Tacoma Art Museum; Phoenix Art Museum; Washington, D.C., The Corcoran Gallery of Art; Worcester Art Museum, Haring, Disney, Warhol, February - December 1992
One of twelve children born "dirt poor" in a one-room cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains, Dolly Parton, like Andrew Warhola himself, came from humble beginnings. Her songs – unforgettable, narrative, soulful – quickly took on canonical status as living artifacts of 20th century Americana.
Warhol, never one to spite honest superficiality, meets his match with Parton, what with her comically large breast implants, pearlized makeup, and teased hair. It's the pipes and poetry that make Parton the Queen of Country Music and save her from appearing like a mere parody of the female form. Dolly Parton epitomizes the Warholian subject – iconic, self-same, undeniably American. All but subsumed by a corona of platinum curls, she peers out at us with that distinct mixture of earnest heart and amused eyes.
Warhol – King of the Culture Industry, mass producer of mass imagery – was the first to frame a subject like a studio still, with such close focus. Doing so, he was able to depict celebrities as America uniquely perceives them, with idolatry: as our royalty, as our gods. Even the present work, painted in 1985, bears traces of his earliest portraits, still inflected with the visual vocabulary of cinema. Warhol's heroes and heroines, under his gaze, "become dreams that money can buy" (Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994, p.189). Dolly Parton, a paean to camp and kitsch, exemplifies Warhol's unflinching devotion to seductive visual and cultural storytelling.
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