HOMEDRAG
COREYMICHAELSMITHSON.COMPAINTINGS

This work has had two different incarnations, one in the Summer of 2002, and a second during my MFA thesis show in the Spring of 2004. It is comprised of MANY different photocopied or printed images of the late entertainer Judy Garland, push-pinned into a wall, with accompanying hand-lettered text. The first installation had about 350 photographs, the second had over 1000. During the second run, which was greatly enlarged and more carefully organized, it took a team of three people over three days to arrange and pin the images, and another two days for me to ink the text. We all ended up with blistered thumbs and a deepened appreciation of Judy's deep, tangled, and ultimately spectacular biography.

The photographs are taken from every phase of Judy's short life, representing her from when she was about six months old, up to just a few weeks before her tragic death at the age of forty-seven ... including both the first and last known images taken of her.

We see each person as having one self or one face, but within our lifetimes we are actually hundreds of people. Our cells are dying off and being reborn by the billions. Every molecule of our bodies is eventually replaced, so that we are never quite the same person physically that we were even a few years before. Our constellations are constantly being broken apart and reformed, and yet we remain readily identifiable as individual beings, with assumed and given names, and a variety of recognizable features.

My bottomless fascination with Judy Garland stems partly from my firm conviction that she was one of the greatest natural talents in all human history, and partly from my ideas about the constellatory nature of memory, history, and identity. For many years now, I have been utterly obsessed with her body of work, and the way in which our perception of her is continually re-shaped decades after her death. Ever since an inexplicable (I hesitate to use the word "supernatural") experience in Hoboken, NJ, 1993, I've felt haunted by her. Some of this work responds to that incident, and some of it is a play on my reputation among friends, coworkers and family as a guy who is (as one former student put it) "obsessed with some dead movie star". It's hard to explain, and I know that it sounds ridiculous, but my entire conception of human spirituality has come about because of my relationship with Judy and the fragments of her "ghost".

Judy's life is fully documented, with a visual and auditory record so rich and complex it boggles the imagination. With such a record, it is possible to construct a telescoped representation of her entire persona, the trajectory of her whole being through time and space. But this record does not really deliver HER ... it is merely a group of images of different phases of her existence. The real "ghost" exists collectively in millions of minds and hearts and memories. There is not one Frances Ethel Gumm Rose Minnelli Luft Herrons Deans, but rather, a collective of Judy Garland that we can assign certain traits or parameters. If you look at an image of her in 1937, and compare it to an image in 1959, you would never believe it was the same person. In a sense, it wasn't ... yet we still conceive of BOTH people as one "Judy Garland". This work is made with great love and reverence for her, but it is also one of the coldest and most probing pieces I've ever made. People are extremely polarized about this work ... either they fail to see the point, or they are moved by the heartfelt gesture. Let me tell you, it was very emotionally difficult to face her entire public life through only photocopies. Because I can never meet her in person, express how much she means to me (in her life, in her work, and in her death), this is the only way that I can really attempt to commune with her, by way of searching through the imprint she left behind on the public consciousness.

And besides all that, Judy G was DA BOMB!!! Simply put ... the greatest artist of the 20th Century. Nobody really comes close to her in terms of artistic range, output, expressiveness, wit, and connection to an audience. And that extra special little bit of magic that keeps us Judy cultists connected to her.

The wall text of the piece reads:

Even gods are mortal.
Talent will not save us.
Rarity is usually exploited.
All legends have their origins.
We can never expect a smooth ride.
Nothing is certain. Not now, not ever.
The record of our lives telescopes history.
We are born, we die, we are reborn in myth.
Our vices and our graces do battle in our faces.
Public scrutiny is both rewarding and devastating.
Manufactured dreams can become real-life nightmares.
The trajectory of our lives passes through many overlapping selves.
The imprint we leave upon the public consciousness is a form of afterlife.
The living reveal the secrets of the dead, and the dead reveal the secrets of life.

Do or die.
Persevere.
Keep on smiling.
Deliver the goods.
Become your myth.
Surrender, Dorothy.


Birth: June 10th, 1922 - Grand Rapids, Minnesota
Death: June 22nd, 1969 - London, England


Born on the day of laughter and sadness.