A 26 foot tall sculpture of Marilyn Monroe from the 1955 film “Seven Year Itch” entitled “Forever Marilyn” by J. Seward Johnson was recently revealed in Chicago to mixed reviews. The iconic scene is of the actress’ white halter dress billowing up from a grate, she’s giddy, flirtatious, oh and her panties show…and wait she’s also twenty-six feet tall. This seems to be nothing more than a kind of summer blockbuster filler artwork whose vapidly plastic kitsch style will draw in the tourists like a novelty giant corn cob.
The biggest complaint seems to be that the sculpture has nothing to do with Chicago due to the fact that the scene it depicts took place in New York. However, is this really the biggest issue? The scale of the work heightens the cheeky playfulness of the original scene into horrific proportions, inviting the viewer to take on a peeping tom voyeur position under her skirt. Beyond the numerous photo shoots beneath Marilyn’s skirts, what is the point of the work? A further objectification of a Hollywood icon? If anything, this sculpture is a testament to the pandering of public art to popular culture and photo-ready antics.
“Forever Marilyn” 2011 by Seward Johnson. 26′ Painted Steel and aluminum. On view in Chicago on Michigan Avenue through Spring 2012.