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Ghostly threads: Painting Marilyn Monroe’s white dresses

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In 2012 I started a series of paintings of Marilyn Monroe’s white dresses. While painting, it became apparent that they were more about the body inside them than about the dresses themselves. Since her tragic and much speculated-over death, Monroe has been infantilized and cast as a victim by many biographers, while at the same time being used as a figurehead for a multiplicity of ideas around sexuality, whiteness, ‘otherness’ and feminism by theorists and artists. In the article I look at how Monroe’s image, despite, or maybe because of, her efforts to control it during her lifetime, has continued to be influential. I refer to specific examples of her film roles and her costumes to unpick why she is still such a fascinating figure and why my paintings, while not actually featuring Monroe, manage to convey a powerful essence of her through the trace of her body.
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Keywords: Marilyn Monroe; dresses; painting; sexuality; star image; white

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Artist

Publication date: 01 December 2015

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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