Saturday, February 10, 2007

Production Values

The Anna Nicole Show

"As Anna Nicole Smith, the unblushing celebrity whose antics were at once garish and pitiful, collapsed in her suite at a Florida hotel and casino, people sat feeding coins into slot machines five floors below. It was a very American death."
- Ben Cubby & Emily Dunn, "End of a Party Girl," Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 2007.

These two sentences introduced today's Herald article about the life and death of celebrity train-wreck Anna Nicole Smith, whose life literally derailed the other day when she was found dead in a hotel room. Artswipe has always admired Anna Nicole because she embodied the white trash American dream more than any other. Stitched to the nines in shit for brains cheap glamour, Anna Nicole's circuitous path to fame mirrored the Paris Hilton brand except one was born into hotel money, the other died in a hotel with oil money amassed along the way. Anna Nicole's second husband, a Texan oil tycoon, was a million years her senior when she married him at 26 years of age. He dies, she inherits, and her claim to the cash is contested at Supreme Court. At the time a judge asks Anna Nicole about her situation to which she replies: "I just wanted to make a name for myself." The judge presses her: "What name is that?"

"Anna Nicole Smith," is her winning reply.

Maybe she's a little smarter than the former stripper seemed in the media spectacle groundswell following her every chemically-enhanced hiccup. Born Vicky Hogan in 1967, she changed her name to Anna Nicole at the edge of 17. Around that time Anna Nicole was busy getting married to her first (unwealthy) husband and giving birth to son Daniel, who died suddenly five months ago - a mere three days after Anna Nicole's second child was born. When she changed her name to Anna Nicole, she knew fame was all about the name. Her name. For Anna Nicole, her name was an epic neon wonderbolt lighting up the dank cesspool of famous-for-being-famous celebrity skank. Where Paris Hilton's star emits greenhouse gasses, Anna Nicole's saintly sheen could multitask by eclipsing the planet, sending us into a tailspin of darkly drrrty moments that momentarily plugged the hole in the ozone. Those not content to just look on and admire her gifts to the globe could feed coins into her slot machine. It was a very American life.

One of Anna Nicole Smith's paintings

If she knew her name could attract attention, it was no more honed to perfection than in her reality TV show, The Anna Nicole Show (2002-04). In an episode from the second season, "Something Trendy This Way Comes" (2003) Anna Nicole shows her artist side. This was the side Artswipe loved the most. You see, Anna Nicole fit perfectly into the "outsider artist" tradition, which is odd because she was not really outside of anything. She was so in. Regardless of what, where or whom she was "in," Anna Nicole's paintings sported that outsider naïvety, suggesting either arrested development or postmodern chic, you decide. If she'd lived earlier she would have been one of Warhol's superstars, and fought with Brigid Berlin for "just one more qualude, daaarling."

According to Anna Nicole, "part of having an art opening is schmoozing the crowd and sometimes the crowd schmoozes with the artist." One such schmoozer appearing on the show is David Galgano, an art dealer who apparently sells a lot of Andy Warhol work. Talking up her artistic ability while Anna Nicole nods ever so shyly, Galgano describes her work as "pure" and "painted from the gut." Having bought one of her pink paintings, he promises Anna Nicole that he'll hang it in his home next to the Rauschenberg.

Anna Nicole was a pop artist briefly during one year of her life, and Artswipe really admires that. If she'd lived longer, it's near certain she would have curated blockbuster exhibitions at MOMA or the Tate Modern. We just know if Anna Nicole made a pilates or work-out video it would have been so fucking cool that some visionary curator would have shown it on a triple projected screen at the 2010 Venice Biennale. Australian skateboarding video artist Shaun Gladwell would be so jealous she thought of it first he'd ask Anna Nicole to collaborate with him on a video work. Anna Nicole would say no because production values are not just her art, they're her life.

Why Anna Nicole's work isn't represented in all the major collections around the world Artswipe will never comprehend.


UM UM said...

you have made me very happy, and i am usually quite sad.

thank you

lauren said...

as in life, so in death hey..

Angus said...

Brilliant post
i could not agree any more!

she was quite the "oxygen theif" however...

Skanky Jane said...

Wonderful obit Artswiper.


Anonymous said...

But Gladwell's work is symmetrical while Smiths's is asymmetrical. They weren't meant for each other.

Anonymous said...

The nation state enema was heavenly (ahem).