Known for her satirical assemblages of figures in tableaux, Marisol (Escobar) created innovative combinations of carving, painting, castings and pop objects. She has been extremely shy and a compulsive, prolific worker with subjects that include Lyndon Johnson, John Wayne, and social institutions of weddings and families.
As a personality, Marisol has been described as exotic and good looking in a legendary way. She was highly prominent in the sixties as one of the beautiful people, but sought privacy and interesting pursuits that led to travels in the Orient and scuba diving.
She was born to wealthy Venezuelan parents in Paris and spent a childhood traveling around European capitals. Her mother died when she was eleven, and her father supported her financially. She attended the fashionable Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles and studied at the Jepson School with Howard Warshaw and Rico Lebrun. She went to New York in the early 1950s and was part of the “Beat Generation” in Greenwich Village where she fought her extreme shyness by trying to act with abandon.
She studied at the Art Students League but did not get excited about her artwork until she worked for three years with Hans Hoffman at Provincetown, Massachusetts. She also began to create humorous sculpture as a rebellion and antidote to the depressed people with whom she was associating. In this new endeavor, she was much influenced by Pre-Columbian pottery and early American folk art. The work of William King inspired her to make silhouette sculptures, and she combined all sorts of seemingly unrelated objects such as religious icons and Coca Cola bottles.
She dropped her last name of Escobar to be distinctive with only one name. In 1957, Leo Castelli held a successful exhibition, but she was so overcome by shyness she fled to Rome for three years. Then in 1962, she had an exhibit at the Stable Gallery, and this event made her famous; her work was on the cover of “Time” magazine, and she was part of the Pop-Art scene with Andy Warhol. She attended many parties dressed in exotic outfits and starred in underground movies.
However, she was made uneasy by this life, sensing that many of the players were menacing and unfriendly, and she left for climates she found more soothing that included Cambodia, India, and Thailand.
In 1981, she returned to New York and did a series of witty caricatures of Georgia O’Keeffe, Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, and Martha Graham, and exhibited at the Sidney Janis Gallery. From that time, she has been a popular, respected artist with tremendous design sense and an ability to combine disparate objects that make overall sense in a surreal style. Often she uses her own face or limbs because they’re accessible, and she works with power tools and does her own electrical installations.
Source: “American Women Artists” by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein