Art Review: Marilyn Minter at the Brooklyn Museum

Art Review Marilyn Minter "Pretty/Dirty" at the Brooklyn Museum
by Stephanie Del Carpio MFA 2017

Marilyn Minter’s first retrospective exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum is so much more than skin deep bling. It reflects the obsession with western ideals of beauty, the culture of fashion, notions of femininity and the female body. Beginning with intimate and haunting photographs of her mother, once a southern belle, Minter eerily captures a maniacal fixation with one’s reflection and the inevitable ravage of time on the human body. The woman in the photos is smeared in layers of makeup and with a vacant stare she reminds us that we may all be sharing those feelings someday, as we gaze at our aging selves in the mirror.
Coral Ridge Towers (Mom in Negligee), 1969
Coral Ridge Towers (Mom making up), 1969

The large scale paintings Little Girls and Big Girls focus on the female body and the male gaze. Big Girls depicts the infamous 1957 photo of Italian actress Sophia Loren and American actress Jayne Mansfield, in which Mansfield’s bosom is precariously encased by a plunging neckline. Both actresses were considered the epitome of beauty in the 1950s and 1960s. They were women deemed worthy of  worship, envy, and desire. In Little Girls, Minter is showing us the symbolic version of these ladies as children, in all their youth and innocence; unaware of their future objectification.  
Big Girls, enamel on canvas, 1986

In later works, such as Clip and Dirty Heel, Minter confronts her audience with massive depictions of beautification tools, magnified for greater effect. Throughout, there are also insights into the artist’s creative process. Bisecting the galleries, there is a narrow hallway with a large vitrine, showing old sketches, preliminary studies, and collaged photo references for future works. 
Vitrines with sketches and studies

In the age before Photoshop, these give us a glimpse into the planning and production of her large scale close-ups. Hanging nearby is a collection of photos commissioned by Playboy magazine that depict graphic close ups of pubic hair being groomed. These images are candid shots of a woman’s private rituals exposed for all to see. Minter aims to strip the veil of secrecy to the process of self-grooming - the raw reality of the things we usually conceal. 
Plush, inkjet prints

The monumental Blue Poles, reveals unruly and unplucked brow hairs, loud freckles and a glaring blemish, alongside a pair of eyelids with uneven metallic and glamorous eyeshadow.
Blue Poles, enamel on metal

The sky-high heel comes alive in the video Smash. As you walk into the final viewing room, you are greeted by a closeup video of a pair of feet uncomfortably squeezed into bejeweled open-toe high heel shoes. They are metallic silver and stomp into metallic liquid. They eventually shatter a pane of glass, symbolically the same glass that separates the audience from the action. As they turn, a loose string of crystal embellishments swing around and smack against the foot. Overgrown painted toenails decorate toes that appear to be in utmost pain. The expression “suffer for fashion” comes to mind, and Minter is throwing it back at all our faces. We in the audience are guilty as charged - for not only feeding into the myth, but glorifying and luxuriating in it.
Smash, video still

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