Franklin Fifth Helena
‘A FANTASTICAL IMAGING OF THE INTERTWINED LIVES OF MOVIE ICON MARILYN MONROE AND HER PSYCHOANALYST DR. RALPH GREENSON’
By Jen Sudul Edwards
On November 4, 2022, Mint Museum Uptown opened a new major acquisition to the collection: Franklin Fifth Helena by Brooklyn-based artist Cynthia Talmadge.
An 8-by-11-foot room built within the gallery, the installation is comprised of sand-painted wall panels and a ceiling that create a fantastical imaging of the intertwined lives of the movie icon Marilyn Monroe and her psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson. The result is mesmerizing and surprising in every way: the sand — intricately mixed by hand and meticulously applied to the surface with fine paintbrushes— mimics the precise color studies of 19th-century Impressionists and Pointillists while utilizing a simple commercial material (Talmadge often buys her sand in bulk from wedding supply companies).
The recognizable objects layer and interact to create an imagined narrative about the relationship between Monroe and Greenson, who treated Monroe at the end of her life. While very specific in her references, Talmadge also explores the complicated ramifications of the cult of personality, the patient-doctor relationship, and how all of these affect the limited power and agency granted to women in this country.
Talmadge’s gallery, 56 Henry, arranged for outside donors to support the acquisition of the work by The Mint Museum, but the on-site build was extensive and complicated. The Mint’s architect-of-record, Aubrey Springer, oversaw the construction and permit process, which required additional lights and sprinkler systems to be installed to meet code, as well as extensive coordination with the Mint’s building staff, the Collections and Exhibitions team, 56 Henry, and Talmadge — who came to Charlotte for a week in October to help with the installation.
Learn more Talmadge and her fascinating and complicated process in the video below, generously underwritten by Aaron and Marie Ligon who are helping the Mint further build a competitive and compelling contemporary art collection.
Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, is chief curator and curator of contemporary art.