"Warhol's interest in people- to which his lifelong pursuit of portraiture attests- was not a search for inner truths, but an endless fascination with the theatre of living." - Nicholas Baume (Exh. Cat. Hartford, Wadsworth Atheneum [and travelling], About Face: Andy Warhol Portraits, 1999- 2000, p. 91)
Light-years away from soup cans and Brillo boxes, post-1960's Warhol was an ode to big names and bright lights; a celebration of all the artifices of invention, re-invention and make-believe. With her hourglass figure, red lips and big blonde hair, Dolly Parton is the heart of all that glitters. Always a vision of glamour, no matter her age, the Queen of Country proved to be Warhol's perfect sitter.
As Warhol progressed through the 70's into the 80's, he left behind the faded newsprint portraits of his earlier years, turning the genre instead to that, "imaginary light that makes everyone look good." (Carter Ratcliffe in Exh. Cat., New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Andy Warhol Portraits, 2005, p. 20) Dolly, never once caught on camera without a full face of makeup, seemed to live her life in this fantasy world.
Warhol was very processorial when it came to his commissioned portraits. He would hire a stylist to assist in making his sitter look as glamourous as possible and then would take about 100 different polaroid snapshots, letting the client choose the one they liked best. A tribute to self-invention, these works were not meant as matter of fact portrayals, but rather as utopian images - images of selves re-imagined with heightened brilliance, charm and glitz.
Dolly Parton, 1985 is one of Warhol's great masterpieces of the 1980's for it is the epitomy of this ethos. Dolly is depicted as almost angelic with her pouty red lips and halo of cotton-candied hair. Staring into the camera fearlessly with her green eyes and purple shadow she seems to remind us that life is a stage and on it we can be anything or anybody we want to be.
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