whitehot | December 2007, Carole Caroompas @ Western Project, Los Angeles CA
Dancing With Misfits: Eye-Dazzler
New Paintings and Drawings
November 3-December 22, 2007
3830 Main Street
Culver City, CA 90232
SIX DEGREES OF CAROLE CAROOMPAS
By Sandra Vista
Six Degrees of Carole Caroompas
Arthur Lee-Carole Caroompas, Lenny Bruce-Carole Caroompas, Carrie-Carole Caroompas, Marilyn Monroe-Carole Caroompas, Clark Gable-Carole Caroompas, Montgomery Clift-Carole Caroompas, Arthur Miller-Carole Caroompas, Tiny Tim-Carole Caroompas, Miss Vicky-Carole Caroompas, Lawrence Welk-Carole Caroompas, Jane Fonda-Carole Caroompas, Karen Carpenter-Carole Caroompas, The Ghost Dancers-Carole Caroompas, Lux-Carole Caroompas, Cliff Benjamin-Carole Caroompas, Erin Kermanikian-Carole Caroompas, Jack and Jill-Carole Caroompas, Puss and Boots-Carole Caroompas, Wild Mustangs-Carole Caroompas
Carole Caroompas’ current exhibit at Western Projects is a three-year journey that produced four labor-intensive paintings based on Arthur Miller’s screenplay and movie called The Misfits. Many consider this movie to be Miller’s Valentine to his wife Marilyn Monroe. Carole’s new series also includes images of various famous people that have intrigued her throughout her life. For Carole, the term misfits is not a negative term. Arthur Lee from the band Love and Lenny Bruce, stand-up comedian and political activist, are two infamous and famous, people that Carole admires for their talent, rebellion and resounding voices.
Movie stills are representative in Carole’s paintings. As in a movie, the images are frozen in time and can be revisited anytime. Movie stills from The Misfits and Carrie, are portrayed in each painting.
It is impossible to resist divining multiple interpretations from the Misfits and Carrie images. Carole sympathizes with the struggle of the cowboys’ fight for survival in The Misfits. Faced with an occupational extinction, the cowboys are forced to wrangle mustangs to be killed for dog food. In addition, the blood drenched teenage girl in Carrie, who has often been defined as a crazy-out-of-control girl, can also be interpreted as the story of any girl that goes through puberty. Every woman has her personal tale of the first time she began to menstruate. Depending on how much prior knowledge and support a girl gets from her mother or other women in her life, the degree of fear and pain will vary. In Carrie, the main character, Carrie, is completely naïve about what is happening and suffers the consequences of her ignorance. In addition, a woman’s powers, not properly channeled can have negative results. For Carrie, her telekinetic powers caused the death of her mother and tragedies at her high school prom.
Carole said she had not planned to use the Carrie image throughout her series, but Carrie materialized in each painting. Carole, a feminist, probably since birth, said that she was no longer making feminist paintings. However, the blood depicted on the Carrie image throughout Carole’s paintings is the blood that all women experience on a regular basis.
Change can be painful. And change obviously happens over time. Each one of the four paintings is a time capsule of information from popular culture and the penance the United States must continue to pay to the Native Americans. In the first painting, Dancing With Misfits: Eye-Dazzler: Watch Out For Those Pretty Little Feet, Dear,, Carole comments on how television imprints certain absurd and frivolous memories in our heads with events like The Miss America Pageant and the marriage of Tiny Tim and Miss Vicky on the Johnny Carson Show. Carrie as a prom queen is also seen with her prom date and a bittersweet image of Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe are also partnered. In each of Carole’s paintings is an interwoven melody provided by the patterns of Navajo Indian rugs.
Another Native American theme in Carole’s current series is the prophetic ghost dance. The ghost dancers are also symbolic for other ghost dancers in the paintings. For example in Dancing with Misfits: Eye-Dazzler: Les Desaxes, the ghost dancers are accompanied by three famous ghostly scenes-Jacquelyn Kennedy at President Kennedy’s funeral, the shooting death of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby and Marilyn Monroe on horseback from her last film-The Misfits.
When I interviewed Carole, she talked about how she used eye contact in her figures to illustrate continuity in her work. In Dancing with Misfits: Eye-Dazzler: An Eastern-Western-Cowboy Mummy, the figures on both sides of the canvas are making connections. Karen Carpenter on the top left of the canvas is preceded by a movie still from The Misfits containing Marilyn Monroe gazing over the shoulder of Montgomery Clift. On the far right is Clark Gable with his coterie of cowboys watching Marilyn Monroe playing paddle ball. The string of the paddle ball is also an important linear element that slides the viewer all the way to the bottom of the painting. A descending Jane Fonda, dressed as Barbarella, is popped on the head by Marilyn’s paddle ball. Jane in turn makes contact with a roller derby queen who is then lassoed by a cowboy. The tendrils of a tent connect both of these images and travel down to Carrie in the foreground. Also in the foreground is a group of four comical characters in which three are giving direct eye contact. And finally, there is Lenny Bruce.
Carole admitted that these were serious paintings. However, there are moments of levity, especially when Lenny Bruce is in the paintings. In Dancing With Misfits: Eye Dazzler: An Eastern Western-Cowboy Mummy, the title is a play on words. The Misfits movie clip of Montgomery Clift with his head wrapped in bandages could represent a cowboy posing as a sheik. And the same is true of Valentino-like Lenny Bruce with a towel draped on top of his head. Because Lenny Bruce had a reputation for wacky behavior, this image keeps his memory honest and comical. Lenny Bruce’s intensity and humor are portrayed in Carole’s last painting of this series. In Dancing With Misfits: Eye Dazzler: Damn Bull Had The Whole Milky Way In That Hoof, Lenny Bruce is holding a gun to his head. This image can be perceived in a lighthearted way or as a remembrance of how Lenny Bruce died from a drug overdose.
Carole says she is a rock-n-roll chick. She loves punk rock music and rock-n-roll. These paintings are punk rock music. Visually, they throw you into a metaphoric mosh pit. Therefore, it is important not to neglect one of Carole’s favorite musicians-Arthur Lee from Love. He can be found peering through his sunglasses in the last painting along with Lenny Bruce. Arthur Lee could have been considered the Lenny Bruce of rock. He called himself the first black hippie. He was known for not being a very nice guy- and those could be fighting words for Carole. She even named her Marmalade cat after him. Arthur Lee Caroompas-Carole Caroompas
*Western Project has published a catalog to complement the exhibit. In the catalog are essays by a series of notable artists/friends of Carole. Below are quotes from two essays.
“I don’t recall when we met, but we were both ambitious young artists, and babes, which didn’t hurt either…Alexis Smith, Venice 2007
“I am Mary Poppins, I lay brick. I say Great, urethane or latex? A glitter baby. A rising star.” Paul McCarthy, Los Angeles, October 15, 2007
Noah Becker: Editor-in-Chief