Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A new and improved "David C. Nolan and Marilyn Monroe" Artist Statement

This is a portrait of David C. Nolan whose name and address is stamped across Marilyn Monroe’s body in every image. Until recently, these photographs were stored in my family’s safety deposit box, acquired for $5 at an antique store in the 1980s. The dealer was a friend of my father’s who revealed a man brought them to the shop after discovering them at a recycling center in Boise, Idaho.

The story behind the man who owned them is unknown, though for several years, it was believed that Nolan was the photographer, but the true creators are Earl Theisen, Bert Riesfeld, and countless others who photographed films like The Seven Year Itch for publicity. Others are convinced Nolan was a publicist, as the backs of the images contain quotes and vital information, although, these are not typical statements and remain unattributed.

After editing and combining both sides of the photographs, I noticed details that were not apparent earlier. (DEAD) is written by a man who has aged significantly and has become unsteady. There are small, penciled dots along the back margins enabling Nolan to write in a straight line. Despite the perfection he strives to maintain, there are several spelling and grammatical errors.

In July 2011, I visited 104 Webster Street. It is now divided into a duplex and is one of the shabbiest houses surrounded by gentrification. I have since learned that Nolan owned roughly 300,000 photographs of women in various states of undress. He retreated to his basement where he labeled his collection, wrote captions on each photograph, and stored them in thousands of file drawers. After his death, his wife, horrified at this trove, gave them away to the first person that would remove them from the house. The images gradually circulated along the West Coast and 29 ended up in my family’s hands.

I am currently creating a counterpart to David C. Nolan’s photographs where I explore one woman’s collection of meticulously cutout cats (3,770 total) in the form of a giant scrapbook created in the 1940s. I am interested in the differences between one man and one woman’s fascination with the printed image and their obsessive methods of archiving and organization.

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