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Pez / Pescado

The Spanish language differentiates fish swimming in the sea from those that have been caught. Pez are the living, swimming, shimmering creatures moving with elusive grace in the water. Pescado are those perhaps unlucky fellows who have been caught and are either destined for our dinner plate, thrown back as useless, or kept as bait. I've always loved not just the richness of Spanish, but the fact that it makes such important distinctions.


Queen for a Day

Apparently Queen Victoria had a small copy of a larger crown made, with a mere 1000 of the world’s finest diamonds.   It was not a display of modesty, or a statement of humility, rather the larger crown was just too heavy to wear comfortably.

The opportunity to wear an oversized and not necessarily comfortable crown came to American popular culture in the form of a radio and TV show called “Queen for a Day”.  It was broadcast from 1956 to 1964. While the concept or “gimmick” was to pick a supposedly poor and pitiful woman to reign in Hollywood glory for a day, it was in fact a thinly veiled opportunity to sell products.  To watch it now is to see a long commercial punctuated by minimal reference to the women competing for the crown.  

To watch it as a child, for me at least, was to feel both envy and confusion.  For one thing there was a meter to enable the audience to pick the most pitiful of the poor contestants.  And once that was accomplished, the stage curtains would part and magically there would be the crutches for little Johnny and more fundamentally, there was the maytag washer and dryer that would transform the “Queen”s life into one of ease and leisure.

The meter and the instantly set stage were to me suspicious.  On the other hand, the crown, the mink stole, the fanfare, bouquets and attention, were very enticing.  Most of my peers very much wanted to be princesses if not queens. 

My work for 50-50 is not an attempt to respond politically to the disastrous implications of “Queen for a Day”, or to the current issues facing women.  Rather I saw it as an opportunity to play with the concept.  Few of the women I’ve portrayed have anything approaching a genuine crown or resemble anyone’s concept of royalty.   Perhaps they are just queens of silliness, or queens of their own lives, and that is accomplishment enough.

The work is mixed media collage incorporating found images, papers, acrylic paint and hand drawn faces.  Each work has been sealed with gel medium, which should preserve it for many years.


A Revisionist View of Personal History

Federico Fellini said: “All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.”

It’s not clear to me how many options we have when facing our past, our demons, our perceived deficiencies. We could spend years in therapy, we could cover our eyes and pretend, or perhaps we could twist and revise those things through our art.

A revisionist view is one that reinterprets the evidence, perhaps distorting the facts and bending them for other (not always nefarious) purposes. Indulging in this allows one to present the past in more favorable terms.

Acknowledging Fellini’s observation, I am returning to that data, choosing to revise it, and perhaps put it to better use. Much of this work was stimulated by original copies of 1948 and 1949 of “Children’s Playmate” magazine and incorporates pieces from its pages.


Self Portraits According to My Mother

Each of us carries messages delivered either with love or ambivalence from our parents.  These may become theme songs in our lives, background noise or form the basis of how we feel about ourselves. 

The tasks of adulthood may require some form of reconciliation with those archaic messages: taking them to task, examining them with new eyes, accepting or rejecting them. 

I’ve used this series as part of that process for myself.  As with my other mixed media work, I used scraps of fabric, old neck ties, a small photo and other less identifiable materials. 

Collage & Mixed Media

© 2019 Marsha Balian. All rights reserved.