Four lipsticks, three sticks of concealer, one jar of foundation makeup, one urinal.
The goal: Decorate the urinal with makeup, in keeping with the wishes of a late artist who provided neither written instructions nor color photos for the work of art she created 22 years ago.
For our little art museum world, where only certain staff members are allowed to touch works of art–and then only with gloves–the task seemed to carry a lot of responsibility. We had to override our worries in order to share the work with visitors.
Marianne, Andrew W. Mellon Coordinator of Academic Programs at the Nasher Museum, guided two interns and two museum staffers recently in the recreation of All Access Fountain by Angela Bourodimos. The installation is part of Exposing the Gaze: Gender and Sexuality in Art, on view at the Nasher Museum through June 16.
Our main clue was a black-and-white photo from the catalogue produced for the 1993 exhibition Soho at Duke IV: In Search of Self at the former Duke University Museum of Art. Other hints came from the box containing parts for the installation, including worn-down lipstick and a half-empty bottle of liquid foundation. The makeup brand has since been discontinued, but the parent company makes Wet n’ Wild.
“We went and bought Wet n’ Wild,” Marianne said. “And we tried to match it.”
A day later, we received the color image below from Valerie Hillings, the Duke student curator in 1993, and now associate curator and manager, curatorial affairs, the Abu Dhabi Project, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Valerie is on the left, with artist Angela Bourodimos (middle) and student co-curator Elise Costantino Hurley. Elise was until recently a curator at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The team carefully and slowly smeared lipstick and concealer over the cold porcelain. The artist Angela Bourodimos was also an exotic dancer who died in 2009 as a result of complications from plastic surgery. We wondered at the irony of the cause of the artist’s death.
“It actually gave me the idea of putting makeup on a dead body,” said student intern Alice Kim, later. “It was so stiff.”
What was the artist trying to communicate through her work?
“Is she trying to make it pretty?” Marianne asked, smoothing foundation with a foam brush. “Or trying to make it grotesque?”
Erin Hanas, student assistant, told us about interviewing the artist’s mother by phone. She shared her thoughts in another blog post.
IMAGES: Installation and preparation views of All Access Fountain, a 1991 work by Angela Bourodimos (collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University). Photos by J Caldwell.