Friday, December 12, 2008

Bettie Page, leaving Radiance

Vanessa Daou, Bettie Page, 1996, acrylic & pencil on paper, 7 X 9 "

"After light enters the ocean, it interacts with the phytoplankton, dissolved organic matter, particles, and water molecules. Some of it is eventually scattered back up through the surface. This light is called the water-leaving radiance, and it can be detected from space." link

When I began writing my album 'Slow to Burn', based on the life of 11 female artists, I made a long list of the women artists who had in one way or another made a powerful impression on me. On my list was Bettie Page. Though not an Artist in the traditional sense of the word, with her body and through the projection of a complex inner essence and purpose, a combination of girlish innocence and churlish experience, she tapped into & expressed a mode of being which had until then been hidden. Some argue that she played into the gaze of a man's prurient desires and in so doing degraded her gender, but it could be argued just as convincingly that Bettie Page liberated even that gaze and made it OK for a man, or a woman, to desire a woman with her proclivities. I wrote 'Evening' with these thoughts in mind.

Bettie Page changed not only our perception of women, but our conception of them. Neither right nor wrong, like her infamous bikinis which she designed and sewed, they are her own, they are based on profound and deep penetration into the nature of women who preceded her and who would come after. Sometimes with an elegant pose, sometimes with a brutal one, sometimes with a tossed off smile, sometimes with one that is fully thought, Bettie Page is a an inspiration not only for tattoo artists, but for all artists who want to learn from example how to navigate a world that makes its rules which the heart, mind & muse cannot obey.

Bettie Page leaves us not only a legacy of her images, but also with an undying philosophy of sexuality that continues to leave its radiance around on the world. In this profound gesture there is beauty which is more than the picture perfect image that she presented, it was her ability to take an idea about humanity, an idea of her own design and making, about the nature of sexuality, photography & pornography, and in the end, to reshape history.

To be an artist is to make a mark: a brush stroke that says something about the hybridity of experience like Iona Rozeal Brown, poetry that renegotiates our relationship to the past like Czeslaw Milosz, prose that reshapes the way we Love like Erica Jong, even a fragment can fill our imaginations the way Sappho does. Finished or incomplete, visible or ineffable, virtual or tangible, we leave our impressions on the world.


Evening (from Vanessa Daou - '
Slow to Burn', MCA/Krasnow Entertainment, 1996)
inspired by the life of Bettie Page

Evening slips into my room
Echoes in the corridor
Street lamps turn a shade of blue
Lovers whisper in the dark

Evening when I miss you most of all
My heaven in this world
A silent raindrop falls
To the earth...

Evening knows my every move
Your fingers running through my hair
Crimson lips a crimson kiss
In the strange electric air...

Evening when I miss you most of all
My heaven in this world
A silent raindrop falls
To the earth...

Evening (I miss you most of all)
Evening (A silent raindrop falls)

You make me ache
By the way you bow your head
In the neon glow
Flashing open through the window
On the unmade bed
On the unmade bed...

Evening brings the hunter home
And the sailor from the sea
One by one each breath we take
Slips into eternity

Evening when I miss you most of all
My heaven in this world
A silent raindrop falls
To the earth...

Evening when I miss you most of all
My heaven in this world
A silent raindrop falls
To the earth...

© 1996


Anonymous said...

Nice work, Vanessa. You know, I've always wondered why you created a twinkling eyes Paris Hilton. I sense an essay about her, as well.

George Hook

Bettie Blogger said...

Would love to feature the song on the blog for

Please email me at bettiepageblog(at) if you are interested in being featured on the blog.