My late friend Cameron had many incarnations as an artist, poet, occultist, muse and counter culture anarchist. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine her as an avatar of haute couture.
I run a small non-profit devoted to preserving her art and was quite taken by surprise recently when a friend alerted me to an online review of the new St. Laurent collection by Hedi Slimane citing Cameron as an influence! After reading the piece, I looked at the collection, witchy hats and all. OK, I see it.
It came as even a bigger surprise when W Magazine contacted me for photographs that might illustrate how Cameron is influencing today's fashion. The article "Witch's Crew" written by Tim Banks is in the March 2013 issue.
Marjorie Cameron was born in a small town in Iowa. She joined the Navy in World War Two, drawing maps for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After the war she worked as a fashion illustrator at a Pasadena newspaper. She gladly traded her Navy uniform for her interpretation of Dior's "New Look." Her marriage to Jack Parsons gave her the opportunity to travel to Europe and Mexico further refining "her look," always having her own unique sense of style. Following Jack's untimely death in 1952 Kenneth Anger made her the Scarlet Woman in "Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome," and Curtis Harrington made her the consummate Beat artist/poetess in "Wormwood Star.. He later cast her as a mysterious witch in Night Tide, a role that she lived out in Hollywood. Long red hair, black dresses, black fingernail polish... driving about town in her own hearse!
Cameron went from being a beautiful woman to crone almost overnight. Legend had it that she traded her beauty for power. More likely, she lost her looks as a side-effect of chain-smoking and the desert sun. She had a hard life, and magic(k) didn't make it any easier.
Cameron was a true feminist. The loss of her physical "beauty" was just another phase of her life as a woman. She simply did not care. She scoffed at women who tried to hold on to their youth. I remember her telling a friend who had some "work" done: "You can erase the lines but the pain is still there!"
The Cameron I knew from the mid '80s till her death in 1995 was still a beauty, but not in the sense of our youth-driven culture. Cameron's life was her art... the way that she created magic, not only in her incredible paintings and poetry, but in the expressive way she lived.
I sent W a number of photos of Cameron from her time in the Navy to later in life as she embraced aging with grace and dignity. Predictably, W selected only photos from her early years. The embedded video not only shows the young Cameron, but also the lioness in winter... you be the judge.
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