Saturday, February 26, 2011

Waiting for Hockney

Discontent at squandering his artistic aspirations as a bartender, in 1994-Billy Pappa's decided to embark on a work which would be ten years in the making-a life-size, hyper real portrait of Marylin Monroe.
Using pin sharpened graphite and a magnifying glass, he painstakingly reproduced Richard Avedon's famous image to include pores, peach fuzz, hair follicles and blemishes, boldly said to measure a 1000 dpi.

Upon completion, Billy hit upon the notion that he wanted to present his decade long labor to his hero, David Hockney, thus validating his exercise as well as finding a kinship and champion.

So, armed with his moms poppy seed cake and an entourage that included his pastor, Billy left his home town of Baltimore and secured an audience with Hockney at his Hollywood home. Fame and Fortune ensued.

Except it didn't, and following a former assistants crushing assessment of the meeting said to have been dismissed by the veteran artist as 'Still just that fucking photograph', the harsh realities of Billy's odyssey conclude with a heartbreaking spiral back into bartending, $300,000 in debt to his friend, and the notion that all those years amounted to naught, but a portrait that can only be appreciated when viewed first hand.

What struck me about the film, was that harsh universal truth that troubles every artist, that of aspiration treading the wafer thin line of self delusion,and the elitism of the establishment being anathema to provincial ambition.
Of course,Hockney himself could be said at one time to be a working class boy made good, except as a media darling, stoked with the gloss of Californian superficiality,working on set pieces for Puccini's Opera and champion of the IPad, one would be hard pressed to recall his menial Yorkshire roots.
That said, for all Billy's earnest endeavors, the final results appear disappointingly sterile. Had Billy been acquainted with the work of say Dennis Peterson or even Ron Mueck before he embarked, his perspective could have focused on a subject more worthy of his odyssey. In that regard, Hockney's scathing assertion is right-Monroe as a cipher is ubiquitous to the point of cultural insignificance. Rauschenberg and Warhol, both understood that the visage of her celebrity had become a euphemism for the superfluous, and so trying to imbue new life into the subject could only ever be akin to shining a torch into a black hole.

As Brian Eno once concluded the journey is often more enjoyable than the destination,but as an artist one leaves the film wondering what price the ticket.

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