by Susan Irving
[While this is not a recent work, it does go a long way to explaining the conception, labour and delivery of an art work. Ed.]
I painted this portrait of Elvis many years ago as an entry for a group show themed Belief and Ritual. I chose Elvis, not because I am a fan ( I am not) but because there are a lot of fascinating beliefs and rituals surrounding him.
Many believe he is still alive and living in Tweed, Ontario.
My painting has the face of young rebel Elvis in the sky with the “Sun” coming up behind him. Sun was his first recording label. He is surrounded by ukulele-strumming “angels” in bathing suits. Elvis loved Hawaii.
Below the angels is Graceland with a portlier Elvis on the front lawn wearing the famous white jumpsuit.
Up to the sky again, where there is a flying saucer. Elvis and his father used to sit out on the back lawn of Graceland, looking for UFOs.
The gates of Graceland are in the foreground. To the left of the gates are a heart shaped chocolate box and a teddy bear, symbolising his appeal to teenage girls. To the right of the gates there is a skull, for his death, and a pair of walnuts, symbolising the loss of masculinity when he became a personification of kitsch.
At the bottom of the painting is a ponytailed teenage girl wearing 1950’s-type glasses and a blue T-shirt. Every year on the anniversary of his death, fans gather at the gates of Graceland. They often wear blue, as it was Elvis’s favourite colour. The fan at the gates is depicted as a teenager, as we tend to see ourselves as we were when we were young.
The rainbow over the gates, symbolises his passage into the great “beyond”.
The painting is on a stretched canvas with furniture tacks all around the edges, because I think that toward the end of his life Elvis was kind of tacky. The painting is 30 x 24.
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