Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Caricatures Then and Now

Once upon a time (or a Russian) caricature artists, trained classically, offered fluid pen and ink lines. Here's an example: Julie (and company) immortalized before the opening of "Once There was a Russian," co-starring Walter Matthau and Albert Salmi.

The old-fashioned "flattering" heterosexual brand of caricature is now so old-fashioned it doesn't even exist.

The idea is to mix things up, bend the gender, and go for outrage. And then, as RuPaul would phrase it, "sashay away," leaving nothing but admiring gasps.

One of Julie's idols in the world of caricature is "RISKO," who dares to take conventional music and scare something unique out of it. BOO!

You didn't know Julie had pale blue icy eyes? A squidgy nose that resembles Sam "Gunga Din" Jaffe? That her mouth looks like she was eating a pint of strawberries too fast? Well, that's the NEW look, and it's bright and bold, and so clearly captures Julie Newmar.

Or does it? Well, the same artist should not be restricted to just one view.

Another conventional view of women is that they have breasts. That's a bit 20th Century isn't it?

The fact is, if a woman can be a super hero, maybe she has the same chest development as a male? That would be squared pectorals, and a flat behind. Scary? Well, that's the way caricature works. It shakes things up! BOO!

Both of the above are capturing Julie in "super hero" mode, because fans love it. This is especially true of the rabid ones who bark and pant and race over to Facebook to say "You were the BEST CATWOMAN." Their cuteness needs to be rewarded.

However, there's another side to the actress. The garden side. But again, there's no reason to be traditional about it, and shoot for any kind of glamour approach, as the Daily News artist did in promoting "Once There Was a Russian."

With full use of color, and a refusal to accept traditional proportions of heterosexual beauty, here's Julie in a shapeless dress, traditional old lady gray hair, raisin-drooped eyes, and a doleful camel-like pout, although the chin is more moose-jaw than camel jaw. The result is completely original, and can define only one caricaturist's style!

The Margo Feiden Gallery might not even exist anymore (the place where people used to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a New York Times lithograph of one of their famous caricatures. There never WAS a gallery for the Daily News item you see up top. But on the Internet, the challenging world of caricature is available all over, and open to anyone who wants to be unconventional when it comes to what beautiful women look like, or what the human body should or shouldn't resemble. Some aren't so sure about all of this (there are some that don't like graffiti, or even question why RuPaul and his fellows appear in "woman face" when there's no longer "yellow face" or "blackface" anymore. Still, art is very much in the eye of the beholder. In fact, now that there's Photoshop, people can download and alter the art to suit their own perspective. Yes, that's another challenge, but the art world is always enthusiastic about being stood on its ear. Just ask Van Gogh.


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