Close to half a century after her death, Marilyn Monroe refuses to be silenced, will not be forgotten. This time, she was reincarnated at the hands of artists in Ravenna, Italy. A sombre grey here, a crimson mouth there. Square and broken Sicis tiles become the satin of a dress, the curve of her shoulder, the sparkle in her eye.
“This is for all of us who weren't around when she was alive; our attempt at bringing her back,” said Hameed Khan, MD of Waterworks, which houses Sicis. Each of the mosaic compositions, handmade using tesserae in Murano glass and precious colibri, are part of only 165 pieces in the world.
But bizarrely, the grand total of the works on display was an impecunious four — vastly outnumbered by the champagne flutes and forks. We surmise Limited Edition applies, absurdly, to the show as well.
The images were translations from the seminal photographs by Milton H. Greene, the first person who captured her without the tinge of voyeurism that she was finding increasingly impossible to escape, and attempted to liberate her from the ‘Dumb Blonde' persona that had become her straightjacket. (She famously remarked once, “If I play a stupid girl and ask a stupid question, I've got to follow it through, what am I supposed to do, look intelligent?”)
Greene photographed Monroe in 52 photographic sessions, such as Ballerina, Bed, Circus, Gypsy, Peasant, Graduation, and the famous Black sitting. She was no longer a mere pin-up, nor a powerless waif.
These photographs of her were path-breaking — they went beyond the skin-depth of erotica, portraying a woman that few knew, or wanted to know existed. Milton and Marilyn would create over 5,000 images over four years.
In some ways, the tiles are heart-breaking. Monroe's face, fractured and splintered; much like the public gleefully perceived her personal life to be, and continues to. Perhaps, when we can stop looking back with a tinge of pity, the oh-so-lovely-a-life-gone-to-waste refrain that hangs ominously over her, we will have understood Marilyn Monroe. The evening did attempt that; it was, commendably, more a celebration than a remembering. As friend of Monroe remarked, “She liked to have the power to part the Red Sea.” You look at the images and can't help but think, she possibly did.