Because artist Elise Bond frequently “felt lesser” as a woman in what she believes is primarily a man’s field, she focused her latest series on classic Hollywood movie stars on the women of that era.
“I’m a lover of old movies — the glamour and the costumes and the settings and the style,” Bond says. “I saw pictures of old movie stars and something about them really captured me — really grabbed me.
“So I started researching different ladies starting with the 1920s. My plan was to do a women-through-the-ages series — a woman from each decade. But I haven’t really gotten past the ’30s and ’40s because they’re so awesome.”
So far, Bond has completed four of classic Hollywood’s leading ladies: Renee Adoree, a French-born silent film star active from 1918 to 1930; Marion Davies, a comedienne active from 1914 to 1937 who was perhaps best known as the mistress of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst; Hedy Lamarr, once touted “the most beautiful woman in film;” and Ingrid Bergman, most known for her role as Isla in “Casablanca.” A fifth portrait of the exquisitely stunning Ava Gardner is presently in the works.
“The coolest part (of this series) is getting to know them. I started to really research the history. They were strong, brave, compassionate people,” says Bond, whose work on these actresses will be on display among other artists’ works 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 17, at the Riverfront Renaissance Center for the Arts during Millville’s Third Friday celebration. “Unfortunately a lot were miscast because of their looks. But it didn’t stop them.”
Bond had been a public school teacher’s assistant from 2010 to 2015, teaching art through different mediums.
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“It was so cool and so touching, especially because so many of these kids suffered in other subjects, but thrived here (in art),” she says. “I thought, that’s great, then that’s what their journey should be.”
School cutbacks in art coincided with a fall off a boat that caused Bond a serious injury. She looked at the fall as a blessing.
“It was as if angels pushed me,” says Bond almost literally, as she believes the resulting injury caused her to seriously rethink her career choice, pushing her to “officially” become a full-time artist one month ago.
This was when she started her movie star series, the primary intention of which is to highlight women in the arts.
“It’s a topic that seems to be overshadowed.”
Each movie star is carefully chosen by Bond for their back stories, as well as their striking looks. She paints each as more than just colorful portraits. In fact, Bond purposely leaves the figures themselves sepia toned because “it feels vintage,” while the background and eyes are colored brightly.
“I looked through pictures of period wall coverings, craftsman doors, stained glass windows (for the backgrounds). It’s like piecing a puzzle together — putting the right background with the right person,” she says. “Marion Davies felt soft and feminine, so I found a curly, floral pattern and it worked for her. For Ava, her background is very Art Deco with arches and everything. It will be a bugger to paint.
“Through this series, it feels like I have had an invitation into the souls of these women,” she continues. “I wanted to give the viewer a window into their souls, too. And once I painted the eyes, I could see into them. It brought them to life.”
Admittedly, the series has been special for Bond, who previously created a series on dancers that “only hit certain people.”
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“This (series) has hit a lot of people, primarily women — which is who I’m trying to hit,” says Bond, who has at least a dozen more movie star portraits in the making. “There’s too much complaining these days. My feelings are, if you are unhappy about something then do something positive to encourage change.
“I’m a big advocate for art awareness — I want viewers to be captured by the people that I paint. I try to do things to create awareness that art matters.”