pen rainbow

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday's Art Gallery — Monique c. 1976

Monique c. 1976
Art from the back of a closet in Searchlight

On Fridays, I blog about art, and I tend to focus on art that is interesting, uplifting, and sometimes mysterious.  Art comes in many forms, and today, I want to take a look at unappreciated art.

I've been out at my mom's trailer in Searchlight this week helping with a variety of repairs that were caused by a burst pipe underneath her bathroom sink.  While we were painting a bedroom ceiling last Wednesday, her husband, Ed, produced this acrylic-on-canvas painting of what appears (to me) to be a stylized Las Vegas showgirl.

My mom hates it, and at no time during their 30-year relationship has it ever hung on a wall.  For as long as he's owned it, the painting has been parked in the back of his closet.  It is in surprisingly good condition because it has been kept out of the damaging sunlight in a relatively cool and protected area.

The Verbal Provenance:  According to Ed, it was given to him 35 years ago by someone who was cleaning out a house in Las Vegas.  Ed ran a successful air conditioning & heating business in Las Vegas for 50 years and serviced residences all over the city, including some of the homes of entertainers who were working on the Strip.

One day, he was working at a house after the residents had vacated, and the man in charge of cleaning out the house gave him the painting.  He told Ed that it was called, "Monique."

The name, Monique, does not appear anywhere on the painting, but it is signed by the artist in the lower right corner.  As near as I can tell, the signature reads "M. Raschaert."

M. Raschaert 
My own google search did not produce any information on an artist by either name who would have been around Las Vegas in 1976, so I contacted Peter Michel, the Director of Special Collections for the UNLV Libraries, who developed a special collection called, Showgirls © Oct 2006.  He said that there was a famous Vegas showgirl named Monique, but he wasn't sure if the woman in the painting was a showgirl.

Maybe not, but most women I know don't walk around topless wearing a skirt made of ostrich feathers.  And, she is holding a feather like a prop, so I thought that she may have been a dancer with one of the extravagant Vegas shows like MGM's Hallelujah Hollywood!, a musical production that was known for its over-the-top flamboyance and spectacular feathered costumes.

French revues like Lido de Paris (at the Stardust), Les Folies Bergère (at the Trop), and Casino de Paris (at the Dunes) were also playing on the Strip, and it's entirely possible that a Belgian name like Raschaert belonged to someone associated with one of those shows.  There may even be an earlier connection to the popular 1955 Tropi-Can-Can revue at the Moulin Rouge.

The slender, angular style of the woman is similar to Bob Mackie's costume design sketches from that time period.  She has the statuesque figure of a dancer, and it looks like she's wearing false eyelashes.  The hair appears to be blond, and the scroll work on her body looks like it could be the lacy sleeves of a showgirl's costume.  Check out the blond hair and prominent scroll work on this Mackie-themed Barbie:

Bob Mackie design for Barbie™
I am fascinated by this painting for two reasons.  One, it is a piece of Las Vegas art history, and two, it has a connection to 1970's Vegas / Strip culture.  I'm not sure what the connection is exactly, but I really like the painting!