New immersive architectural installation of sand paintings opens at The Mint Museum

Franklin Fifth Helena by Cynthia Talmadge

Franklin Fifth Helena is an architectural installation within the Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown comprised of sand-painted wall panels that create a fantastical imaging of the real-life intertwined lives of the movie icon Marilyn Monroe and her psychoanalyst Dr. Ralph Greenson.

Charlotte, North Carolina (November 2, 2022) — The Mint Museum is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of Franklin Fifth Helena, an immersive architectural installation of sand paintings by New York-based artist Cynthia Talmadge.

Through meticulous process, Talmadge turns sand into strikingly realistic images. She is known to explore the mysteries of tabloid culture and identity through a variety of media. Her works of art investigate what happens when private, personal trauma meets with institutions of celebrity, money, and wrongdoing.

For Franklin Fifth Helena, Talmadge borrows the format of the Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio, a 15th-century room relocated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1930s, that was intended for contemplation and the display of objects representative of the owner’s worldliness and intellect. Instead of a sole owner, however, Franklin Fifth Helena is a fictional representation of two people — Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe and Dr. Ralph Greeson, the psychoanalyst who treated her at the end of her life. The title — Franklin Fifth Helena — signals the mash-up as it references the pair’s respective addresses at the end of Monroe’s life: 12305 Fifth Helena Drive, Brentwood, Los Angeles for Monroe and Greeson’s at 902 Franklin Street in Santa Monica, a short mile down the hill.

Franklin Fifth Helena imagines a pool house where Monroe and Greeson’s belongings — some intimate, some impersonal — intermingle, reflecting Greeson’s ethically complicated treatment plan for Monroe, which required her to live with his family and recreate aspects of his home within her own. A follower of Freud who specialized in trauma and hysteria, Greenson advocated a practice he called “adoption therapy,” in which the patient attempted to remedy childhood trauma by replacing those memories with new experiences. Greenson took a particular interest in Monroe’s case, moving her into his home to live with his family. Greenson’s relationship with Monroe is unclear — they may have been lovers — but she died of a drug overdose while under his care.

“This is a major addition to the Mint’s collection, not only because of the technical intricacies of the work, but also, because the themes of celebrity, identity, biography, and history will speak broadly to our audiences,” says Jen Sudul Edwards, PhD, chief curator and curator of contemporary art at The Mint Museum. “The two aspects of subject and material can hold you rapt for hours. We are so appreciative to Talmadge’s gallery, 56 Henry, for making this donation possible, and to the donors Alexander Fenkell, William Leung, and Rahul Sabhnani who underwrote the purchase,” Sudul Edwards says.

Franklin Fifth Helena is on view in the Level 4 Contemporary Gallery at Mint Museum Uptown.

Ticket Information  
The Mint Museum exhibition is free for members and children ages 4 and younger; $15 for adults; $10 for seniors ages 65 and older; $10 for college students with ID; and $6 for youth ages 5–17. 


About Cynthia Talmadge

Cynthia Talmadge is a New York-based artist whose work in painting, installation, drawing, and photography has been shown, collected, and reviewed internationally. Talmadge’s projects exhibit her fascination with heightened emotional states, mediated portrayals of those states, and particularly the places where both converge.

The Mint Museum   

Established in 1936 as North Carolina’s first art museum, The Mint Museum is a leading, innovative cultural institution and museum of international art and design. With two locations—Mint Museum Randolph in the heart of Eastover and Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts on South Tryon Street—the Mint boasts one of the largest collections in the Southeast and is committed to engaging and inspiring members of the global community. 


Clayton Sealey, senior director of marketing and communications at The Mint Museum | 704.534.0186 (c) 

Michele Huggins, associate director of marketing and communications at The Mint Museum | 704-564-0826 (c)