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The American Sweetheart, a painting of six horizontal rows of four orbs against a blue background. The top row of orbs are white and contain a blue star. They are separated from the five lower orbs by a red stripe. The five lower orbs each contain a three letter female name. The painting's title, The American Sweetheart, appears in green stenciled letters at the bottom of the painting.

The American Sweetheart, 1959–61. Photo: Todd White Art Photography; Artwork: © Morgan Art Foundation Ltd./Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY

May: Some for inexplicable reason Mae West, my favorite actress of childhood (she being the subject of one of my earliest major Paintings—The Triumph of Tira) became May.

Lil: Fantasy Figure of my youth: Lillian Russell (Helen Louise Leonard) 1962–1922 [1861–1922], paramour of "Diamond Jim" Brady and recipient of his famous diamond encrusted bicycle gift, who resided in a townhouse that still stands on West 57th in Manhattan. Most interestingly one of the principals in Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thompson's Mother of Us All opera in the Santa Fe production to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial in 1967 for which the artist designed both sets and costumes—Lil's the most of all.

Ida: Ida Lupino, much underappreciated actress of my adolescence, not a film of which I can remember a single name!

Flo: Next door neighbor at the age of four who introduced me to gold paint, made much of in my work.

Amy: An early temptress before the age of six. 

Bee: One of my mother's closest friends 

Sue: When I placed second in my high school graduation in Indianapolis, Sue placed first. Never forgiven.

Liz: Liz Taylor. To star in Raintree County, Hollywood epic with Montgomery Clift based on the novel by Ross Lockridge which took place in his and my birthplace—New Castle, Indiana.

Pat: One of those delicious sixth graders in Cumberland, Indiana who broke my heart. Last name forgotten, alas!

Ina: Probably too embarrassed to address Ima Hogg, terribly famous lady of the tabloids in the 30's [sic].

Ann: Neighbor on Coenties Slip who delighted us with her childhood reminiscences of pushing Andy Warhol into the snow on their mutual way to school in Pittsburgh.

Nan: Shall we say Nancy of the cartoon series in the 40's [sic].

Sal: Sally Rand who did her fan dances at the Chicago's World's Fair in 1934–35 and at the Lyric Theater in Indianapolis, all of which performances my mother banned me to see. Never forgiven.

Min: Character actresses' role with Wallace Beery in those tugboat flics.

Pet: My grandfather Clark's "pet" name for my grandmother—Lida Vane.

Meg: Another heart breaker from grade school days.

Fay: Fay Wray of King Kong fame—of the cinematic highlights of my youth.

Una: Una Merkel—unable to remember one of her films, but a name not to be forgotten.

Ivy: Someone deep in my family history.

Eva: One of my mother's cohorts in the eastern star in Indiana.


Artist Statement, published in the cataglogue for Christie's, New York, Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale, May 14, 2002