Vanitas Analysis Marilyn

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Critically Looking at Art: Audrey Flack - Marilyn (Vanitas)
My immediate response to Audrey Flack’s Marilyn (Vanitas) is awe and curiosity. It is a beautiful work of art with vibrant colors and interesting still life items. The painting is realistic but also has a surreal quality. The image of a young smiling carefree Marilyn Monroe elicits reverence, yet also sadness. Monroe is an iconic figure yet her tragic existence and early demise contribute greatly to status as an icon.
Marilyn, appears to be an oil painting. It is a still life and the colors are vibrant and saturated. There are many items; the main being the image of a smiling Monroe inside of a open book; her image is on the right side and on the left is a page of unreadable text.
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Marilyn (Vanitas) is photorealistic; Flack does a superb job of using light and dark to give the illusion of dimension. The values contrast in such a way that the light, dark and midtones convey cylindrical qualities, reflective qualities, smooth qualities, etc. Every choice is purposeful and contributes greatly to the realistic dimensionality of the objects. Another aspect of Marilyn (Vanitas) is the use of symbolism and iconography to convey a narrative. Each item is representative of an idea and all together tell a story. According to Gateways to Art, a textbook authored by Debra J. DeWitte, Ralph M. Larmann, and M. Kathryn Shields, their interpretation is that the artwork is “a homage to Marilyn and a reflection on the morality of us all.” (156). They are able to draw this conclusion based on the iconographic meaning of each individual item and the way in which they are arranged on the canvas. Mirrors are meant to reference vanity and also the “transience of youth, beauty, and life” (DeWitt et al. 155). The compact, makeup and pearls refer to Monroe’s mask to the world (DeWitt et al. 155). The calendar, clock, and hourglass are symbols of passing time; a reminder of mortality and the impermanence of life (DeWitt et al. 155). The floating objects and the distorted reflection in the mirror create an otherworldly quality to the painting which contrasts with the realism of the objects that represent time (DeWitt et al. 156). On
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