Things are a little frantic here at Cup O Swank, what with less than 9 days to create a painting for West Virginia Division of Culture & History’s “Portraits of Historic West Virginia Figures” Exhibit. Taking shipping time into consideration, I’ll have to mail the work out by the 23rd to ensure I make the deadline of the 27th.
Since I got to choose my subject matter, I had a hard time deciding. For an artist like myself, West Virginia has so many great people to paint. If I’d had the time, I would have painted two works, and included Ted Cassidy, who grew up in Philippi, West Virginia and was best known for his portrayal as Lurch on television’s The Addams Family. I still intend to paint him, just no time to do it right now.
Like most inspiration, I was suddenly struck by the perfect candidate for me. My portrait could be no one else but Dagmar, famous bombshell and fellow citizen of my hometown, Guyandotte, West Virginia. Graced with Amazonian proportions (5 ft. 11, 40DD) and a razor sharp wit, she is arguably the original “Dumb Blonde” comic. No one knew they grew’em like that in West Virginia, and she was fortunate enough to be in her prime when society (read that as “jealous, insecure women”) had not yet learned to cry “demeaning” and “exploitive” when another woman made use what God had blessed her with.
She was Life magazine’s cover girl in 1951, star of the variety show, “Dagmar’s Canteen”, and recorded an album with Frank Sinatra. The great photographer Alfred Eisenstadt, (he of the famous Sailor Kissing a Nurse in Times Square picture), actually traveled to Guyandotte to photograph her when she came home to visit her family.
Sixty years later, my little town is a wasteland of crime, drugs and decrepit burnt-out buildings. It was once a very beautiful place in more ways than one, and Virginia Ruth Egnor was one rose that bloomed here long ago. I hope to do her justice, and I’ll be posting photos of the progress as the painting comes along.