METAMORPHOSIS OF NORMA JEAN MORTENSON, 1967

acrylic on canvas
102 x 102 in.
(259 x 259 cm.), Diamond

The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas, gift of Robert L.B. Tobin

“The rise and fall of the Flesh Cult in Hollywood, the birth and demise of one more celluloid goddess only pall in an enormous way, having gone through the gamut in the ‘30’s when going to the movies was substitute for a baby sitter, but Marilyn Monroe was a cut above the ordinary and made the tired old money-making ritual worthwhile again – almost. It was probably her pathetically human, incredibly vulnerable image she exposed on the consciousness of America and the Americanized world. Jean Harlow might have received similar homage in her day if certain artists had been born a generation earlier. Or the Hoosier Carol Lombard whose tragic death during the Second World War – setting off from Indianapolis after a bond rally – affected me more personally, but her death didn’t really become Americana, the Dream. The little California orphan girl whose every dream was fulfilled did win her legend and became the terminal symbol of the Lotus Land the world grew weary of. An irony indeed that her role in “Misfits” was not only her final appearance on the screen, but the vehicle of farewell for her costars Clark Gable and Montgomery Clift as well. The last film for all three. Six divided by two. ’26 the year of her birth; ’62 the year of her death. At two baby Norma Jean was almost suffocated by a hysterical neighbor; at six a member of one of her 12 (6 x 2) foster families tried to rape her. In ’52 (26 + 26) when she was 26, her most cherished ambition of all was realized when she starred in a dramatic role and, in the first week at the Manhattan box office, the film grossed $26,000. Death came by her hand on the sixth day of August, the eighth month (6 + 2 for the last time.) This odd run of numerical coincidences only buttressed my fascination with the subject once I had become intrigued by the metamorphosis of her name itself.

From the letters of her original name someone drew – almost anagrammatically – those of her fame. Three were added; three were subtracted. Six again. In gray. Encircled by the telephone dial-like ring of her destiny and death (it was this instrument she was clutching) Marilyn is posed – in the cosmetic colors of her much vaunted femininity – against the golden star of her dreams though its tips, however, point to the letters I MOON. Her stylized image comes, of course, from the famous nude calendar “Golden Dreams,” which, upon finding by chance in a Greenwich Village shop called “The Tunnel of Love,” I turned over and discovered that our last Goddess of Love had been printed in Indiana.”

— Robert Indiana

 

First published in Robert Indiana (Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with the Marion Koogler Mc Nay Art Institute, San Antonio, and the Herron Museum of Art, Indianapolis, 1968)

Medium

Decade

View

Clear Filters
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
TECH

TECH

1945
500

500

1945
BEAN BUD

BEAN BUD

1945
MENE MENE TEKEL

MENE MENE TEKEL

1955-56/1989
GINKGO

GINKGO

1957/1959
HUB

HUB

1957/2005
SOURCE I

SOURCE I

1959
THE SLIPS

THE SLIPS

1959-1960
RA

RA

1960
ZIG

ZIG

1960
SOUL

SOUL

1960
OWL

OWL

1960
ORB

ORB

1960
MOON

MOON

1960
M

M

1960
HOLE

HOLE

1960
GE

GE

1960
WALL OF CHINA

WALL OF CHINA

1960 - 1961
ELECTI

ELECTI

1960-1961
MARINE WORKS

MARINE WORKS

1960-1962
MATE

MATE

1960-1962
TWO

TWO

1960-1962
JEANNE D'ARC

JEANNE D'ARC

1960-1962
BAR

BAR

1960-1962
LAW

LAW

1960-1962
STAR

STAR

1960-1962
CUBA

CUBA

1960-1962
MELVILLE

MELVILLE

1961
BALLYHOO

BALLYHOO

1961
HARDROCK

HARDROCK

1961
WOMB

WOMB

1961
SLIP

SLIP

1961
GEM

GEM

1961/1984
DOWN

DOWN

1962
UP

UP

1962
GRASS

GRASS

1962
FOR

FOR

1962
EAT/DIE

EAT/DIE

1962
HUG

HUG

1962
HUB

HUB

1962
FOUR

FOUR

1962
EAT

EAT

1962
CHIEF

CHIEF

1962
AHAB

AHAB

1962
DIE

DIE

1962/1984
X-5

X-5

1963
COLUMN LOVE

COLUMN LOVE

1963-1964
COLUMN HUG

COLUMN HUG

1963-1964
COLUMN EAT

COLUMN EAT

1963-1964
FLAGELLANT

FLAGELLANT

1963/1969
LOVE

LOVE

1964
LOVE

LOVE

1964
ONE

ONE

1965
TWO

TWO

1965
THREE

THREE

1965
FOUR

FOUR

1965
FIVE

FIVE

1965
SIX

SIX

1965
SEVEN

SEVEN

1965
EIGHT

EIGHT

1965
NINE

NINE

1965
ZERO

ZERO

1965
MODEL T

MODEL T

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966
666

666

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966-1999
LOVE WALL

LOVE WALL

1966/2006
LOVE

LOVE

1967
APOGEE

APOGEE

1970
ART

ART

1972-2001
AHAVA

AHAVA

1977
MONARCHY

MONARCHY

1981
FIVE

FIVE

1984
MARS

MARS

1990
ICARUS

ICARUS

1992
EVE

EVE

1997
AMOR

AMOR

1998-2006
COMET

COMET

2000