parts: the 2002 film.
For Debra Winger' and then some ...
artifice and women artists
recommended I see "Searching for Debra Winger" and so
I checked it out. Rosanna Arquette produced this 2002 film and in
it, she wonders what happened to so many of the actresses she worked
with or loved. Often they were her contemporaries. Whatever happened
to that hot actress Debra Winger and so many others?
She goes on a search and eventually various actresses visit her.
You haven't seen Teri Garr lately, have you? How about even Daryl
Hannah? Many once-hot-now-nots gathered together.
Antique Ford: a 1942 model.
But why no longer hot? Most of these women are still much younger
than Harrison Ford. The women, often seated around a table drinking
wine, described the meetings that major Hollywood producers have
when they decide casting: "She was good, right? Would you do
her?" And they go around the room, around the big board table
and it must be pretty much a unanimous vote that they would all
fuck her. If they would all fuck her, then she gets the part.
Based on this kind of casting, parts written for those built for
other things are rarely made. The women ask themselves when and
where it will be that parts are designed for all those aging audiences
(or at least the females no small demographic).
It was very revealing to see the actresses and how they could accept
their fate. It was written, literally written, right on their faces.
Meg Ryan pleaded over and over again how this was the best time
of her life and it was "not about men at all." But you
could see this strange, even, flat quality to her forehead that
nature does not make, even in an 18 year old. Plus, her lips were
bigger than in "When Harry Met Sally." Do these women
look back on their old films at all?
If so, how can poor Melanie Griffith stand what she is doing to
herself? She hardly spoke and yet the camera kept returning to her.
Somehow, I felt the camera and Rosanna were betraying her in showing
her face at all, this face blown to nothing resembling the once-engaging
I can see in my mind's eye how the real older Melanie Griffith
might age, how she might look, and I like what I see. This film
broke my heart in that way.
Eventually we meet up with Debra Winger. I read one review of this
film which stated that Winger was notable because she left the film
industry during her prime.
She left before her prime that is the situation to be explored
in this film. Often these actresses reflect on how it took them
years to learn the ropes and once they do, they are no longer needed.
Skill is not prized. Even Gwyneth Paltrow is there, observing that
she just worked like crazy in her 20s because that is when you are
The future? Who knows.
You could say that the art world works in almost the complete opposite
way. The more de-sexualized you can become as a woman (i.e. getting
older, flabbier, growing a mustache, shaving your head), the more
likely you might be taken seriously.
Looking like a babe is almost a guarantee that you will be dismissed
as only that. (With the exception of Cecily Brown, who is hot as
a woman and a painter. But, being the daughter of David Sylvester,
she never walks into a room as just that.)
The art world prides itself on The Mind (though God knows it is
so often closed). Somehow, having heavy thoughts would preclude
interest in your own presentation. Makeup (which is paint,
after all), glamour, artifice all these things that are practically
mandatory for Hollywood are often seen as indications of
a mind which must think of nothing else.
Until age has had its way: a 2002 photo of Louise Bourgeois
by Michel Comte.
Why should this specific type of artifice be dismissed in a world
that revolves around just about every other kind? In the right hands,
surface can be substance (see Bowie and Madonna and Dave Hickey
You can look good and be good (and a badass, too) if you want,
and all at the same time.
Like with so many businesses, a lot in the art world weighs on
who you know and how you are perceived. The perceptions may be subtle
and rarely spoken but they are there. You've got a right to be a
female in the art world, sure. But while men get to be artists,
women might have to be Women Artists.
This is changing, but it's rarely a fun distinction and hardly
profitable. The Guerilla
Girls can give you all the statistical dirt. A Woman Artist
makes a dime to a male artist's dollar, and she does it later in
So you really can't blame the females who take the road of least
glamour but surely High Concept and whatever else it would
take to convince everyone that they are capable of deep thoughts.
They don't want to wait till age has had its way to get a crack
at the list of great artists. You know, the Louise Bourgeois/Agnes
Martin route, as in "The Top Ten Living Artists" listed
Get old enough and it might happen. (And don't tell me how old
Gerhard Richter is with his hot young wife and baby! Wonder
what she's painting?) No, they would like it sooner, thank
you, and if they have to shave their heads and wear a sack to get
there, so be it.
Somehow there is something not to be trusted about the frankly
frisky female in the art world. She seems to be taken so much more
seriously when most of her friskiness has dried up.
Heavy thinkers: getting back to polish.
As a woman who has fun with style, I am asked about it more than
just about anything else I do. It would seem that there's enough
to talk about but no, let's get back to the nail polish.
Those questions, by the way, often come from the "heaviest
thinkers" in the art world. But me, I won't name names. Now,
why would I do something like that?