artnet Asks: Marilyn Minter Calls Herself a Photo-Replacer

The pleasures of slow-motion video and why photography endures.

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Marilyn Minter, Orange Crush (2009).
Photo: Courtesy of Salon 94.
Marilyn Minter, Blue Poles (2007).
Photo: Courtesy of Salon 94.
Marilyn Minter, Coral Ridge Towers (Mom in Negligee) (1969).
Photo: Courtesy of Salon 94.
Marilyn Minter, Silver Flicker (2012).
Photo: Courtesy of Salon 94.
Marilyn Minter, Food Porn (1990).
Photo: Courtesy of Salon 94.
Marilyn Minter, Not In These Shoes (2013).
Photo: Courtesy of Salon 94.
Marilyn Minter, Aluminum Foil (1969).
Photo: Courtesy of Salon 94.

Painter, photographer, and provocateur Marilyn Minter, has been collapsing social taboos for over three decades. Reappropriating portrayals of the female form, she embraces fetish, dark glamour, and sexual impulses.

Minter’s focus on the transience of the advertising and fashion industries joins together the beautiful with the grotesque. She oscillates between pornographic undertones and the world of high-end fashion. Her renditions of grainy glitterati show how femininity is often caught in the cross fire of beauty and desire: our innermost compulsions are exploited and our physical imperfections discarded. The critic capitalizes on women’s dual nature to reveal the sensuality behind our so-called blemishes. Her resounding message: our flaws make us human and attractive.

artnet News spoke to Minter about hyper-realism, the future of the advertising industry, and her upcoming exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston.

How does the hyper-realist aesthetic inform your work? 
That’s an interesting question. I know my images are representational, of course, but when I’m painting I am working on small abstract sections which I eventually “stitch” together to create the whole picture. I am more concerned with creating depth and translucency via layering with enamel paint (very thin layers are not opaque) rather than trying to make something look super realistic.

In an interview with the New York Times in June 2010, you described yourself as a “photo-replacer,” can you elaborate? 
I shoot all my own references; the paintings evolve by combining really good parts of many different shots using Photoshop. I never just copy a single negative or frame. When I’m painting I don’t consider it copying, I re-create the image, the very nature of thin layers of enamel paint creates a depth, translucency and lushness that I can’t get from any other medium—including photography.

Your upcoming exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, entitled “Pretty/Dirty,” addresses erotic fantasies and the gritty representation of those fantasies undone. Can you share more about this exhibition?
The show starts from the first photos that I took (of my mother in 1969) all the way up to the last painting I finished in March 2015. We literally finished it the day before the works were shipped to Houston. I don’t focus on erotic fantasies—I just shine a light on what is already there. Sometimes I take a trope that already exists and just push it further, maybe that results in a kind of disintegration.

Some ad campaigns, like those for Aerie lingerie and Dove soap, have seemingly embraced so-called flaws and ditched Photoshop. What would you say about these developments?  
It’s about fucking time!

How has your time as a professor at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York informed or affected your artistic practice? 
They keep me on top of my game! As a teacher I have to know what’s going on. I have to see shows and read essays/articles so I can have an informed dialogue with my students.  Since SVA is so close to all the galleries I can go on field trips with my students after class and we discuss everything.

You began practicing in the 1970s, at a time when our technological landscape was drastically different. Alongside the evolution of digital media and the advent of new tools like Photoshop and high-performance cameras, how has your art practice evolved? 
I like working with digital media. Going from analogue to digital, you lose something but simultaneously gain something extraordinary—that at this point has no limits. I have years of painting experience that I am expanding through all these new tools. I am very enthusiastic about the new slow motion video cameras like the Phantom 4K. I like slowing things down so much that new meanings develop. I am not afraid of change.

“Pretty/Dirty” is on view at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, 5216 Montrose Boulevard, from April 18–August 2. Exhibition visitors must be 18 years of age or older.


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