pop artist Marisol

I was so lucky to see one of Marisol’s pieces at the Pop exhibition at Tate Modern.  I love her, but she gets very little recognition compared to other Pop artists despite the fact that in 1964 she was more famous for her art than Warhol. Born Marisol Escobar in France 1930, she was of Venezuelan descent.  In line with her feminist values she dropped her surname to lose her patrilineal identity and went simply by the name Marisol.  She is most famous for her sculptural portraits and signing her works with drawings or casts of her face and body.

 

om pom marisol portrait

At the age of 11 Marisol’s mother committed suicide and Marisol didn’t speak for a year. 5 years later her father moved her and her brother to Los Angeles where she began painting and drawing, but also inflicting acts of penance upon herself, walking on her knees until they bled, keeping silent for long periods and tying ropes tightly around her waist in emulation of saints and martyrs.

In 1949 she returned to France to study painting at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris and then returned to America, attending the Jepson Art Institute in 1950. From 1951-4 she was a student of Hans Hoffman at the Art Students League of New York and became interested in Mexican, Pre-Columbian and American folk art. She also turned her attention to sculpture and became friends with many other Abstract Expressionists, most especially Willem de Kooning.

om pom marisol 9

In the 60’s she went on to become the ‘it’ girl of Pop Art, befriending Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol. Warhol described her as “the first girl artist with glamour,” and in 1964 her exhibition drew an unprecedented 2,000 visitors a day. She was featured in Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and was at that time more famous than Warhol.

om pom marisol with andy warhol

Her works from that period include…

Below: UNTITLED 1960 crayon on paper

om pom marisol 1

In 1962 she made one of many sculptures she would entitle THE FAMILY…

om pom marisol 2

Here she is in her studio making it…

om pom marisol Jack Mitchells portrait-of-marisol working on the family 1969

Below: LOVE 1962 Plaster and glass (Coca-Cola bottle)

om pom marisol 3

The face was a cast of her own face and the work represents capitalism being forced down American’s throats.

This sculpture was also made in 1962. The hands are casts of her her own hands…

om pom marisol RUTH 1962

In 1963 she made another sculpture titled THE FAMILY which portrayed what she thought of as a crisis in American family life. It shows the parents as self-absorbed in expensive fashionable clothes with the father slightly detached and distanced. The babies are made of broken casts of adult faces and feet and the young children have adult faces. One of the girls has three legs and carries a doll whose face is a sketched self-portrait of Marisol…

om pom marisol THE FAMILY

Also in 1963 she made this sculpture of John Wayne…

om pom marisol 1963 john_wayne

And DINNER DATE

om pom marisol dinner date 1963

Marisol was a strong feminist and the only female artist in the ’60s who could command the same high prices as the men.  In 1964 she made Women and Dog depicting a group of fashionable middle-class housewives parading in public wearing blank, masklike expressions, including a photo of her own face…

om pom marisol women and dog

But she didn’t only work in sculpture.

In 1963 she made FUR SHOE in which she drew around her own hand and shoe…

om pom marisol 4

In ’64 and ’65 she starred in two of Warhol’s films – The Kiss where couples kissed for 3 1/2 minutes and 13 Most Beautiful Girls. Both were silent films which was fitting as, carrying on from her teenage penances of silence, she never spoke more than she had to.

At the same time she made The Cocktail Party, a life-size group of 15 figures made from painted wood, cloth, plastic, shoes, jewellery, mirror and a TV. The figures represent the social elite of the time and each one has Marisol’s face. It sold at Sotheby’s in 2005 for $912,000.

om pom marisol the party

She claims to have used her own image so much because she worked late into the night and couldn’t get a model.

In 1967 she made LBJ, a portrait of US president Lyndon B. Johnson holding his wife and two daughters. He is shown as a blockhead with a grimacing face and protruding ears, nose, and chin. His coffinlike depiction is said to evoke the circumstance under which he became president – the assassination of John F. Kennedy – and his controversial role in the Vietnam War. LBJ was made at the height of his unpopularity.

om pom marisol 7 LBJ

Other depictions of presidents include George Washington in THE GENERALS

om pom marisol The Generals 1962

Made in 1962 it shows General and President George Washington sitting on a toy horse behind the military and political leader Simón Bolívar who liberated many South American countries including her own native Venezuela. It pokes fun at all the equestrian monuments that sit in town squares the world over and originally contained a tape recorder that played a military march out of the horse’s ass!  The hands of both men are casts of Marisol’s own hands.

She also made FUNERAL depicting President Kennedy’s funeral…

om pom marisol The-Funeral_960x36

In 1969 she made MAMA Y YO from steel and aluminium and it depicts her own mother with Marisol as a child stood next to her protecting her…

om pom marisol mamayYo

Also in ’69 she made another THE FAMILY this time from wood, plastic, neon and glass, representing the nativity…

om pom marisol Familia

In the 70’s she produced a series of prints and drawings with erotic, often violent overtones, such as STOMP ON MY HEART

om pom marisol stomp on my heart

and LICK THE TYRES OF MY BICYCLE

om pom marisol lick-the-tire-of-my-bicycle 1974 coloured pencil and crayon

But Marisol began to feel that her life was growing out of control and she moved to Italy for a year and a half.  When she finally returned to Amerca she never achieved the same level of fame or recognition again.

However, she still continued to make new works right up until a few years ago when her health became too frail.  Now, aged 85, she lives in New York.

Although some say she was influenced by Warhol, there are others who claim that it was Warhol who was influenced by her. Most certainly in the way that he presented himself to the media. Marisol continued to speak very little, but when she did, she had a soft voice that the press found enigmatic. Warhol saw the attention it got her and began to change his own voice and the way that he spoke.

You can hear her for yourself in this wonderful recording of her in conversation in 1968 with Colette Roberts aged 38…

Let’s wish her well and turn up the volume as I sign out with someone who sang for Warhol’s Screen Tests including Marisol in 13 Most Beautiful Girls, the great and much missed Lou Reed performing Take a Walk on the Wild Side live in 1973…

om pom books marisol you can find this wonderful book in the Om Pom book shop

words: CAND JUSKUS

Images: sourced online