Saturday, December 29, 2007

Graciela Iturbide at the Getty in LA: Xicanosmosis Renaissance

The Los Angeles Times's Lynell George weighs in with a well-wrought meditation on Graciela Iturbide's work and its exhibition at the Getty. Iturbide surfs the intrigues of Xicanosmosis with her camera and deserves a gallery of her own in the pantheon of Tex[t]-Mex photographer divas! Read George's piece here in full:

Graciela Iturbide catches the world dreaming

The Mexican photographer finds moments of surprise, acts of self-creation and hints of the surreal at the Getty.

By Lynell George
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

December 30, 2007 | original posting

IMAGINE a world where there are no judgments, no slurs or "bad" words; a place where women move in independence, where age and sexual orientation are moot; where time has adopted a different meter and language is a convergence of deeply understood gestures -- a transcendent place where past, future and present merge for one-sixtieth of a second.

This is no figment of the imagination. These are the truths that have taken form in photographer Graciela Iturbide's eye.

For more than 30 years, Iturbide has been working in the realms of dust, sweat, concrete, chain-link and bleaching sun, unearthing pride, self-confidence, love, eroticism, persistence, survival and the delicate process of self-definition in those who live in the ambiguity of the margins. Her gaze is without judgment, imbued with empathy, bringing the unseen into focus. In small villages in Mexico, she's absorbed the emotional push-pull of la frontera, which echoes again in the day-to-day rituals of East Los Angeles gangs. Near the border and in the inscrutable landscapes of Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi, she's created photographs that eloquently capture what it means to occupy an undefined space, the land of the unnoticed or passed by.

Her images inhabit the province of dreams: The mundane is upended by a juxtaposition, an anachronism -- a woman in near silhouette, dressed in what appears to be a traditional costume, descends a hill into a spreading valley, improbably carrying a boom box. A simple tilt of the frame shifts the plane -- and our way of seeing the world and ourselves.

A student of photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo and perhaps most famous for a prodigious, alluring body of work made over six years in the remote village of Juchitán in Oaxaca, Iturbide, 65, has had a prolific career and has shown all over the world. This month, however, marks her first museum exhibition in Los Angeles. "Danza de la Cabrita (The Goat's Dance)" at the Getty Center contains nearly 140 pieces highlighting Iturbide's work in Mexico and the U.S. -- and the line in the sand that attempts to separate the overlapping lives she's found there. "The Mexican and the American Mexican," says Iturbide, "are marginal people -- on both sides of that line."

Her work expresses "the culture between the culture," says author Luis Rodriguez, who has also been pulled to the worlds that call to Iturbide -- Oaxaca and of course the East L.A. gangs he became famous for writing about in his memoir "Always Running." "It's the way I think of Mexico when I'm in Mexico City. You feel all the layers -- the ancient, the indigenous, the modern all coming together. Her photographs are borderless. Everything comes streaming over it. No border, no wall will stop that."

While her work reflects an amalgam of influences -- there are echoes of Mexican printmakers and muralists and a slithery sense of surrealism -- Iturbide has long been led by a deep certainty she can't consciously calibrate. "I like the surprise," she says, lighting on a padded bench in the Getty gallery, surrounded by almost four decades of work. Her short, spiked hair is slightly windblown, but her gaze is fixed -- she's the picture of calm given that she arrived only hours ago from Mexico City, just in time to see the last frame placed. "If I walk the streets in Rome, in Mexico, in Paris, for me the most important thing is the passion and the surprise that comes with it."

The surprises can be anywhere: on the street, in the tray, on a forgotten contact sheet where she discovers an image that had somehow eluded her. You could call the magic intuition, chance, luck. Echoing Cartier-Bresson and his decisive moment, she calls it "the necessary instant."

Much of Iturbide's life has been marked by necessary instants both tragic and transcendent. The oldest of 13 children born into an upper-middle-class family in Mexico City, Iturbide started on the road to a traditional life. She was married at 19 and soon had children. Still harboring creative desires, she enrolled at the Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinemagraphicos in 1969, thinking she would study screenwriting. In 1970, however, her daughter, Claudia, died suddenly at age 6. She found solace in a course in still photography taught by Álvarez Bravo. As luck or necessary instants would have it, she was the only pupil. Soon, she wasn't simply the student but the assistant-cum-apprentice, her "classes" conducted at Álvarez Bravo's home. "We talked about art and literature, music and painting," she says. "He'd put on Bach and we'd listen. And if I would say, 'Oh, Maestro, how would you make that print?' He would say: 'Kodak has literature in the package telling you how.' He was a special, special teacher. And for me there was no one in my life like that."

What she absorbed couldn't be taught precisely. It's what she felt in him, in his work: "I loved the poetry and the time of Manuel Álvarez Bravo. Mexican time. In his studio he had a piece of paper up that said, "A Tiempo." For me that was very important. You need to take it slow: to see slowly, to learn slowly. I work slowly."

She began collecting images close to home -- "fiestas in little towns," the street theater of Mexico City, "just one photograph of a fiesta, maybe another of the center."

But it was Juchitán that would unleash her. In 1979, the artist Francisco Toledo invited her to photograph the Zapotec women in his hometown, one of Mexico's oldest indigenous communities, where women are economically, politically and sexually self-governing. "In Juchitán it is not quite a matriarchy, but it is like one," she explains. "Because the woman is the center of the economy."

Far different from the rigid culture she grew up in around in Mexico City, this remote, ancient community showed Iturbide larger ways of being in and navigating the world. And with Toldeo as her calling card, she had no problem gaining entree.

Rose Shoshana, director of Santa Monica's Rose Gallery, who began exhibiting Iturbide in the early '90s, was early on struck by "the strength with which she photographed women. And seeing this dance that was going on between them. Really, there was no distance. They were doing this together."

One of her most iconic and frequently reproduced images -- "Our Lady of the Iguanas" -- features a regal Tehuana woman shot from below, with a cluster of iguanas, like a crown, on her head. She'd asked the woman, who had arrived at the market with the iguanas to sell, if she might make a portrait. "I took 12 frames, and only one of them was good, where the iguanas all looked up."

Perhaps such surprises are the reward of persistence wrapped with courtesy: For Iturbide it is "ask, never take." What's most important is "complicity with the people," that they be part of the writing of this story.

Journeys of discovery

PEERING into the folds of the culture, seeking out what was "hidden away," opened up a new avenue for thinking and working -- for good. "Juchitán opened my heart and opened my mind," she says. She's spent time among the Seri Indians in the Sonoran Desert and shooting goat-slaughtering rituals in Oaxaca. There have been journeys to Spain and Africa.

Over time, her work has scraped at sensitive skin, says Rubén Ortiz Torres, professor of photography at UC San Diego, for "both good and bad." "Graciela made these very poetic representations with a strong, subjective point of view, which at some point has been criticized as being too romanticized," says Ortiz. "But I have to say that . . . it might be true that she constructed a cliché, but it's a very difficult cliché to separate because it is seductive. And it probably has to do with her more than poetics or mysticism."

In various situations -- traveling with César Chávez and Dolores Huerta and migrant workers, slipping into the life of East L.A. gang culture -- she's been captivated by a visual conversation that loops back and forth between the Mexican in Mexico and the Mexican in America, observing how Mexico is imprinted on America.

"Cholos en Tijuana" depicts young Mexican boys mimicking the Mexican American cholo, down to the hairnet and the pleated trousers. In "Cholas, White Fence, East L.A.," the women of White Fence (some deaf) throw gang signs as they pose in front of figures from Mexican history -- Juarez, Zapata, Villa -- none of whom they recognize. "They thought they were mariachis," she says.

For all the proximity, the strength of the yearning embrace, there is vast distance between reality and fantasy: "These people live in the United States, but they have a nostalgia for Mexico," says Iturbide. "They have the Virgen de Guadalupe on tattoos and on the wall. It's everywhere. And it is incredible to me because . . . in Mexico, we have many problems -- we have poverty, no jobs -- but it is idealized here" in the U.S.

And the same holds for the Mexican nationals who long for the U.S. "Many, many Mexicans get turned back, but they come back again, again anyway," she says. "To come to the United States is like a dream. The only dream."

Iturbide has looked deeply into the dreams of her subjects, locating something essential they all share. Her images honor the transvestites of Juchitán, the cholas of East L.A. in all their theatrical self-presentation. "Identity" for them has a great elasticity, as she sees it. That is the gift of a life on the margins.

Iturbide's subjects "want to stand out," says the show's curator, Judith Keller. "They want to make a big statement. I think she admires that. She is certainly on the margins herself -- as woman, as a petite woman in the arts. There is a fearlessness and bravery and this determination to go where it is she needs to go to get the material she's interested in."

Perhaps that's what creates the startling, urgent yet difficult-to-pinpoint quality of her work, an element that shares close space with the beauty. It's that independent soul through which she navigates these worlds. "Photography is not objective. It's subjective," says Iturbide, engraving her story. "So Juchitán is my Juchitán, not Juchitán, and the United States is not the United States. It's my United States." Perhaps it's even that open, in-between space we call dreams: "We dream," she says, "and sometimes that dream is found in the streets. In life."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

You Can Go Home Again, or Thomas Wolfe was Wrong: Laredo Reading for Tex[t]-Mex

With the Laredo reading on Thursday, the high sosiégate publicity machine of The Laredo Times is in high gear with a Spanish-language society page entry on the gala! Click the image left for the skinny!

update | 12/29/2007

Hats off to my friends and to the City of Laredo, Texas for making my presentation a success last Thursday night! The Laredo Times posted a picture from the event at Alegria Bistro that appears here to your right.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Lydia Mendoza, Chicana Chanteuse, RIP

Just a quick link to a site and a memorial for Chicanadom's own legendary chanteuse, Lydia Mendoza, RIP.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Laredo, Texas Bound! December 27, 2007 Christmas Fiesta Tex[t]-Mex Reading!!!

Just after Xmas at 7pm on Thursday, December 27, 2007, the Tex[t]-Mex roadshow hits Laredo, Texas for a reading/signing at Alegria Bistro! Here's Texas Monthly on this swank joint:
ALEGRIA BISTRO AND WINE BAR Lushly dark and romantic, Alegria offers some of the city’s finest meals. Beer-battered fried asparagus is ready for its close-up, crisp pita-crusted shrimp are bright with citrus flavor, while grilled lamb is earthy and appealingly simple. Leave room for the chile-infused cheesecake. Impressive wine list. Bar. 107 Calle del Norte (956-712-0000). Open Mon—Fri 11:30—2:30 & 5:30—11, Sat 5:30—11. Closed Sun. This review from December 2007. $$—$$$ map

I can't wait to go home to my post-modern hood to wax nostalgic and catch up with all my border-rat amiguitos y amiguitas! I am in debt to my incredible hosts and friends Gabriel Castillo, David & Linda Garza, and Adan & Martha Gonzalez.

Old schoolers from Laredo that can identify this local TVcelebrity/beast pictured here below get $3 off the cover price of Tex[t]-Mex at the reading!

...just whisper his name in my ear to score your rasquache discount!!!!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

More XicanOsmosis | The Date Farmers

The Date Farmers are "Carlos Ramirez and Armando Lerma of Coachella Valley... [their] collaborative art, collage drawings, and words on discarded reminiscent of Mexican Revolutionary posters ala/Pancho Villa, as if Cesar Chavez is knocking on our door. Ramirez and Lerma explore the essential reality of the roots of California past and present culture. Their art depicts Mexican American religious icons and their style resembles prison art. Ramirez’s and Lerma’s lettering is strong in a low-rider tradition of bold signage. This is a show not to be missed." [source]

You can see an eye-full of their art at Like Culture Clash and Gilbert Hernandez, Ramirez/Lerma's visions and nightmares fuse the semiotic miasma and riches of Mexico and the United States--not osmosis, but XicanOsmosis.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lupe Vélez: Tales of Suicide, Stardom, Barbituates, and Mexican Food

originally posted 8/09/07 and updated 12/11/07

The essay that appears in Tex[t]-Mex on Lupe Vélez (chapter four) reappears in a slightly different form in a new collection edited by Myra Mendible that has the greatest title for a book that I have seen in a long time: From Bananas to Buttocks!!!!! The book was released in September 2007 by the University of Texas Press. More on Mendible's opus appears here. A direct link to the book at Amazon appears here.

The overweight title of my essay in her collection is: "Lupe Vélez Regurgitated: Cautionary, Indigestion-Causing Ruminations on "Mexicans" in "American" Toilets Perpetrated While Covetously Screening "Veronica". Here's a great clip [ updated Tuesday, December 11, 2007] showcasing the gifted Mexican actor's range:

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cheech and Chong, Laredo 1973

One of the first albums I ever bought was Los Cocinos by Cheech & Chong at Santos Grocery Store in Riverdrive Mall in 1974--the album came out in 1973. I was 13 years old and a 7nth-grader at St. Augustine High School which, in those days, was down by the Rio Grande downtown. At lunchtime, we would walk on over from the school to the mall to hang out, eat lunch, and try to stay out of trouble.

One of the mysteries of the 16-year odyssey that ended up embodied in Tex[t]-Mex is the invisibility of Cheech and Chong in that volume--next to Speedy Gonzales, they really are the best known "Mexicans" or mass cultural Chicanos on the planet. Here's a little bit of their work from Cheech & Chong's Next Movie--note their signifying play with "Mexican-American" and "Chicano" figuration:

More on this to come in these pages soon!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Undocumented Souls, America, and the Game Show

Just a quick link today to the Unapologetic Mexican if ONLY for the cool graphic he has of a "no steenkin' badges" "Mexican" on a 50s gameshow! Genius!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Gustavo Arellano and Mexicans and Little Folks

Gustavo Arellano spoke yesterday at SDSU for our Living Writers program. It was amazing; among the revelations, various and diverse bon mots concerning Mexican predilections for little folks. In Arellano's honor, I provide the following synaptic semiotic tickling:

Tex[t]-Mex for Japanese Shoppers!

What pleasure it brings me to know that throngs of shoppers from Kyoto to Tokyo can give into impulse Chicano Studies urges, to odd, unexpected film theory desires and purchase their brand spanking new copy of Tex[t]-Mex online! My own secret fetishes for Godzilla and erotic anime is redeemed with some cross-Pacific shared love!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Gracias to CHOICE--Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

I don't know J.E. Garza, but if I could, I would send her or him a bouquet of roses, a bottle of champagne, and a huge abrazo for the review of Tex[t]-Mex they wrote for Choice: Current Review for Academic Libraries--they are located on the web here. The review, blushingly he writes, appears there to your right. -->

Susan Sontag

Without Susan Sontag's On Photography, I never would have learned to write about pictures. I came across this photo of her in the New York Review of Books by Dominique Nabokov and post it here as homage.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Latina "Bombshell" or Scab!? Eva Longoria Versus the WGA Barricades

The ghosts of United Farmworkers and shades of MEChistas howled and weeped a couple of weeks back as Tex-Mex, Chicana uberstar Eva Longoria crossed Writers Guild of America picket lines in Hollywood in order shoot scenes for ABC's Desperate Housewives. The Tejana vixen, previously profiled in these pages (1/12/07), and renowned in Ethnic Studies circles for her candid, native-informant outing of Texas-style Mexican on Mexican racism (viz, the "la prieta fea" disclosures), tried to buy the love of her colleagues with pizza but fell short and, in some reports, was brought to tears by the chants of lefty agitators including Julia Louis-Dreyfus--"Elaine," of Seinfeld fame.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Official Party Line on Speedy Gonzales!

Far be it for this cartoon-loving academic to eschew official sources of information on the fastest mouse in all Mexico and best-known Mexican stereotype in American mass culture! So it is that I point you to Warner Bros. official, online site for Speedy Gonzales. The archival research here is decent, even heralding the contributions of one Hawley Pratt (he of Texas Toads infamy) in the revision of Speedy's character from the "rattier," swarthy, be-goldtoothéd, "mean[ ]" mouse he was to the Veracruz-be-toggéd imp/Lothario we know and love! I must have been asleep in the library the days I did research to miss out on Pratt's hand in morphing this very special "Mexican" rat.

Speaking of research, Warner Brothers publicity people out themselves as average undergraduates when it comes to hitting the archives--most of their "official" site is cribbed from Wikipedia! Lookout Britannica, your days are numbered!

To complete the Borges-touched essence of this circular ruin, I have added a Tex[t]-Mex Galleryblog link to the Wikipedia site.

Arriba! Arriba! Andale! Andale!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

And, of course!, America's First Thanksgiving Was.... Spanish?

American studies maven, Michael Wyatt Harper has written in to inquire as to my Thanksgiving doings and to remind me that there is a Tex[t]-Mex angle to this day of Pilgrims, turkeys, football, and indigestion. Click here for the skinny!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Mexican Swimmers! The Elite!

Oy Gevalt!

Julie Myers, Blackface-lovin', Immigration-shillin', and Stupidity-bein' Diva!

This is an old story, but seems worth archiving here at the Tex[t]-Mex Galleryblog, a site that seeks to chronicle the evolution of American stereotypes of all stripes and flavors. Julie Myers, Bush-designated immigration go-to gal and Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement head, has peculiar taste when it comes to judging Halloween party costumes! As such, she has earned the right to join our growing panoply of portraits in something I am calling the Pantheon of American Stereotypes!

Congratulations Julie! And please, pretty please, invite me to your next Halloween party--I've got the perfect costume.


And now, for your viewing pleasure, Alfonso Bedoya, Mexicano extraordinaire from Treasure of the Sierra Madre and, right below, Jewish-American comic genius, Mel Brooks's riff off the same from Blazing Saddles--here, curiously, Brooks anticipates Dave Chappelle's vision by three decades.

I have written about Chappelle's work here (January 19, 2007), and designed a class around some of his choice antics here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Salma Hayek: Pondering 21st Century Latina Bombshells

I am in debt to reader and correspondent David O. García for the embedded video below from Robert Rodriguez's From Dusk Till Dawn featuring the acting and dancing talents of Salma Hayek. I will add a comment to it shortly, but will note here briefly in the interim that the director Rodriguez's warped syncretism, blending indigenous Mexica/Aztec semiotic elements with a down-home 'Merican strip club is curious to say the least!

High Tech Aztec, er, Rodent or Next-Gen Speedy Gonzaleses

A quick link to a story about genetic engineering with a cameo headline featuring the "fastest mouse in all Mexico." Andale, andale, arriba, arriba!

To your left? Speedy's new nemesis! Sorry Sylvester.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Watching Frida Kahlo Through Nickolas Muray's Camera

A traveling gallery of Nickolas Muray photographs of Frida Kahlo, her posse, and some of her paintings is making the rounds these days. Muray's evocative photos match Gilbert Hernandez's pen and india ink when it comes to revealing the inner life of oil painting's 20th century Mexican diva.

Meanwhile, Kahlo-loving gossip mongers may want to peruse the sassy palabras of Diego Rivera's daughter--the behemoth Lothario's female issue holds no punches.

The fifth chapter of Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucination of the "Mexican" in America studies the way Kahlo's biography shaped the eccentric eye of Chicano comic book genius Hernandez.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ask-A-Mexican Agitprop Hijinks!

Just a quick link to my cool, Mexican, cultural studies partner-in-crime, Gustavo Arellano, caught recently, here on the elementary school lecture trails!


Arellano visits and reads at SDSU 2pm on Wednesday, November 28, 2007 in the Love Library (LA 2203), or, as I call it, the Library of Love owing to all the voyeurs wankers that used to hang out there. Arellano appears courtesy of the Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series and, of course, the mothership,

Breaking News!

More on Arellano here--replete with huge, Norma Desmond style close-up picture!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino!

While spelunking the internet I stumbled upon this low-resolution print of a period 8 x 10 publicity glossy, post-electrolysis!, of the one and only Rita Hayworth--aka Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino. I ran it through the alchemy of photoshop and was able, via filters and philtres, to render this decent print archived here for research and presentation purposes.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Narcissism Rears Its Less-than-pretty Head!

....'tis true! 'tis true! That poor schmuck stuck by the side of the river peering at himself se queda pobre next to the herculean promotion bandwagon that is Tex[t]-Mex.

Still and all, I would be remiss if I did not remind dear readers and innocent internet spelunkers today that the traveling Tex[t]-Mex experience, with its crack team of hangers-ons and posse of Tejano vaqueros, is rolling into the magnificent City of Angels, Los Angeles, with readings tonight in Los Feliz's ultra cool Skylight Books (poster) and tomorrow, Thursday, November 8, 2007 at USC where I will be sure to be sporting my quarterback-Mark-Sanchez-inspired "Mexico" mouthpiece.

Go Trojans!


Monday, November 05, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tumescent Dueling Phallic Flags in Laredo, Texas USA and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico

...a quick newsbreak from Laredo, Texas where I am hiding out from my job as Chair of and touring in support of Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America.

There are Freudian flags dueling here in Laredo--a massive Peter North-esque American flag on the Laredo side; and an even more, um, tumescent John Holmes-esque flag towering over los dos laredos on the Mexican side of the border in Nuevo Laredo. More here as well.

When I get back to San Diego next week I will try to post pictures and a little film of this semiotic, warring crossing of the swords, here deep in the penumbra, or, the pudenda, of South Texas.

Holy nationalist erection, batsman!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

"Next Stop Cucamonga": A Texas & California Odyssey!

Every now and then someone slips up and leaves the cell-door open and a professor gets to excape her or his host asylum to hit the road and go "on tour," sort of speak.

Ok, it's not quite the Frampton Comes Alive tour or Cheap Trick, Live at Budakan sans groupies, but it's as close as us mortar-board wearing, would-be / wanna-be, band-on-the-run, robe & hood sporting wonks are gonna get to that legendary life of tour-buses, champagne, and debauchery.

So it is with great pleasure that I let slip to occasional readers and random image-safari visitors that I am visting Austin (The University of Texas at Austin, UT, November 1), San Antonio (The University of Texas at San Antonio, UTSA, November 5), Los Feliz (at Skylight Books, November 7), Los Angeles (The University of Southern California, USC, November 8), and Santa Cruz (at the Felix Kulpa Gallery, The University of California, Santa Cruz, UCSC, December 7) in support of Tex[t]-Mex.

If you are near one of the readings come out and say hola! Mil gracias a La Bloga for the shout-out regarding this tour!

The poster (below) that Michael Buchmiller did for the Texas gigs is nothing short of amazing--gracias to genius Buchmiller for his savvy graphic eye. Guillermo Nericcio García, rogue, semiotic, imagemeister from memogr@phics designcasa, came up with one as well (left) for the USC reading. Each appears here in living color.


Saturday, October 27, 2007

The New York Times Weighs in on Tex-Mex...

... cooking! not my book--still waiting on that one!

Eagle-eyed colleague, June Cummins-Lewis, tipped my eyes to this cool piece in Manhattan's finest fish-rap--a veritable paean to Tex-Mex food. Check it out.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

First Rita Hayworth and Electrolysis and now Che Guevara's Lock of Hair

The Tex[t]-Mex Galleryblog already has enough problems dodging the taunts of "hair fetishist" from unruly readers what with my ongoing archeology of Rita Hayworth's use of electrolysis in her transformation from Margarita Carmen Dolores Cansino. Now, Che Guevara's hair enters the picture as the BBC is reporting that a lock of the revolutionary's and Chicana/o poster child's hair is up for auction. Next thing you know Speedy Gonzales will star in a short animated feature with a bikini wax!

The dark side of all this follicular frivolity? Go here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Trafficking in Relics: The "Bones" of Saint Rita Hayworth, Sor Lupe Vélez et al

The Lupe Vélez chapter of Tex[t]-Mex sets up an argument that I will try to expand in Eyegiene, a follow-up collection of essays on the seductive hallucination of visual culture in America. Building on medievalist Jeffrey Hamburger's work on Saint Veronica, "Veronika," and/or vera icon (icon), I try to map the matrix wherein the ecstatic spirituality and greed (never a mutually exclusive pairing) that drive relic-markets of the medieval period (the fetishistic trafficking in the bones, fingernails, hair, etc of departed saints) evolve. Now, here in the present, centuries later, living in a time wherein the gods and God have been evicted by the findings of Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin, and Freud (The Four Horsemen of the tail-end of the 19nth Century), all that spirituality, all that ecstacy, all that lu$t need some outlet, some release, some jouissance damn it to hell, and they loving saints of old find themselves replaced in a constellation/cluster-fuck of loathing and loving by Celebrities, of all people!
In this sordid, eyegienic scenario, Lady Diana of Great Britain cameos for the Virgin Mary; Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan, pudenda akimbo, have bit parts as proxies for Mary Magdalene, someone who really knew her way around the block;

Walker Percy's notion of "certification" gets close to nailing the intricacies of this process. In his under-rated novel The Moviegoer, the main characters, "Binx" Bolling and his cousin/lover Kate, try to find meaning in their lives.

Binx, channeling Percy (to whom we owe mucho thanx for rescuing Confederacy of Dunces from the dust heap of history) tells how newsreels and television can give one that sought for meaning in life by "certifying" your existence. For example, you don't really exist until a pan of the camera on a news story reveals your house to you on the boob tube--in an odd way, the corpses of houses televised today in San Diego are somehow certifying the existence of select, suffering, watching viewers/victims.

The waning mobs on MySpace and waxing hoards on Facebook, are, caught up in this somehow as well. In any event, as you may have noticed, I am as big a sucker for celebrity relics as any other doofus, and I happen to have web sentinels that let me know when a "good buy" hits the market. Like this one, of Rita Hayworth, by George Hurrell, from 1941:

Or this one, of Rita, just after Orson Welles changed her hair for The Lady from Shanghai.

This last one, of Carole Lombard, also by Hurrell's studio, is a mini-allegory/parable on celebrity and the sacred, narcissism and semiotics all by itself:

On a side note, the passion of these warring medievalists for their field is bracing!