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Marilyn Minter has been considering representations and ramifications of glamour
for the last thirty years, but it is worth considering just what is connoted by the
word. Minter, it seems, defines this concept by the book, or at least intuitively leans
toward its etymological truth, which aligns glamour with magic spells and illusory
attractiveness—never with fictional ideas that propose glamour as some kind of
natural condition. All of which is to say that Minter has been plumbing the depths of
(al)chemical beauty (and its breakdowns) for a very long time.
In one of her earliest series of work, a group of black-and-white photographs from
the late 1960s, Minter went right to the source—her own mother. Snapping pictures
of her aging, substance-abusing, bedridden parent, Minter captured the queasy day-
to-day undoings and recastings of physical appearance. Obsessed with tasks of
pruning and priming, Minter’s mother, clad in nightgown and propped with pillows,
refused to let even a stray eyebrow lay seed. The photographs, at once gorgeous
and grotesque, made nearly everyone who saw them so uncomfortable that the
artist hid them away in a drawer for the next three decades.
In conjunction with her practice of photography, Minter makes paintings (enamel on
metal), showing a special interest in Photo-Realist methods of representation.
Culling imagery from cooking shows, porn videos, and beauty advertisements, the
artist posits a visual continuity between seemingly disjunctive sensual experiences.
By intentionally conflating the pleasures of cuisine and cunnilingus, Minter renders
straightforward yet ambiguous images that shore up the constructed nature of their
In Minter’s hands, a lobster tail is apt to become infinitely sexier than a penis, and
the accoutrements of beauty will never ensure perfection. In recent works, she
paints hyperrealistic images that look more photographic than photographs, and
snaps photographs that look utterly painterly. Choosing models whose race and
gender are open to interpretation, Minter hones in (literally and figuratively) on the
imperfect trappings of high couture in large-scale color photographs and paintings
that at once magnify, fetishize, and abject their subjects. Plumped, rouge-stained
lips drip with slimy egg yolk; the glittered eye of a model is accompanied by a peach-
fuzzed face; the wearer of studded Christian Dior pumps has apparently been
doused in mud, and dirt infiltrates every crease of her perfectly manicured feet. The
ambivalence in Minter’s works does not leave us any less seduced by them: we
simply have a harder time cleaning up and simplifying the true nature of our much
more complicated desires.