(Not really about language, but mostly about art.)

Drifting through recollections of time past, I came up with the artist Marisol, with whom I had a distant connection when I lived in Cambridge MA. A pleasure to get reacquainted with her work after many years.

The very short Wikipedia version:

Maria Sol Escobar (born May 22, 1930), otherwise known simply as Marisol, is a sculptor born in Paris of Venezuelan lineage, living in Europe, the United States and Caracas.

Not just a sculptor (though she has done a number of pieces of more or less straightforward sculpture), but the creator of many works variously referred to as “assemblages”, “constructions”, or “installations”, for instance these two:

“The Cocktail Party,” by Marisol Escobar, an assemblage of 15 free-standing figures and wall panel with painted wood, cloth, plastic, shoes, jewelry, mirror, television set and other accessories, 1965-6. (link)

“Self-Portrait Looking at The Last Supper”, 1982–84; In this monumental thirty-foot-long construction (matching the fresco’s length), Marisol faithfully translates the illusionistic perspective of the painting into three-dimensional form and space. The fresco’s ambiguities (between reality and illusion and plane and volume) resonate in the sculpture, where our perception constantly shifts between two dimensions and three as the seated figures are neither fully rounded nor consistently flat. (link)

How do we describe the relationship between Marisol’s Last Supper and the original? As a translation (like a translations of a literary work from one language into another)? As a realization in a different medium (like the film version of a book or a stage production)? Simply as a new realization (like a jazz version of a pop standard)? As a reinterpretation (like a new staging of a play or a re-make of a film or a “cover” of a piece of popular music)? Simply as a new interpretation (like a fresh performance of a familiar play or piece of music)? As a repurposing of an existing work (like a collage based on an existing piece of art)? Merely as a reference to an existing work (as in Gordon Parks’s bitter allusion to Grant Wood’s “American Gothic”, here)? Or even as a parody or burlesque (like a literary parody or burlesque — not at all the case, I think, for Marisol’s Last Supper)?

In each case, the artistic work is based on another work, but the intentions of the artist, the way the artist uses the original, and the effects on the audience differ from case to case.

(Recent brief discussion of parodies in the visual arts here. And earlier discussion of Harald Seiwert’s homo-reinterpretations of various works of art, intended as homage but sometimes bordering on parody, here.)

3 Responses to “Marisol”

  1. mae Says:

    I’m impressed by your concentration here on serious works of art that parody or echo or quote other works of art while taking them seriously, even if the tone is also playful. I’ve been collecting what I think of as Mona Lisa parodies for a number of years, and I do indeed have some that conform to your description, but I also have many that are utterly not serious, such as greeting cards, ads, and silly post carts. Some are completely not art at all but purely kitch (like a hologram of Mona Lisa that obviously started with a really terrible 3-d sculpture, or a Mona Lisa soap dish with soap coming out of her head).

    So I thank you for nudging me in a higher direction!


  2. Chris Waigl Says:

    When I had read up to “How do we describe the relationship between Marisol’s Last Supper and the original? As a translation…”, the term that was coming to my mind was “quote”. More than a mere reference. Maybe a translated quote, as it commonly happens in writing.

  3. Burlesques, parodies, playful allusions « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Marisol (link:  Marisol’s Last Supper: translation, reinterpretation, […]

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