Marilyn Minter: Pornography, Food and Artistic Self-Discovery
Matt Diss • December 30, 2015 • Art •
Lasciviously slurping caviar goo. I’ll take mine with a side of gargled, liquid candy, gluttony, glitter, silver spray paint, burlesque rhinestones and dirty, stubbled armpits. Who doesn’t find solace in a mixture of pornography, food and a healthy dose of artistic self-discovery? I find pleasure in it if it’s with Marilyn Minter.
This past weekend I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Denver for her stunning exhibition of Pretty/Dirty, a display I feel fortunate to have over-indulged in. Wet. Raw. Glitter. Appetite. Mirrors. Rooms filled with oversized canvases. Enamel on metal. Oh how everyone could benefit from the astonishments of her work.
Minter, a now New York-based American artist, finds a harmonious balance between glamour, high-end fashion, pornographic material and close-ups of the female figure. As a prominent artist since the early 1970’s, Minter has continued to make powerful statements about social norms, beauty and human sexuality. Sure, I could rant about her artistic successes or lengthy conflicted and inspiring personal history, but this is not my critique. Let me tell you what I found.
Minter’s space moved from slow to absurdly intriguing. First, (if you follow the advice of the curator at the front desk) you are greeted with a surprising embrace of silk screen paintings depicting food displayed on aluminum canvases. I marveled in her creative abilities and quickly recognized her professional prowess as an influential female artist (and, yes, her being a female certainly matters). But you haven’t seen shit until you walk behind the felt curtains that juxtapose the highly pornographic exposé of feminine flesh and brilliant social disgust. I loved it (so did my girlfriend). And for some reason it makes me feel even better that PLAYBOY couldn’t handle her work. “Unusable,” they said.
Moving on. Mirrors. A better understanding of Minter’s photography skills. Printed, black-and-white. Developed from a film camera. They are frames of her mother. A woman who smokes Slims and apparently never got out of her reclusive negligée. A human who, when Minter released these photos for the first time in her undergraduate classroom, was deemed “controversial”. Minter does a fantastic job showing us the beauty of this classical woman, while portraying the monochrome demise and questionable appeal of her drug-induced interpersonal life (now reveled as a success in contemporary times).
As I moved to the second floor, things became more interesting and intense (I gladly welcomed this). Close-ups of the woman figure. A dirty heel. An eyeball accompanied by a pimple to the upper left, and the luscious glamour of lips riddled with glossy makeup and less than usual shades of bright colors. It’s shocking to discover these are not photographs, but rather artistic masterpieces painted onto an unconventional surface, a staple of Minter’s style. As I moved deeper into this salacious stickiness, I found interest in the sucking and spitting of golden caviar, saliva, tongues, lips and pressed faces. Mounds of goo and liquid candy make this film an interesting reason to be staring at a projected wall for far too long.
And finally, the basement. The last stop on this bewildering Wonka boat ride into the spectacular chaos of Minter’s psyche. Another film. This time you are greeted with a pair of unlikely feet, female to no surprise (staying consistent with her theme) consumed in silver paint. Cheap beads are strung around the ankles with matching, strappy, stilettos to set the scene. When the music resounds so does the splash of more silver paint. Too much silver paint. Puddles, I suppose is the best word. Then comes dancing, kicking. A slow motion CRASH! breaks the glass on the closest possible perspective. And then it fades into the end and back around again.
Pretty dirty? I’d say pretty fantastic. Maybe it’s my own subjective nature, but I love when I can dismiss the often dismal and mundane world, and trade it for a minute of absurdity in the basement of the MCA Denver. Minter showed why she is still an influence on modern culture, as she pushes the limits of political correctness, showing her artistic brilliance in exquisite fashion and making a powerful statement about beauty, sexuality and social normalcy. I hope I’m not speaking to bluntly, but this is what we all need in our lives; the influence of a woman showing the strength and grit of human creativity and living, breathing imperfection, enticing the masses to question their own preconceived notions and re-conceive societal norms. If it was up to me I’d squeeze us all into this box, stare at the pictures and paintings of a real, uncut, unfinished human life, and ask us all to find a little more authenticity.
Thanks, Marilyn Minter.Artist’s Website MCA Denver