This article on singer Madonna is published in issue 4-5 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until 31 January 2023
“Good artists borrow, great artists steal.” Pablo Picasso said it and Madonna certainly agrees with him, the Picassa of the world of music, which has dominated from the early 80s until today.
Apart from the greatness and the ability to plunder the world around her made of images, sounds, themes and taboos, Madonna has in common with the Spanish painter another immeasurable and almost unique talent: that of being able to transform during one’s career without ever giving up on being oneself. If others see change as a possible sign of crisis, Picasso and Madonna change to affirm their absolute security convinced that true identity is that of the spirit and not that of appearances.
In fact, from the Madonna Louise Ciccone born in 1958 in Bay City in Michigan, 64 years freeze-dried as if they were thirty-two, light, worn like a fur coat made of feathers, many Madonnas have gone through our days starting from that girl who was a bartender in the mythical Lucky Strike of Alphabet City, when the East Village of New York was not another trendy neighborhood with skyrocketing rents, but a real jungle where the best underground of Manhattan’s artistic life went crazy, a few hours before the shocking freedom of that time was devastated by the tsunami that was AIDS. She was already there. Engaged to another myth yet to be celebrated, the painter Jean-Michel Basquiatwhen for both the future consisted only in the wonder of waking up alive the next morning and fame, money and success were still far enough to be able to desire them with all the creative energy they had.
It was 1982 and Like a virgin, the single and album cover with photos of a thirty-year-old Steven Meisel, was two years away. First there would be the debut album Madonna. Catholic like another great icon of American art, Andy Warhol, Miss Ciccone, more effectively than the master of Pop Art, will use her religion and her almost blasphemous first name to build her personal, gender and sexual revolution . The text of Like a virgin is now studied in universities as one of the contemporary texts that have contributed to radically change the image of women in society. In fact art, because it is true art, Madonna is the scientific proof that one can make politics, culture and a revolution and at the same time give pure and divine entertainment by being popular and not brutally populist.
Madonna is already the subject of academic studies and the subject of many books, but if someone really wants to celebrate her for what she is, then the history of art will have to dedicate a chapter of her own to her in the field of contemporary art which goes under the name of «performance» . Because what this pyrotechnic personality has done is absolutely contemporary, current, effective, accessible art. An art that is eaten for breakfast by people like Marina Abramovic, Orlan, Tino Sehgal and many other talented and ingenious performance artists who, however, have always lacked the ability to entertain and excite, having made boredom and immobilism, in some cases, their workhorse. Madonna has never bored and more than anything else she has never been immobile, on stage, nor inside herself. But more than anything else, just like Picasso, she never had hesitation or shyness in devouring like a cannibal what was on the plate of culture, art and society. It can be said that Madonna is a Warhol with the devil in his body. The brilliant, great Andy also drew from what and who was around him but, perhaps stiffened by feelings of guilt for his homosexuality, he had created a transparent wall that protected him from the real world. Madonna of the guilt feelings imposed by religion, society or tradition has always ignored them, indeed she has always used and fought them to slam in the face of the real world the desire for freedom that each of us, especially women, we should always satisfy in spite of everything and everyone. A great artist never provokes gratuitously, a rule to which Signora Ciccone adhered, in this case quite religiously.
Re-interpretation, but mostly Re-invention was the secret and elixir of life of this singer. It is no coincidence that in 2004 his tour is called his own Re-Invention. On stage Madonna stages past and present, history with a capital S, Marie Antoinette and current events, the war in Iraq. But not only that, she quotes Fellini, she uses fashion not only as a costume but as a subject, Lagerfeld, Gaultier, Miu Miu and many others. Behind her scroll the images of a fantastic video created in collaboration with the artist Steven Klein entitled X-STaTIC PRO = CeSS. Process, in fact Madonna’s art is not a beautiful and packaged product but a continuous process to arrive not at the end but at the threshold of another beginning.
“Total” artist, boh… one could venture to say yes, but the term is old and perhaps not even necessary. Madonna is perhaps more like a madonnaro, the one who draws the image of the Virgin on the sidewalk which is erased by the shoes of passers-by during the day and by the washing of the garbage at night. But tomorrow there she is again, another image, another Virgin. Madonna changes out of desire not out of necessity, cancels itself by abandoning itself to the flow of the crowd to which it feeds its own image without ever letting itself be eaten. Her body doesn’t change but updates itself, not so much with the passing of time but with the times that run, tomorrow, precisely. We must, she seems to incite us, always be ourselves even if the weather is always different.
The artists who end up on Madonna’s creative menu are very many, often female figures such as the photographer Tina Modotti or Frida Kahlo with whom she doubles using a man to represent the evident masculinity of the Mexican painter. But we also find the English Gilbert & George and clearly flavors of Warhol, to taste, just enough to flavor. But one cannot speak of misappropriation or quotations, rather of chewing and digestion, because each of her sources of inspiration is then recycled in an absolutely new, unique and authentic way.
Warhol took theLast Supper of Leonardo and made it his own, without too many prejudices but also without too many variations. Madonna, in order not to betray the Catholic DNA that has followed her all her life, takes the generic subject ofLast Supper and turns it into a bacchanal on the crest of perversion, as if to finally celebrate the total capture of the male Bastille by the female Revolution. A scene, so populated by men, from the egocentric Jesus to the disciples, some hypocrites, some liars and some, let’s face it, ass-lickers, is turned inside out in Madonna’s hands like a sock. All women. All clinging to the savior figure who is a hybrid metamorphosis between a Jesus and his mother, the Virgin. A mountain of bodies halfway between a pile of rags and a lava flow. She, Madonna, in an ecstasy halfway between liberation and liquefaction. A painting somewhere between abstract and figurative, putrid in certain parts like a Bacon. All to celebrate and return to that Virgin of 1984. But also to the Madonna, the classic one, who in the history of humanity was forced by us males to have to be a mother without being able to enjoy the benefits of sex and pleasure, responsible for the destiny of world without being able to take credit for the future of the world. Madonna says or re-says «enough!». She stops the train of her career and her story once again, not to get off but instead to get everyone on board. Hello Queen!
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Source: Vanity Fair
I’m Susan Karen, a professional writer and editor at World Stock Market. I specialize in Entertainment news, writing stories that keep readers informed on all the latest developments in the industry. With over five years of experience in creating engaging content and copywriting for various media outlets, I have grown to become an invaluable asset to any team.