Monday, 27 May 2013

Marjorie Cameron

From: Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, 1954

Marjorie Cameron Parsons Kimmel (23 April 1922 – 24 June 1995) was an artist, occultist, actress, and wife of rocket pioneer and occultist Jack Parsons. Cameron played a major role in the 1946 Babalon Working ritual.

Like many women interested in magic, such as Ithell Colquhoun, Vali Myers, Rosaleen Norton and the surrealist Leonora Carrington, Cameron was also an artist. Her art depicts many images of an otherworldly nature drawn from the Elemental Kingdom and the astral plane.

She played a prominent role in Kenneth Anger's film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, again as the Scarlet Woman. She also appeared in two films of Curtis Harrington, his ten-minute 1956 portrait, The Wormwood Star, which focused on Cameron and her artwork, and Night Tide (1961), where Cameron starred as a mysterious woman credited as 'Water Witch'.

Fairy Queen, 1962

Cameron's romantic esthetic and commanding persona prompted filmmaker Curtis Harrington to commemorate her output as a visual artist in The Wormwood Star (1955), a lyrical short film recording the art and atmosphere of her candlelit studio. Most of the beautiful paintings and drawings documented in this film were later lost or destroyed. Paul Mathison and the actor Samson DeBrier introduced Cameron to film maker Kenneth Anger, who cast her in a leading role opposite Anais Nin in his film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1956), a fanciful depiction of an occult initiation rite as envisioned by Aleister Crowley. With fiery red hair and heavy eye makeup, Cameron played the Scarlet Woman wrapped in a Spanish shawl once belonging to Rudolph Valentine. Her striking presence steals the show from the rival Nin. Cameron enjoyed a tempestuous relationship with Anger for the rest of her life. She also played a key role alongside Dennis Hopper in Harrington's lyrical feature film Night Tide (1961). In 1969 she appeared in an unreleased film filmed in Santa Fe, Thumbsuck, by artist John Chamberlain.
Michael Duncan

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.
Scott Hobbs

Marjorie Cameron (1922-1995) was a “witchy woman” and Beatnik artist known widely in several overlapping Los Angeles bohemian circles, but she was hardly famous. Since her death, there has been a gradually growing public awareness of Cameron’s art, or at least what’s left of her work, that the artist herself did not destroy in a moment of mental instability. Her paintings, now highly sought after by collectors, can sell for in the tens of thousands of dollars. In recent memory, her work has been exhibited in major museums (The Whitney’s “Beat Culture” show and the the excellent “Semina Culture: Wallace Berman and His Circle” exhibit) and the Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in NYC published a gorgeous monograph of her work in 2007.

Cameron’s often wobbly orbit in life saw her cross paths with significant cultural players like underground filmmaker Kennth Anger, who cast her as “The Scarlet Woman” (typecasting!) in his 1956 film, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, which also featured author Anais Nin. (Anger was Cameron’s roommate at several points over the decades they knew one another). She was certainly a part of Wallace Berman’s intimates and co-starred in. Night Tide a low-budget horror film with Dennis Hopper (who recounts a brief period of sexual intimacy with the older woman).
Richard Metzger 

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