3 From Madonna

A long time ago now, I had a friend who was obsessed with Madonna – to the point of owning every piece of Art, Music and Merchandising she ever put out for commercial consumption, and plenty of bootlegs too. He would also follow her obsessively on UK tours – seeing her (and my memory is a bit wonky on this) 4 or 5 nights on the trot at a sell-out Wembley gig she did. Must be 10 or 12 years ago now. I remember him showing me the Sex book which came out in 1992 (to quite some controversy at the time).

I recently had reason to glance over some of the images again, and three in particular stuck in my head and actually, I seemed to be able to remember them quite vividly from all those years ago. I am most definately not an Art critic, but I thought I’d have a go in saying something about what they mean to me.

Here they are:

At first glance this seems to be Madonna with another woman, but on closer inspection you can see the other person is actually a man. There is an incredible symmetry in the faces and looking at where the lips meet and his nose nestles in her face, it seems as if they are tessellated – being two parts of the same object – joined together again. There is something in that symmetry that makes this an incredibly sensual image. He, of course, is like some latter day Tadzio, beautiful to the point of mesmerizing; almost like he has been sculpted, with every imperfection neatly chiselled away. Looking at his torso, it is very boyish, immature – and yet glance further down the picture to his arm and there is something about the sense of shade that marks him very clearly as a man. I find this image, quite astonishingly powerful.

Madonna spends a lot of time in the Sex book playing with roles. Images of masculinity and femininity, bitch and butch – empahised in some shots through BDSM scenes. This is more simple; playful even. There are two elements to this picture that grab my attention. The first is the focus of the male actor in the scene’s eyes – they seem very fixed, almost burning through her. The fact that she is applying lipstick makes me think of a mirror – that he himself is concentrating in applying it; and thus that what he sees is the corporeal representation of his femininity. The way she cups his chin is gentle, yet powerful in holding him aloft, so that he might see himself. For practical reasons, I guess, he is pulling back his hair, but for me, it lends weight to the idea that he is exposing himself in some way. The cigarette adds a kind of noir-ish quality to the image.

In this final image, ideas of gender are again played with – the mirror reflecting back the opposite – or perhaps that which is hidden. But the cigarette emphasing masculinity in it’s rough, roll-up, kind of way. He seems almost sheepish, inquisitive perhaps, the eyes being cocked to one side as they are. You just see Madonna in shot from the top right. I wonder what it is that she is saying? “I have revealed you” is what always comes to mind.

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