Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

“They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t,” observed Norma Jeane Baker—you know her better as Marilyn Monroe—regarding the characters the actress portrayed.

However, in her show Hello Norma Jeane, photographer Elaine Sigwald shows there’s much to love about this world famous-icon—who spent a considerable amount of time in Palm Springs.

The show, presented in Archangel Gallery’s middle gallery, is especially timely, as it coincides with Modernism Week and the imminent departure of Seward Johnson’s “Forever Marilyn” from Palm Springs—and it’s especially local, as all but one of Sigwald’s images were taken in either Palm Springs or Cathedral City.

Sigwald goes beyond merely producing photographs of Norma Jeane; she titles each image with an actual quote from Marilyn Monroe. This adds dimensionality to the icon’s mystique and persona, and offers insights into the photographer’s creative process.

The show of 25 photographs includes a grouping of five black-and-white photographs. The remaining prints are in color.

“Whether or not I photo-edit my color prints, I always isolate and intensify the colors,” Sigwald told me. “My goal is to make the colors ‘pop.’

“With the black and whites, there is a balance. I strive to create a ‘warmth’ while retaining the contrast within each photograph. … Using the same technique with each black-and-white image, I ensure that the same balance exists across prints.”

Sigwald notes that she’s very particular about the printing of her photos. “I only use one fine art printer, Gary Kerr (of Fine Art Impressions), who luckily has his studio in Palm Springs. With him, there is partnership; he expertly helps me realizes my creative intent.”

In “I didn’t pay much attention …,” the photographer balances symmetry with complexity quite successfully. The composition—planned or not—contains elements of both Erté and Escher. To create the final product, Sigwald began by extracting a profile image from the “Forever Marilyn” sculpture. After creating a mirror image of the profile, the photographer then fused the profiles so that each face looks outward. A deep black background provides a dramatic contrast to a combination of satin whites, soft pinks and gold. It is Sigwald’s use of colors, attention to details and art-deco quality—especially the shape of the dress—that produce an Erté-esque feel.

In this same image, Sigwald repositions Norma Jeane’s tresses, breasts and dress to force the viewer’s eyes to move across and explore the entire photograph. The skirt balloons out to create a pedestal for the upper half of the image. This attention to detail creates a measured complexity and an elegant simplicity reminiscent of Escher.

You’ll feel like a voyeur with Sigwald’s color image, “I love doing things the censors won’t pass.” The photographer apparently created the image by lying on her back beneath the “Forever Marilyn” statue. Norma Jeane’s legs become structural pillars leading to her lace-trimmed panties.

The skirt, as presented on the top side of the image, looks like the backside of a large, deep-sea-blue fan with the ribs exposed. The bottom section—a trapezoid between Norma Jeane’s legs—has the appearance of deep-blue ink dissipating in water.

At first glance, another image—showing the entirety of “Forever Marilyn,” smiling, while the shadow of a dog approaches—seems whimsical. However, the title—“Dogs don’t bite me. Just people.”—changes the entire tenor of the print: The image becomes telling and almost tragic. The dog becomes menacing, making it difficult to determine whether Norma Jeane’s smile is real or forced. 

Most images bring to the show their own persona and unique reality. One, however, seems out of place: the image of Norma Jeane’s Palm Springs house sans memorabilia. The image does project a sense of distance and nostalgia, as well as a longing for privacy, reinforced by the photographer’s choice of title (“I don’t want everyone to see exactly where I live …”). At the same time, this photograph seems incongruent with the other images in the show. The picture is flat and lacks the personality, emotional depth and lyricism present in the other images.

Still, the show is undeniably worth seeing. Michael Fiacco, Archangel Gallery’s director, was spot-on when he told me about Sigwald: “Her technique, intensity and attention to detail make her one-of-a-kind.”

Hello Norma Jeane is on display through Tuesday, March 18, at Archangel Gallery, 1103 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. An artist reception for Elaine Sigwald will be held from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15. Archangel Gallery is open every day except for Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment. For more information, call 760-320-4795, or visit Full disclosure: Archangel Gallery has exhibited the photography of this article’s author.

Published in Visual Arts

"Give it another chance, Lance!" Sheryl said. "The Tour de Palm Springs is coming up. You can be a star again!"

Though they were no longer romantically linked, Sheryl Crow was Lance Armstrong's biggest fan. "I'm out of shape," Lance explained. "I've been lying on the couch looking at my jerseys on the wall."

"You need to stop moping around all day," Sheryl told him.

"I'm not moping! I'm doping!" Lance insisted. "As soon as I'm done, I'm going to the bicycle shop to check out the new models."

About an hour later, Lance entered the shop and looked around. "May I help you?" the manager said.

"I need a bike with strong spokes," Lance told him.

"You'll have to speak to our spokes person," the manager explained. "Let me get him for you."

A moment later, the manager returned with a soft-spoken man. "I can have your bicycle delivered next week," the man told Lance. "But I can't speak for the spokes. There's been a spike in spoke sales at our Spokane plant. There isn't a speck left."

"Never mind," the cyclist said. "I'll find my own bike." Lance spotted one he liked and bought it on the spot.

He rode it back as fast as he could to show Sheryl. "How do you like my new bike?" he asked.

"It would help if you took the training wheels off," she told him.

Lance got a screwdriver and removed the training wheels. Then he honked the horn on the handlebars. "I'm ready for Palm Springs!" he exclaimed.

"Have a nice ride," Sheryl said as she handed Lance his helmet.

The cyclist was ready for his big comeback. After he arrived in the desert, he located his hotel, the Renaissance Esmeralda.

A man happened to be walking out of the resort just as Lance rode into the driveway. The cyclist recognized the man from TV.

"Aren't you Dr. Sanjay Gupta?” Lance asked.

"That's right," Sanjay replied. "I'm here for the Desert Town Hall lectures. I'm giving a speech on the dangers of doping. Aren't you that Armstrong guy?"

Lance tried to think of something to say. "I'm Louis Armstrong," he told Sanjay as he started singing “Hello Dolly.”

"You don't look like Louis Armstrong," the doctor said. "You must be that other Armstrong."

"You're right," Lance said. "I'm Neil Armstrong. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

"Wait a minute," Sanjay said. "You're Lance Armstrong, the cyclist! You need to come to my lecture. I can help you."

"I don't have time," Lance explained. "The Tour de Palm Springs is about to begin. I have to get to the starting line."

Sanjay gave Lance a Slinky from his pocket. "Whenever you feel the urge to take steroids, just stretch this Slinky instead," the doctor told him. "It works every time."

Lance was grateful. He took his new Slinky and happily made his way to Palm Springs, where the race was just getting under way.

"On your mark, get set, go!" the announcer yelled. Lance sped off with the other cyclists and soon found himself in the lead.

However, the faster Lance went, the more he found he was missing his steroids. He reached into his pocket to get his Slinky, but it had fallen out!

The cyclist immediately pulled over and got off his bike. "Help! I lost my Slinky!" he screamed to the crowd.

One of the spectators spoke up. "I saw what happened," he told Lance. "You lost your Slinky when you rode your bike under the giant Marilyn Monroe statue. It bounced up and got stuck under her dress."

Lance took out his cell phone and called Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "My Slinky is stuck inside Marilyn Monroe!" he exclaimed. "I need you to perform emergency surgery!"

"I'll be right over," Sanjay said. A few minutes later, the doctor arrived, with a CNN crew who covered the event as “breaking news.” The entire nation was on the edge of their seats awaiting the outcome.

Sanjay climbed up on Lance's shoulders so he could reach up into the tall statue. The first thing he noticed was a man's leg sticking out.

The doctor pulled on the man’s leg until he fell to the ground. It was Bill Clinton! "What in the world were you doing in there?" Sanjay asked.

Bill had a big smile on his face. "I was just havin' a look around," he said with a smile.

"Let me borrow your cigar," Sanjay said. "I think I can pry Lance's Slinky out."

Sanjay carefully inserted the cigar and suddenly, the Slinky popped out. Lance caught it and stretched it as far as he could.

"There's still time to finish the race!" he said as he got back on his bike.

Lance had so much energy that he couldn't stop. The cyclist raced down the street, knocking over other riders in his path. Unfortunately, he became so erratic that he collided with an air conditioning van just as he reached the finish line.

When the driver got out of the van to assess the damage, Lance immediately knew who he was.

"Aren't you the guy who created the Tour de Palm Springs?" Lance asked.

"Yes, sir, it's Esser," Tim replied. "I know who you are, too. You're Lance Armstrong!"

"I don't allow my riders to use steroids," Tim told Lance. "I'm going to have to detain you in my van."

Lance tried to explain. "I didn't use steroids! I just stretched my Slinky!"

Just then, Sheryl arrived with a group of cyclists. "Our group is called the Free Lance Riders," she explained. "We demand his release."

A reporter approached the group to get an interview. "Excuse me," he said. "I'm a freelance writer. I'd like to ask the Free Lance Riders a few questions."

Tim finally had enough. "Peddle your pedals somewhere else," he told Lance. "You're free to go."

The cyclist was thrilled and decided to announce his plans for the future. "I'm starting my own event," he said. "It's called the Tour de Lance."

Sheryl had plans of her own. "All I wanna do is have some fun until the sun comes up over Palm Canyon Drive," she said.

"That's a good lyric for a song," Lance pointed out.

Published in Humor