Friday, May 25, 2012

Arty Farty Friday ~ Iconic Image

A slightly different arty farty angle this week. A look at how an iconic photograph caught, and appears to hold, the creative imagination of so many.

Sun's in Gemini, Marilyn Monroe was born - Norma Jean beneath her iconic mask - with Sun and Mercury in Gemini on 1 June 1926. She had Moon and Jupiter in Aquarius, Leo rising. Her natal chart is available at Astrodatabank. An interpretation of it, written by Glorija Lawrence to celebrate Marilyn's would-have-been 80th birthday in 2006, is at

My husband (screen-name anyjazz) wrote of what he calls the "Marilyn Moment" phenomenon back in 2007 and constructed several blog pages on the topic. With his permission I've gathered a few of his remarks here, links to original pages follow.
The event was a publicity stunt dreamt up by director Billy Wilder and team to promote the 1955 movie Seven Year Itch. It starred Marilyn Monroe and Tom Ewell. The event was the filming of the sidewalk scene of Marilyn’s character enjoying the breeze coming up from the subway grating on a hot New York evening.

And so the little scene left a lasting impression on the world. More than fifty years later the scene is still quoted or remembered when anything resembling Marilyn Monroe’s blowing skirt is encountered.

Great statues or important portraits take us only to a general memory of something or someone, an ideal or an idea.

There have been only a scant few visual items that imbed in our memories so deeply that they become our signal reference point at each reminder. Can you look at two parallel smokestacks on a skyline without thinking of the Twin Towers? When you see two people running toward each other do you think of Heathcliff and Catherine from Wuthering Heights? These are unintentional or general stimuli that take your mind to a specific bit of time.

Non-visual triggers are fairly common. When the Johann Strauss “Blue Danube Waltz” is heard, who does not think of a space ship docking in 2001:A Space Odyssey? Few of us go anywhere else in our mind. If you hear the words “Grassy Knoll”, do you think of the Kennedy Assassination?

The “William Tell Overture” means the “Lone Ranger” to us older folks but that’s just a general memory, not a specific moment. In fact, sounds or music will often take our minds to something general. Now think of a visual image that takes a majority of people back to a specific event. There are only a few.

Pop culture and advertising have given us the orange Tide box, Mickey Mouse, Joe the Camel or Bart Simpson…These are visuals that take you to a GENERAL place, not a specific moment in time.

When seeing the delicate petals of a white poppy fluttering in the breeze, a bit of tissue caught on a twig, or a skirt caught in a sudden gust of wind, do you think of this brief publicity stunt from Billy Wilder? Do you think of Norma Jean Baker? Apparently a very broad spectrum of people do.
Those snips are from posts at the links below, there are lots more photographs to illustrate the topic there too.

Test Pattern
Marilyn Moment
Webshot Links

Some photographs to illustrate the phenomenon. In a few cases clicking on the photograph will take you to the source - often Flickr.

liberty dollars


Marilyn Merlot

Seen by us recently on the sidewalk of a small Texas town:

On a sidewalk in a small Texas town

In butter!

Marilyn Monroe -- in Butter


AND....I found these extras:

Forever Marilyn, a new 26-foot stainless steel and aluminum sculpture by John Seward Johnson II. (In Chicago, I think). See here. Photograph by Annalise Fowler:

Photograph below is by Christine Ayers (2008)~ "In touch with your inner Marilyn: So far, the Olympics don't have synchronized skirt-blowing, but if it becomes an event, the folks in Johannesburg have the symbol ready" (See here)


DC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DC said...

funny....when I saw the image of the poppy I couldn't help but remember a photo I took of a was obvious to me at the time to name the pic "Marilyn's Dress"
here's a link to

Twilight said...

DC ~~~ Great photograph, and exactly on point. Love it! Thanks for the link. :-)

Anonymous said...

GP: MM was a turning point in America`s sexual life concept (and from there for many other countries watching `the leader`). Could not have happened without the pill, too. So many things, as always, go together.

MM was in that sense sort of an `ice braker`, pretty hot though, essentially helping women to overcome `restraint or inhibitions`. For the better or the worse...

Twilight said...

Anonymous/Gian Paul ~~

That's something I hadn't thought about, GP. She was certainly different from most screen idols, presenting a skewed, rather odd mix of attributes: glamour but with a hint of naivete, worldly but somehow not exactly cool, yet able to appeal to so many sophisticates who considered themselves "cool".

To be honest I didn't pay much attention to her at the time - if I had inhibitions it'd have taken more than MM on celluloid to overcome them. But that's just moi. ;-)

anyjazz said...

An insightful page, Twilight. And you found some great new examples. It has become known as the "Marilyn Moment". So many of these photographs would not have a name were it not for Marilyn's iconic scene in Billy Wilder's movie.

Twilight said...

anyjazz ~~ Thanks - but I'm grateful to your original pages and ideas for much of the post.

It's interesting that there are so few iconic images as universally understood as this one. We've discussed it often and tried to think of others, but this one seems unique.

Who knows what's likely to ignite the imagination of the masses so strongly that it remains alight over many decades?