A shiny piece of red plastic

    It finally happened. I have met David Gainsborough Roberts. He is a personality on the island and his name came up many times in conversations I had in town. David is a collector of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia. Over a period of thirty years he was able to acquire some of the most recognizable movie costumes in the history of Hollywood.

    My appointment was at 10 this morning. I asked David to sit for a portrait for my Jersey series. I arrived a bit before 10 to be able to find his villa. There are no numbers in Jersey addresses outside St. Helier, just names of villas. The driveway leading to his house is guarded by tall cypresses hiding it from the eyes of passersby. Approaching the villa’s front door I began hearing the light music radio escaping from an open window. Today was the hottest day of the year in Jersey, I think, +27C. A gorgeous day.

    Some time ago I did a project “Marilyn and I” which involved a garment from a personal wardrobe of Marilyn Monroe. Naturally I was curious to see David’s collection, so I asked if I could have that honor and David kindly agreed. There was one piece in particular which I wanted to see. The red sequin dress from “Gentlemen prefer blondes” (1953) in which Marilyn and Jane Russell sang “Two little girls from Little rock”. David owns it.

    When he opened the cardboard box with the dress wrapped in layers of acid-free protective paper I noticed a single sequin lying on a sheet of crystal paper still hiding the dress. It was a strange moment. While doing my Marilyn project I learned to respect Marilyn as I was getting to know her story. And here I was about to touch that woman’s dress (again) out of all places in Jersey. In that instance the shining red spangle which came off the dress looked like a drop of fresh blood. Alive. David wanted to remove it to continue the unwrapping. I asked him to wait as I took out my camera and photographed that piece of red plastic. It is in that moment that I felt my presence on this island was somehow justified as this shiny sequin connected me to my previous work and to all what I’ve done before. It suddenly all made sense.

    Thank you, David!