This painting was from the first installment of the series "Good Leaders, Endangered Species, Ships at Sea," an installation juxtaposing in a deliberate sequence to create a poetic allegory of images, oil paintings of iconic figures from popular and political cultural history are exhibited along with images of animals that are truly endangered in our fragile ecology, next to pictures of vessels striving to overcome seemingly insurmountable storms, symbolizing an optimistic outlook that we can healthily triumph through the chaotic crises of our time.
In this work, Shirley Temple makes an appearance from the film The Little Princess as she dreams herself to be a benevolent leader as her character in the film makes a valiant struggle to overcome hardship. One of my husband’s and now my favorite films, Shirley Temple plays a character whose wealthy father leaves her a private school, only for her to lose everything when they believe the father, who went off to fight in a war, dies. She is then made to become a servant for the mean girls in the school, who treat her with contempt. Shirley Temple—being Shirley Temple—doesn’t make a fuss about their treatment of her, only wishes for the future, befriending the other servant girl at the school, and making constant visits to the Vet hospital to find her returning missing father, who she refuses to believe is dead. There is a terrific dream sequence, that this film still comes from, where she, playing a queen, protects the kind adults who protect and support her by admonishing the cruel school matron that subjugates her in real life, and is encouraged by the young couple’s love for one another—they save themselves by giving each other the kiss that the witchy matron accuses them of stealing. Shirley as queen then witnesses herself self-actualize, when she watches her doppelganger be the star of a little ballet. She wakes up to the benevolent mysterious neighbors gift of a warm breakfast and new clothes for she and her friend, which gives her the encouragement to continue to pursue her dreams, finding her father by the end of the film and getting to meet the Queen!
I love Shirley Temple, who in her real life was one of the most famous, wealthiest actors of her time as a child star, giving the nation and world hope through her bright spirit during the time of the depression, and later in life, becoming a benevolent Republican stateswoman, and one of the first celebrities to come out as having Breast Cancer, announcing it to the world and popularizing the idea to check and help cure the disease. She was a "Good Leader" in both her life and her art, and a model for many. Warhol always idolized her, and I’m surprised he didn’t make more images of her (if any?), and it was inspiring for me to paint her during our own recession, and she inspired hope in me as much as any audience member in her heyday.