Dawn Mellor: Madame X and the Party Tricks
Over the past five years Mellor’s work has developed around the relationship between the cult of celebrity, the fan and criminality. In each series of works Mellor casts herself as a criminal character through which her images are invented. Previous incarnations include a pathological pornographer, a lovesick and a sadistic voyeur, as well as a leader of a murderous girl-gang. Through these different ‘criminal’ positions, Mellor mocks the ‘moral’ codes which mainstream entertainment perpetuates, alongside the ‘immoral’ behaviour suggested by the gutter press of the celebrities they expose.
For this exhibition Dawn Mellor has invented a female figure loosely based on the legend of Faust – a homosexual, lewd, drunken and blasphemous magician, who was obsessed with fame and able to conjure up and communicate with the devil. Having cast herself as Madame X, a vulgar, profane woman enthralled by American celebrities, Mellor has created seven images (like the deadly sins), which are her conjured tricks.
Pin up icons, Madonna, Courtney Love, Britney Spears, Nicole Kidman, Whitney Houston, Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow all come under Madame X’s brutal and subversive gaze in this series of riotous, funny, irreverent and sometimes monstrous paintings. As in her earlier work, Mellor takes apart the cult of the muse fashioned by the media machine and reinvents their identities with double-edged meaning.
"In positioning myself as various kinds of criminal characters I hope to relocate the celebrities as ‘actresses’ within the paintings who perform unexpected acts under the direction of the invented persona. The works have been loaded with internal narratives, heavy symbolism and clichéd allegory. In spite of a self-conscious mockery of fans, mainstream entertainment and tabloid journalism I hope to reveal some real sense of desire."
Dawn Mellor, 2001.