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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Liz Taylor and the genius of Jason Mecier

In honor of Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Festa's Archive Fever posts a few days early this week with five portraits of her by San Francisco collage artist Jason Mecier. By way of introduction, I've pulled from the archive the note I wrote in Portraits and Installations, a catalogue of original and commissioned work I self-published in 2002. 

Jason Mecier
Three Divas: Maria, Jackie, Liz
1998
beans, macaroni, corn, lemon pits 
Jason Mecier
Four Marthas, after Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Untitled (Laughing and Smoking) 2002
Untitled (Haranguing) 2001
Untitled ("Now how do you like it?") 2002
Untitled (Despair) 1999 
Jason Mecier, a self-described mosaic portrait artist, is best known for his virtuoso bean and noodle collages. My first commissions to him were three 1960s divas, Maria Callas, Jackie O in sunglasses and scarf, and Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, to be done in beans and noodles (the corn was a welcome surprise; it was years before I discovered the lemon pits).  
The obsession with Jackie, Liz and Maria, I must confess, is not mine. It is borrowed from a Yale professor of mine, the poet and essayist Wayne Koestenbaum, whose artistic sensibility with reference to popular culture had, it seemed to me, a great affinity with Jason's. The commissioning of this triptych came as a way of introducing the two artists--in the virtual, artistic realm--to see what Jason would do with the images and icons that Wayne so trenchantly and fancifully analyzed in his books "Jackie Under My Skin" and "The Queen's Throat: Opera, Homosexuality and the Mystery of Desire." 
Jason may be known for his bean-and-noodle collages, but many of his best pieces more closely match the materials to the subject matter. There is Tammy Faye Bakker out of fingernails and nail polish, Demi Moore in G.I. Jane out of dog food (her left tit doubles as a doorbell), Jerry Seinfeld out of breakfast cereal, Martha Stewart out of cold cuts. Over the course of three years, I have commissioned the quartet of mosaics picturing Liz Taylor as Martha in Mike Nichols's movie adaptation of Edward Albee's play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" The thematically inspired materials are broken booze bottles and cigarette butts. Look for the rubbing alcohol label in the fourth mosaic (Despair), and the pregnancy warning label in the third ("Now how do you like it?"). Also note, in the background of the third one, the figure of George Segal as Nick trying to restrain Martha. 





Jason Mecier
Four Marthas, after Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Untitled (Laughing and Smoking) 2002







Jason Mecier
Four Marthas, after Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Untitled (Haranguing) 2001







Jason Mecier
Four Marthas, after Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Untitled ("Now how do you like it?") 2002






Jason Mecier
Four Marthas, after Liz Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966)
Untitled (Despair) 1999






Jason Mecier
Three Divas: Maria
1998
beans, macaroni, corn, lemon pits






Jason Mecier
Three Divas: Jackie
1998
beans, macaroni, corn, lemon pits






Jason Mecier
Three Divas: Liz
1998
beans, macaroni, corn, lemon pits


5 comments:

Jason Mecier said...

Hi Paul!
Thank you so much for the great documentation and information about these art pieces. I forgot how many portraits I made for you. OMG! I am grateful and also pleasantly surprised that they still look good. Also saddened by Dame Elizabeth Taylor's passing.
With appreciation,
Jason

Paul Festa said...

They are among my most prized possessions Jason.

ilipodscrill said...

these are amazing, thanks for posting them.

Janet said...

you are so lucky to own these! They are stunning.

Paul Festa said...

I feel extremely lucky - both to know Jason and to have been in a position to commission them.

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des R├ęcollets.

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