ARTIST: Fernand Leger

Libby Holman, Fernand Leger and Mannequins in Dreams That Money Can Buy

I can't imagine a more perfect blend of people, ideas and art. Here's a clip from the 1947 flim Dreams Money Can Buy, produced and directed by Hans Richter, Dada/surrealist artist. The film, which follows a story line about a man with the talent of seeing into people's minds to help them craft dreams, features segments by Surrealist superstars, Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Fernand Leger. Here's the Leger segment:

Mannequins...Fernand Leger. Be still my seesaw heart. But there's more.

The song, The Girl With the Prefabricated Heart, was sung by Libby Holman, a Jewish, bisexual, broadway star and chanteuse  and a huge supporter of civil rights, anti war and environmental causes. She may be obscure today, but in mid 20th Century America, she was a superstar. Known not just for her stage and recording performances, but also for a scandalous and difficult personal life, as well as for her serious and deeply held committment to political causes.

Libby Holman, 1931
Libby Holman in 1931
 
 
 
Louisa Carpenter, in 1941 she was magager of Robin Hood Theater, Deleware
One of Libby's great loves, Louisa Carpenter. Here, in 1941. Deleware Public Archives.

I'm just going to imagine for a moment that Libby Holman and my mother, Polly Cowan, must have crossed paths at least once in New York City or Connecticut, where they both owned homes.

The soundtrack in the clip above differs slightly from the one in the original. Same song, same singer, but a different recording. Both include Josh White, a now-famous African American folksinger, who Libby worked and sang with, sometimes at great peril to both of them.

 

Libby Holman and Josh White 1944
Libby Holman and Josh White, 1944
hans richter, dreams that money can buy, libby coleman, the girl with the prefabricated heart, photo Arnold Eagle.
Hans Richter on the set of The Girl With The Prefabricated Heart. Photo Arnold Eagle.

More about Libby Holman here and here

More about Josh White here


MAKING A LIZA LEGER

Reader Ginny J-B asked about the reverse painting on glass in the photo of my exhibit at Healthy Living in South Burlington.

The Liza Leger she asked about it is the first one of his works that I FAKEd. I've always been a huge Leger fan. I remember copying "Big Julie" using scraps of color from magazines for my color class during my foundation year at The School Of Visual Arts in NYC. But that wasn't  a FAKE! Yet.

Vitraila1 During the winter of 1999 or 2000 I was doing a lot of painting on windows, experimenting with color and line. I had just discovered a wonderful glass paint made by Pebeo of France. The line is called Vitrail and I love them. When I was looking at a book of paintings by Leger  it dawned on me that the color fields he used in some of his work would look wonderful as translucent shapes.



Liza_pbo_color_chart299_3 Here is the color chart I made for working with the product.











Leger_two_women_with_flowers_orig
This is a scan of the reproduction of the original Leger. Two women and flowers. 1949

Leger_cartoon_blog_2
My cartoon and graph for my FAKE painting.

LIZA LEGER  AKA LIZA COWAN REVERSE PAINTING ON OLD WINDOW

Liza Leger. Two women and flowers. Reverse paint on old window. 2000

I was still experimenting when I made this. Well, I'm always experimenting, but in this case I hadn't used translucent paint and opaque paint on the same piece, and I was initially disappointed with the combination, because when you hold the piece up to the light the opaque paint looks nasty. It is the vines on the edges that are opaque. So the whole translucency of the piece was compromised and it had to be a wall piece. I solved this by backing the painting with white board,  which actually is great because when light is on the piece, it casts shadows onto the white backing, adding a whole new dimension. Extra bonus - the piece changes with the changing light.

I hadn't thought of the FAKE series when I made this. I just wanted to experiment and have a Leger. Most of the works in the actual series work with tweaking the pieces to see how much I can change a painting, add my own "paw" as the French say, and still have it recognizable as a Leger or a Picasso or a Matisse. This one is almost pure Leger. Except it's not.

 

So, thanks for asking, Ginny. And yes, the piece is for sale. Price $1,800.