“Previous Images” is about the various personas I inhabited as an actress, artist, and a person. I have drawn my paintings from movies in which I starred with legendary film giants such as: Robert Mitchum in “Thunder Road,” Jack Nicholson and Boris Karloff in “The Terror,” directed by Roger Corman and Francis Ford Coppola, Vincent Price in “The Tower of London,” and “Frankenstein’s Daughter.”
The persona, the mask, is that face we present to the outer world, which masks our true self. It is all about the image that we “are not,” even if it is from the past. I paint the characters I played, so it is a three-way dialogue between the painter, the actress, and the character.
In antiquity, the persona was the mask worn by an actor. To quote Carl Jung:
“The persona…is the individual’s system of adaptation to, or the manner he assumes in dealing with, the world. Every calling or profession, for example, has its own characteristic persona. … the danger is that (people) become identical with their personas – the professor with his textbook, the tenor with his voice. One could say, with little exaggeration, that the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.”
When I paint I become a camera focusing with close-ups, long shots, medium shots on the canvas, which has replaced the movie screen. I am as much director as painter. My paintings are stills from a narrative that others have created. Yet from these stills, like lobby posters, the drama of the image entices the viewer to want to see more.
The paintings are memory portraits of the characters I have played. Many of these characters – as well as the films – have become cult classics. A three-way dialogue emerges between artist, actress, and the character in the film. The time line collapses, past and present merge.
The characters are archetypes, but they are also women I once inhabited. I once entered their persona like Cocteau’s Orpheus stepping through the mirror. Once again, moving inside the character as the painter, I try to recapture not only who they were, but also those mysterious facets of the character that still live within me.
Many of the images hint at the torment, longing and identity crisis I faced when the films were made. Hopefully the audience viewing these images will better understand the complexity, the humor, the anguish, and also the innocence of being in that filmmaking era.
I’m not interested in ugly images. I’m interested in finding beauty and the invisible soul that might exist simultaneously in the characters and the actress. I’m interested in the soul as a living reality that needs to be acknowledged not only from the character’s point of view, but from the actress’ and ultimately the painter’s point of view as well. Then it can become an experience the viewer can share on many levels. I try to capture beauty within the characters, even within their fabricated images. Film creates things that do not exist and I was part of that fantasy. Now I paint characters that inhabited me, or that I, in a dream like state inhabited, so that a new audience can share, and perhaps question, the nature of who they are.
The horror films that are the subject of my paintings are not at all frightening to today’s audiences – in fact they are rather humorous. My paintings reflect that humor, but they are also serious in the same way we were serious about making the films. The terror and fear the movies created reflected the fears of society – not necessarily the bogie man in the closet or under the bed, but the bogie man of terrorists and death itself. We are entertained and distracted by two hours of negative images in a darkened theater, and perhaps that helps us deal with the negativity in the world. But in the movies it is all illusion; when the filming is over the actors take off their makeup and go home. Perhaps the terror in the world is equally illusory, but we have yet to figure out how to take off our makeup and go home.
I’m always looking for something in the character that tells me she wants to do more, feel more, or escape from where she is in her perception of reality. I like to capture the longing inherent in the human psyche for peace and harmony. I paint the mask, the persona, and the mask transforms itself into other images from other times and places. These other beings I once inhabited, with their other moods and other perspectives taking form, but the “see-er,” remains. What I have seen and felt, things from other cultures and the imagination of the screenwriters, has broadened my understanding, but have they altered the reality of who I am? The images in most of the paintings peer out and look at the viewer demanding recognition. Perhaps the viewer might wonder if we have met before in other times, other places.