like an old style medicine bottle, I can't help imagining the Victorian lady who might own it who has a secret laudanum habit!
But on closer inspection, you see oddities which don't add up; a cake stand doubling as a jewellery stand, and some sort of tool which only makes sense when you realise what Zoe's occupation is.

They are great photos to help towards my research about belongings and narrative!

If you would like to get involved and send in your dressing table photos please contact me: gemma-parker@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Heiner Meyer

'Gambling' 2007 Shellac and photo on canvas Heiner Meyer

I have been recently looking at work by the German artist Heiner Meyer. I got a calander featuring his art work as a present and it made me want to know more about him and his practice. Meyer began his artisitic career as assistant to Salvador Dali after studying Fine Arts at the college of Branschweig. He went on to define his own style combining painting with photography and it is this layered decorative quality which caught my imagination. He uses found images of famous glamorous icons from the 1950's through to contemporary stars, then modifies them with other representations of pop culture building up the layers of colour and shape.

I especially like the way he combines text with image and decoration giving the found photo a completely new meaning and understanding, while keeping it beautiful and enjoyable to look at. As I am currently painting a portrait of Noel Toy (see last post) I decided I'd like to employ some of Meyer's layered effect to the painting. I began by adding text to the image; which I have applied silver leaf to to add texture and lusciousness. I intend this painting to be in black and white in keeping with Noel's vintage status, so I'm still figuring out how I'll layer up the paint to reflect something of Meyer's tecnique. I'll fill you in as I go.

Silver leaf applied to my portrait of Noel Toy

Dressing Table Gallery

This week happens to be my favourite photo so far! This lovely snap was sent in my Eva Elliott from the UK.

Eva says, 'The pic at the top is of my mum and dad in the 70s, I found it a few months ago and I love it. I think it might be my favourite pic ever!'

I really like this simple photo as it captures the essence of someone whose life seems quite busy and full as seen by the amount of stuff she crams onto her dressing table. Yet the photo itself feels quiet and unassuming. It's a lovely contrast. I like the green drawers too, they give the photo it's unique quality.

You can see beautiful jewellery crafted by Eva on her Etsy page HERE

If you would like to get involved with the Dressing Table Gallery please send your photos to : gemma-parker@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday 9 March 2010

Noel Toy

Inspired by my look at vintage burlesque stars from the golden heyday a few weeks back, I started to look up burlesque performances from the 40's and 50's on youtube.
I discovered a gorgeous exotic performer called Noel Toy, the U.S.A's most successful Chinese-American burlesque dancer working in the early Forties.

I began to research into Noel's history and was delighted to discover she was a revolutionary in her own way, setting out to liberalize women, Chinese women especially, from demure and submissive stereotypes!
I was so taken with Miss Toy that I decided to paint a portrait of her while I put together ideas for my other work based around dressing tables (see below).

Noel Toy was born Ngun Yee in San Francisco to émigré parents from Canton, China. She was close to graduating from her jounalism degree at the University of California Berkeley, when she accepted an offer to perform in a Chinese village show at the World's Fair on Treasure Island in 1939. The gig involved not much more than standing around in a Chinese dress looking pretty. This led on to other more risque work when later the same year Charlie Low asked her to work at his popular Forbidden City, the first and only Chinese nightclub at the time.

She changed her name to Noel Toy after her love of the Christmas season and began to wow audiences with her graceful dances. She was even labelled the Chinese Sally Rand as she became famous for her fan dances, and using a giant bubble while on stage.

Due to her popularity business tripled at Forbidden City within three months and Noel was soon off dancing at other clubs in San Francisco, a year later she was invited to perform in New York City where she was a huge hit. In 1942 Noel appeared in a Broadway revue Wine Women and Song but her stint was short lived after the show was shut down due to obscenity. A witness at the trial said that Noel Toy "was nude except for her shoes and one other piece of clothing, and pretended to dance but didn't move her feet" (Associated Press, December 1, 1942)

In 1945 Noel met and married Carlton Young, a soldier who saw one of her shows and was love struck declaring there and then, 'I'm going to marry you!'. Upon his request she gave up performing and turned to film and TV work. She appeared alongside Clark Gable and Susan Hayward (in "Soldier of Fortune") and Humphrey Bogart and Gene Tierney (in "The Left Hand of God"). But Noel soon became disillusioned by Hollywood as she was always cast as the 'Ornamental Oriental'. In 1954 she gave up acting and started a career in real estate.

She remained a rebel to the end of her life, often visiting the town where she lived in L.A wearing short skirts and high heels even while in her old age.
Noel died fittingly, on Christmas Eve of 2003 leaving behind her a legacy of scandal and revolution.

The first stage of my portrait of Noel Toy

Dressing Table Gallery

Each week I am showcasing photos sent in of readers dressing tables. This is a chance to interact with other people from the web but also goes towards a bigger project I am working on involved with narrative and belongings. Each photo gives the viewer a snapshot into a stranger's personal make up station and a portrait of their femininity!

This week the photos are from Layla Garner. Layla lives and works in Manchester in the UK and as I know her I can testify she is a very creative and individual lady! I especially like the use of candle sticks, again giving this dressing table a sacred appeal, almost like an altar.

If you would like to get involved and send in a photo of your dressing table please get in touch: gemma-parker@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday 2 March 2010

My favourite time of day?.... time to get ready

Today I can share with you the first of what I'm aptly calling, The Dressing Table Gallery! This is an interactive project between myself and the ladies of the web, where participants send in snapshots of their dressing tables, and in turn reveal intimate portraits of their femininity.

This week it's Liz Parker (no relation, but who knows?) Liz is from Stockport in the UK and is also an artist. You can see Liz's blog Elizabeth Parker Illustration HERE

The thing I really love about these photos is that you can see an eclectic mix of items positioned around the mirror like a shrine. I also like the way Liz has added images of female icons including Barbarella and Jackie Kennedy. Is Liz like these women in any way? Does she use them as inspiration whilst getting ready in the morning? I love the mixture of keepsakes and bric a brac from obviously important moments of Liz's life, these photos definatley tell a story about a creative lady!

If you would like to send in a photo of your dressing table please email me at: gemma-parker@hotmail.co.uk