L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Correcting a grievous cosmetic injustice

Recently, G and I felt like wallowing in extreme camp and got out our copy of Mommie Dearest; you'll have to agree that it more than fits that particular bill.  One of the worst directed and acted A-pictures of all time, in my opinion.  Sadly, I can't truly enjoy the wretchedness of the thing because, while watching nearly every scene, I'm distracted and obsessed by one thing - OK, two things:  the eyebrows.  The misbegotten, misshapen blobs of make-up that were applied to the forehead of Miss Faye Dunaway in a botched attempt to recreate the celebrated eyebrows of Miss Joan Crawford.

The Crawford eyebrows?  You set out to make a biopic of Joan Crawford and that's what you screw up?  Because there are so few pictures of Miss Crawford to work from?  Say what?  Her brows are the most recognizable thing about her appearance; even her shoulder pads have to take second place to the eyebrows.  (The taut and precise mouth comes in third.)  I'm veering clear of her very inspired performance, but at the time this film was made Faye Dunaway was physically pretty much perfect casting for Crawford.  It isn't Crawford's bone structure, honestly, but it really works.  And though I would have given her a darker red lip color in most of the scenes, they got the hair and wardrobe generally, close to... adequate.  Not embarrassing, anyway.  But how did they manage to mangle her eyebrows so badly? 

Early in her career, Crawford had as many variations in eyebrow shape and heft as she did hairstyle and hair color but, by the early forties when Mommie Dearest commences, the two little items had settled into their iconic pattern; with time they colonized more territory, but the shape remained the same: a fairly straight, un-arched line angling slightly up from the bridge of the nose, and then tilting down toward the temple.  (The right eyebrow was usually set a little higher and slightly more rounded; they got more exactly symmetrical as she got older and they got bigger.)  Dunaway's imposter brows are set way too high, start off curved where Crawford's are fairly blunt, and have an immediate big round arch.  (They also make them too heavy too early in the story, so one loses the impact of their ever onward and upward expansion upon her aging face.)  And to make matters infinitely worse, they're hard-edged and shiny with unpowdered eyebrow pencil, pointing out the fact that they're hair-free and completely bogus.  And, goddammit, the real Crawford eyebrows were quite obviously grown.

This level of artistic failure and professional incompetence on the part of Dunaway's make-up people and all others responsible deserves nothing less than the patented Crawford bitch-slap - something along the lines of the specific wailing she gives to Osa Massen toward the beginning of "A Woman's Face" would be appropriate, I think.  But since those responsible for this great cosmetic fiasco are not anywhere at hand, I have resorted to the corrective and healing powers of Photoshop.

 The Genuine Joan:
 The False Joan:
 The Revised False Joan:


In choosing the images, I went with some of the posed "publicity photos" that were created for the film, then tried to find pictures of Crawford that were similar.  I arranged both sets in some some of chronological order but, in my own defense, I don't know what period they were going for with (from left) the fourth and fifth pictures of Miss Faye, so I aimed at somewhere between the fifties and sixties.

As an added bonus, in the lightbox you can click back and forth between the second two images and watch Faye's eyebrows wiggle.  One of life's unexpected pleasures....

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Yesterday, May 15th, was the seventeenth anniversary of my employment at Powell's Books.  Which is absolutely unfathomable to me.  I can't grasp what seventeen years looks like, what it feels like.  So much has happened in that time, but it also seems like that time hasn't passed at all.

(I guess I don't really understand how time functions.  I can't ever really pin it down.  I tend to be just a bit late for a lot of things, almost on time.  Though I nearly always make deadlines and appointments, it often feels as though there's some "higher power" making sure it all lines up for me.  I know some people speak of the passing of time as being an illusion.  That the past, present, and future exists, plays out, concurrently.  Maybe some sense of that concept rattles around in my brain and causes my vagueness.  For me, time floats.)

May of 1995 was also the month I began my career as a professional artist.  While the number of accumulated years still eludes my comprehension, as regards a professional artistic career, at least, seventeen years means something to me.  It means that I've worked hard, made a bunch of art, struggled a bit, learned a lot.  I can say, yes, I am an artist.  A mid-career professional artist.  That's who I am.  That's what I do.

For all of these seventeen years, being an artist and working at Powell's have been the twin aspects that were always the main focus of my attention. But in the last few years there's been a sharp change in the balance of that focus.  It's as though I've always had two lenses, and I would look from one to the other and back again.  For most of this time, my hours spent at Powell's got the bulk of my attention.  I put so much thought and energy - not always wisely deployed - into that environment.  And the view from that lens was always brightly lit and in focus.  By comparison, I was never able to see as clearly from the art lens.  My plans for advancing my career were always of the vaguest nature.  And I never had the time or energy to make enough art which, in turn, always sabotaged any plans I might have made clearer.  I always knew that in order to get further with my art career, I'd need to find a way to recalibrate my focus.

Thanks to some good counseling and working to get clear about what I really wanted to do with my life and career, and thanks to the perfect timing of the Artists Wanted award, I was able to go down to part time at work.  Which changed everything.  Now the balance is much healthier.  When I look through that day-job, part-time-work lens, things look fairly vague.  I can see it for what it is and give it its due, but it doesn't suck me in anymore.  When I look into the lens of my art-making career, the focus is sharp.  There are so many paintings to be made.

I don't know when the lens that represents Powell's will cease to exist.  Beginning, middle, and end aren't always easily distinguishable for me.  It's that time thing, I guess.  But any way I look at it, I'm grateful for the seventeen years so far, what they've taught me, and where they've lead.