Sunday, 5 August 2018

So Final. So Over. The Death of an Icon.

Today August 5 commemorates the untimely death of Marilyn Monroe at the age of 36, an effervescent glamour puss and arguably the most famous female icon of all time.

My interest in Marilyn began as a teenager as I was waiting for a flight to Spain for having spent most of my holiday fund on the book by Fred Lawrence Guiles in an airport store and to the consternation of my family, I then spent the rest of the week with my head buried within the pages and I have been reading about her ever since!

Her mysterious death on Sunday August 5 1962 has only added to the myth and intrigue which surrounds her complex and fascinating life and with every passing year, the events of that hot and balmy August weekend in 1962 would appear to demand yet more theories and innuendo as the clamour for reasons to refute the official cause of death as 'Probable Suicide' remains undiminished.

Is it likely that we will ever know the truth of what happened to Marilyn Monroe?


And even if incontrovertible evidence were presented that she did indeed die by her own hand, would we believe it?

For is it possible to accept that a beautiful and talented woman took the conscious decision to end her life one lonely Saturday evening?

'I could see from many feet away that Marilyn was no longer living...'

 The answer is 'probably not' when one considers the demand for the books which are published in ever increasing numbers with each passing year and which all purport to tell us 'The Final Truth'.

Whether it was the tragic 1997 car accident of a Princess who perished for failing to wear a seat belt or the jealous rage of a successful and affable O.J. Simpson leading him to butcher two innocent people on a June evening in 1994; or indeed the probable suicide of the most famous film star of all time; it could be argued that the most logical explanation would appear to be the most absurd.

However; conspiracy theories, motives and explanations aside, all we can know for certain is that the nude body of Marilyn Monroe was discovered in a partially decorated bedroom of her home in Westwood in Los Angeles 56 years ago on this day.


'There she was, laying face down on the bed, bare shoulders exposed...'

For it was the idea of this 'death scene' which captured my imagination for the design of one of my more controversial pieces and as Marilyn had died in the house she had bought only months before with a tiled doorstep bearing the Latin inscription for 'My journey is completed', 'Cursum Perficio' is the recreation of the demise of this icon in 12th scale and inspired by the photographic images and published material available to me.

'And as I got closer, I could see the phone clutched fiercely in her hand..'

The 'Marilyn' figure is the creation of Jain from the Giddy Kipper and although she is internationally known for her 'whimsical' characters in miniature - several of which have now moved in with the other fantastical folk over at the All Hallows Hamlet; Jain would probably be the first to argue that a 'deceased' Marilyn Monroe was very far from the definition of a whimsical character!

‘I suppose she was trying to make a phone call before she was overwhelmed. It was just so unbelievable, so simple and final and over.’ Ralph Greenson

However, having accepted my commission with some bemusement, Jain has created a shockingly poignant figure of some grace and contention which is entirely in keeping with the maelstrom of conspiracy which continues to swirl around the death of this lady, even after all of these years.

Sources Used:
Goddess The Secret Lives of Marilyn Monroe Anthony Summers (UK: Indigo 1985)

Sunday, 8 July 2018

Flaming June! Where Have You Gone To?

It only seems like a week ago to the beginning of last month when I had spent the morning looking at some images of two brides who had both married on the first day of June some years apart and my memories of being surrounded by buckets of glorious sunflowers, fragrant roses and lush foliage as I grappled with scissors, silver wire and the clock!


And although June may have left us for another year, she has been kind enough to leave some glorious weather; although as I was sprinkling the lawn with water earlier today for the Girls to enjoy some grubbing around - I admit to feeling somewhat nostalgic for the occasional rainfall.

Alas, with no rain in sight let's get on with my June Mash-Up!

The Studio:

With the final final dry-build for Nicole's House finally completed - I've been moving sofas and arranging dining room chairs as I plan the logistics of the kitchen design and the creation of a sunken living room.

Having made so many mistakes in the past with rushed constructions, unsatisfactory room plans and abysmal lighting conditions - I've learnt to keep my hands off a dry-build and to simply leave it be until I can imagine myself moving from room to room knowing that every window, fireplace, door and piece of furniture is in the right place.


It was only as I looked at what I thought was the final dry-build did I see the need to lower the roof pitch and that I could also squeeze in another full length window! 


As more images of Nicole's House can been seen on the Brentwood Ghost Blog - there are further exclusives to feast over.

AND having donned my Crooked Hen apron - I have also been experimenting with wire, tape and Mod-Roc to create some trees!


As they will be eventually find themselves among the weird and wonderful in the All Hallows Hamlet - these won't be any kind of ordinary tree!


And by the time I'd finished plastering these strange little trees, I also looked very far from ordinary - with a face of fetching white freckles and those ghost-like hands.

You can catch the big 'Reveal' later this month with a free flight over to the world of the Crooked Hen!

Ancestor Sleuthing and Grave Hunting:

As you can usually find me in the genealogy office at York Cemetery on a Friday, I've been busy ancestor sleuthing for our visitors and grave hunting all manner of interesting folk for my two guided tours in July and August.


The 'Walk on the Art Side' in July will celebrate the lives and legacies of the writers, artist, sculptors and other creatives from whom York Cemetery is their final home and in August I will be leading an evening walk of 'Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths' around the graves of those who met with an unusual end - and given my penchant for storytelling, there should be a surprise or two along the way!

The Other Stuff:

With the demands of my work and the responsibilities as a full-time care giver; I tend not to stray too far from home these days but with a 'day pass' and on the sweltering hot afternoon of the last day of June I took the train to Leeds for the opening party of the 5th annual exhibition of Sketch That - a collection of work by a group of West Yorkshire artists:

Elizabeth Nast, Helen Dryden, Kat Archibald, Letty McHugh, Louise GarrettPixiebiscuit and Rejectamental.


As I champion Helen on social media, it was an nice opportunity to finally meet up and I treated myself to her delightful 'Lettuce on a Chair' who will be coming home with me when the exhibition comes to an end later next month.

If you should find yourself in Leeds before August 13, why not go along to the Ridge Room of the Heart Enterprise and Art Centre in Headingley and meet 'Lettuce' for yourself?

And as I made my way home I couldn't resist popping into the Leeds Samaritans shop and came away with some fabulous steam-punk inspired necklaces perfect for the 'Small Folk' and all for the bargain price of £1.50 as grumpily modelled by Ted!


Family, Feline and Poultry...

As some of you have left me kind messages having been confused by past references to 'my boys' - you can see in this collage of images that they are now both anything but!


For despite the challenges that my life continues to delight and infuriate me with, knowing that they are both seizing life by the collar and are loved by two fabulous girls - well, that's enough for me right now.

And it never ceases to amaze me when I discover the felines enjoying a cat-nap in the most unlikeliest places but perched on top of a Papier Mâché model was a new one for me!


As we're basking in a July heatwave, it's just as well that it seems so wrong to be working on this model for the All Hallows Eve tale now that I have a problem with a squatter of the feline variety!

He certainly looks like he's 'Living in Clover' on his bed of Papier Mâché doesn't he? And if your imaginary inhabitants are in need of a little of that Leprechaun magick,with a pinch of 'Heather' and a pinch of shredded paper money suspended in resin - there is still a vial or two available for sale in the Crooked Hen Gift Shop!



My Bookshelf:

Blessed Are The Weird - Jacob Nordby (Someone who sees the world in the same crazy way as me!)
A Very Private Woman - Nina Burleigh (An interesting biography of a very intriguing artist)
Frances Burney Journals and Letters - Penguin Classics (A fabulous and authentic letter writer and novelist who actually lived through the the glorious 18th century)
The Art of Asking - Amanda Palmer (Crowdfunding pioneer, musician and inspirational!)  
The Georgetown Ladies' Social Club - C. David Heymann (An eavesdrop among the movers and shakers of the Washington elite)
Finding Sarah - Sarah Fergson (A poignant memoir from one of the most colourful members of the British Royal Family!
Domestic Management. With Instructions to Servants in General - Multiple Contributors (I can dream, can't I? Or else I can use this lovely tome for the research of my Lord B house...)


My Playlist:

My favourites for June have been: London Grammar, Tom WalkerEnigma, The Sherlocks, Ben Howard and Taylor Swift.

Must keep that last one quiet from my sons!



May YOUR July be all that you wish!

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Remembering Nicole Brown Simpson...

On Sunday June 12 1994 Nicole Brown Simpson became a public figure overnight for on that balmy Sunday evening she was senselessly and brutally murdered in the grounds of her home at 875 South Bundy Drive in the leafy suburb of Brentwood in California.

Her murder trial and that of her friend Ronald Lyle Goldman who had been murdered alongside her became known as the 'Trial of the Century' with her former husband Orenthal James Simpson as the accused.


It is hard to believe that Nicole was murdered over twenty four years ago for I can remember the BBC news reports and the iconic photographs of the bloody pathway lined with the neat rows of purple and lilac Agapanthus.


I also remember the farcical 'Bronco Chase', the sensational headlines week after week in The National Enquirer, the court testimony of Mark Fuhrman and the shock of the “Not Guilty” verdict on October 3 in the following year.

And yet what I most recall is the realisation of a grotesque dichotomy that despite the voluminous photographs of a beautiful and happy Nicole that she had in fact been abused by Simpson throughout most of their seventeen year relationship.

I just don't see how our stories compare -I was so bad because I wore sweats & left shoes around & didn't keep a perfect house or comb my hair the way you like it - or had dinner ready at the precise moment you walked through the door or that I just plain got on your nerves sometimes...



Published in October 1994 and written by her friend Faye Resnick, Nicole Brown Simpson: A Private Diary of a Life Interrupted was the first book that I ever bought about Nicole and I am still reading about her.


She was the subject of my Thesis in 1999 and remains the purpose for my work ever since.

There are literally hundreds of books that have been written about the life of Nicole and of her life with Simpson and the tales of glamour, celebrity, wealth and beauty have frequently made her appear remote, abstract and insignificant.



Yet it is the very tragedy of her early death that makes her life a compelling human story of hope, love, obsession and betrayal and that is why I choose to remember her.