What's Happening? Nina Burleigh Takes On Claes Oldenburg

In her 1998 biography of Mary Pinchot Meyer, Nina Burleigh used Stars, Claes Oldenburg's Happening at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art's 1963 Pop Art Festival, as a bellwether for sophisticated Georgetown/Washington's temperament towards contemporary art. Here's how Burleigh described the event [from p. 202]:

Stars: A Farce for Objects Designed by Claes Oldenburg and involving twenty-one players, the happening lampooned official Washington and satirized the capital's iconography. One pieces was a huge sewn miniature of the Washington Monument moving around by means of seven people huddled inside. One scene involved a very well-endowed naked woman coming down some steps, and included such absurdities as a roller skater, a waiter carrying a tray and spilling colored foam rubber bits, a girl brushing her teeth, two men spraying room deodorant, a woman undulating inside two mattresses, a girl ironing, and a child dishing out blue frosting. It was accompanied by drumbeats and a rendition of "Sweet Leilani." Each action was repeated twenty-four times. It was received with annoyance by the art critic for the Washington Evening Star, who found the whole evening tedious. The show, he wrote, "will be repeated and repeated and repeated tonight."
Here's another rendition of "Sweet Leilani," by the incomparable Hawaiian duo Basil and Pat Henriques.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: March 30, 2010.

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