In Many Ways These Movie Stars are Bigger Than Life

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Photographs by Douglas Kirkland Photo credit: Edward Goldman

Installation shot, Douglas Kirkland. Palos Verdes Art Center. Photo credit: Edward Goldman.

Last weekend, feeling restless, I spent hours driving on the freeways, in spite of the forecast of rain. On Saturday, I drove South, to Rancho Palos Verdes, for the opening of an exhibition of photographs by the legendary Hollywood photographer, Douglas Kirkland. As I approached Palos Verdes Art Center, I almost lost control of the car – gigantic photos of Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and John Lennon were wrapped around the building, in the most dramatic way.

L & R:  Installation shot, Douglas Kirkland. Palos Verdes Art Center. Photo credit: Edward Goldman.

For more than six decades, Douglas Kirkland photographed major film celebrities. He worked on the set of more than 150 motion pictures, including The Sound of Music, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Titanic, and the list goes on…

L & R:  Installation shots, Douglas Kirkland. Palos Verdes Art Center. Photo credit: Edward Goldman.

And if that is not enough, how about almost a dozen publications in the last 30 years that feature his photographs? To name just a few: An Evening with Marilyn Monroe (2002), Coco Chanel: Three Weeks (2008), and his latest, Physical Poetry Alphabet (2018)

L & R:  Installation shots, Douglas Kirkland. Palos Verdes Art Center. Photo credit: Edward Goldman.

The unusual thing about this exhibition is that all the photographic prints are simply tacked to the walls in a very informal way – no frames, no glass. To a certain extent, the design of the exhibition echoes the bohemian spirit of Kirkland’s home studio in Laurel Canyon, that I recently visited and talked about a couple weeks ago. I’ve known Douglas and his wife, Francoise, for years, and enjoyed their stories about all these bigger-than-life personalities. But, even if you haven’t heard these stories, just by looking at his photographs you can tell that these famous people trusted Douglas enough to drop their façade and bare their souls.

Douglas Kirkland and Brigitte Bardot at the opening of his exhibition at Palos Verdes Art Center, Douglas Kirkland. Photo credit: Edward Goldman.

The exhibition opening was jammed with friends and fans, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to snap a photo of Douglas with a monitor displaying his photographs on a loop. Take a look at this image of him in front of gorgeous Brigitte Bardot, the iconic French movie star of the 1960s. Doesn’t it feel like she is “looking at you, kid”?

Installation shot, Out of the Storage and Into the Light: Sculptures That Tell Stories. Santa Barbara Museum of Art. Photo credit: Edward Goldman.

On Sunday, in search of another adventure, I drove North, to check out the latest at Santa Barbara Museum of Art. The museum has been undergoing renovations for the last 5 years, which are scheduled to be finished by Summer of next year. Meanwhile, a small section of the museum is open for temporary exhibitions featuring work from their permanent collection.

Unbeknownst to me, I arrived on the first day of an exhibition with the titillating title, "Out of Storage and Into the Light: Sculptures That Tell Stories." Several dozen sculptures from different cultures, from different millennia, form a very unusual crowd, full of unexpected interactions. Many of these sculptures have been locked up in storage and it’s the first time they have been on display at the museum. As an interesting coincidence, the following day, The New York Times published a front-page article about museums’ buried treasures, with the subtitle, “Basements Are Stuffed with Art That May Never Be Shown”. Yes, traditionally, only 3-5% of museum collections are on display. The rest is hidden and available only to scholars. With this in mind, I want to compliment Santa Barbara Museum of Art for making such an inspiring presentation of treasures that we, visitors, would otherwise never get to see.



Kathleen Yore