Beautiful and Damned – Pam Glew
It’s been a while since I posted about an exhibition
but I am back in the swing of things and thought I’d share one of my all time favourite exhibitions with you.
Originally showcased in 2011 at the Blackall Studios in Shoreditch, ‘Beautiful & Damned’ is the wonderful creation of contemporary artist Pam Glew. Featured icons from the early twentieth century; silver screen giants, performers and famous society figures who truly embodied the spirit of the infamous Jazz Age.
The exhibition title, taken from the title of the classic 1922 F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, is a fitting one for the subjects featured in the exhibition. The beautiful and glamorous icons of the early twentieth century are tinged with sadness as the tragic aspects of their personal lives are brought to our attention.
The striking images of the likes of Ginger Rogers, Josephine Baker, Clara Bow and Charles Lindbergh are presented as prints on found materials from the same period. Using bleach, Pam Glew strips away pigments to create haunting portraits. The resulting ethereal and ghostly images allude not only to the depicted subject but to the fragility of human life on the whole.
One of the stand out pieces for me was ‘Flapper.’ A portrait of Clara Bow, beneath the ultimate flapper and silent film star image lay a girl who battled schizophrenia, chronic insomnia, survived a suicide attempt and an attack by her psychotic mother.
My favourite portrait however, was the haunting piece entitled ‘Swan’, a portrait of Lupe Velez. I had previously not heard of Lupe Velez but I was drawn to her portrait. A beautiful young woman who was rejected by her married lover when she fell pregnant. The rejection drove her to commit suicide, she covered her bedroom in flowers and candles and took an overdose of barbiturates however it is said she drowned in her bath. Her story became the stuff of pop culture and was turned into a film ‘Lupe’ by Andy Warhol in 1965 with his muse Edie Sedgwick playing the title role.
The exhibition was a very poignant and thought provoking experience; a glamorous image can mask an inner turmoil and a battle with personal demons. Their names and faces have stood the test of time and have gone down in history as the pinnacle of glamour. But whilst they may have been beautiful, they were ultimately damned.