Thursday, January 11, 2007

Dark Appeal

Art: The Paintings of Marilyn Manson
Celebritarian Corporation Gallery, Los Angeles (2007)

In the mid-1990s the fabulous Marilyn Manson - atheistic, androgynous and unfailingly articulate - was feted and hated as the most noxious rock star in America.

Delivering sensational stage shows and racking up triple-platinum record sales in the process, the glam-metal god formerly known as Brian Warner proved to be the choice of a generation.

Predictably, his band's controversial performances, overt anti-religious sentiment and references to sex, drugs, and violence put the willies up the establishment, with Al Gore's Veep choice - the dull Joe Lieberman - referring to Manson as "perhaps the sickest group ever promoted by a mainstream record company".

Demonized by Tipper Gore's PMRC as a malignant vampire responsible for the moral decline of America’s youth, the shock-rocker was even blamed for the tragic killings at Columbine High School.

Equating unbridled individuality with immorality, conservatives klutzily failed to grasp the obvious: that tragedies such as Columbine defy simple explanation, causing lamebrain fogies to seize upon scapegoats like Manson as fair game.

('Enabler', Watercolor, by Marilyn Manson)

Exhibiting a moral intelligence which evades his critics, Manson reveals that America's greatest fear is chaos, and the demons we condemn live within each of us. Engaged in a constant struggle to impose moral order, America vicariously projects its guilt onto its icons, from Presley and Clinton to Manson himself.

Thus the very name Marilyn Manson indicts the despair and media hypocrisy which turns outlaws into folk heroes, commodifying them in the process.

The delicious irony is that in interviews Manson reveals himself as an engaging, articulate puppy dog, quite the opposite of the demonic image foisted upon him, and which he has artfully encouraged.

Manson's outrageous schtick was in fact meaningful and sophisticated performance art, his music, though not groundbreaking (it drew heavily upon Alice Cooper and David Bowie), packing a fantastic visceral punch.

Like Eminem, his hip-hop counterpart and fellow mid-90s enfant terrible, he drew fire because he spoke the truth, had something to say to his audience, and did not talk down to them (tales abound of Manson’s acts of kindness to young followers).

Like any sensible antichrist, Manson naturally used his notoriety to sell records and exploit the media, but knowing fans easily grasped his critiques of a) dissolute hypocrisy and b) corporate campaigns of fear and consumption.

Following in the footsteps of many music icons before him - Miles Davis, John Lennon, Syd Barrett, Joni Mitchell, Klaus Voorman, Captain Beefheart - Manson has long been involved in visual art.

Incorporated during his career as album covers and stage designs, his paintings have enjoyed a cultish following among his Hollywood friends. Already praised for solo exhibitions of his watercolors in LA, Paris and Berlin, Manson now curates his own Los Angeles gallery.

He has correctly insisted that “art is far more important than politics”, and his art collective, Celebritarian Corporation, satirizes the cult of celebrity, proclaiming “We will sell our shadow to those who stand within it.”

('When I get Old', Absinthe & Watercolor, by Marilyn Manson)

Checking Manson’s artworks - watercolors and mixed media - it becomes clear that the rocker possesses some genuine artistic talent.

Not yet a fully-realized visual artist, he is the classic gifted amateur, with an intuitive grasp of basic elements of form, color and line.

If occasionally clumsy and trite, his paintings possess a dark appeal, referencing the highly-charged work of Austrian expressionist Egon Schiele. In fact, they are just the kinds of images you’d expect a Goth Rock idol to be producing within the velvet confines of his Hollywood mansion.

They include portraits of movie star buddies like Angelina Jolie (a hemic, visceral nude), representations of shadowy childhood innocence, disturbing Christian images of death and sexuality, and musings on the human propensity for violence. All in all, the pernicious Brian Warner brings it off with some aplomb.

These arresting images are only part of the reason why 2007 is shaping up to be a great year for Marilyn disciples.

Presently hogging the headlines with news of his divorce from stripper Dita Von Teese, Manson is soon to be seen in his horror flick, Phantasmagoria: The Visions of Lewis Carroll.

On paper it sounds like a hoot, and with his excellent web site undergoing an expensive refit PLUS a new album in the works, it looks like fans are in for an explosive relaunch of the magnificent Marilyn.

Manson’s website:
Manson's Art:
Video: Thoughts of Marilyn Manson


Romper Stomper said...

As usual, Shiffi, nice thoughts on MM. Thanks for posting the video link, it's great food for thought and the man's a genius,

Ricardo said...

Marilyn rocks!

Anonymous said...

I am blown away by Marilyn Mansion's art work,unique and just his own,i have never seen such art work before,I am wowed by it and he ranks high in the art world,as far as I am concerned.I never have liked just drawing from photo pictures or just redoing what your eye sees but what you see that others do not,that is the way to do it..Great art,all your own and I like your style..barb barker terrace bc canada..I do my own art work and totally different too,one day I hope to share it with the world..

Shiffi Le Soy said...

Helllo Barb and thanx for your comments. Maybe we'll be able to see your art works someday. Hope things are fine in BC!

blogsurfer said...

Marilyn Manson may have not started like the usual icon does, may have lots of issues he got involved with, his type of music weren't that much appreciated 'till it's peak, but this guy really know how to make a diffrence. Nice work! He have his own way, and that makes him unique. These peices he made, may have not seem to be like those really expensive artworks that is being sold and collected, but sure it's nice.

Kold_Kadavr_flatliner, sub/dude said...

Where would you like to see Marilyn go at death's hour? He sez Hell's one, big party for eternity (far from it - fulla filth, darkness, despair), conforming youth into thinking Satan's their friend (far from it - Satan uses the angst-filled-kids to spread his hatred), diss'n Jesus our Saviour, and having sex with homos; actually, Marilyn's just a sinfull mortal who has yet to grow-up --- If you're not with Jesus, you're against Jesus. Up or down. Only 2 realms after our demise... and 1 of 'em ain't too cool. Ain't no in between, brudda. Turn or burn. God bless you. Hope to see you in Heaven, yet, that only can be decided by one person. YOU.