10 February 2013

‘I never made money from the Green Lady,’ says Tretchikoff’s model

David Smith The Observer, Saturday 9 February

“As the original goes to auction for the first time, Monika Pon, the woman in the 1950s classic, says it brought her neither fame nor fortune. It was the face that launched a thousand drab sitting rooms into kitsch popular culture. Chinese Girl, with her otherworldly glow and decorative gold tunic, is one of the most reproduced fine art prints in the world.”

I remember my auntie Dora had a print of the green lady over her fireplace in her council house in Blackburn. Maybe it inspired me to become an artist – who knows where inspiration or artistic motivation comes from. I have been currently inspired to paint two portraits of me and my sister in memory of our youth when we travelled the globe and lived as hippies riding on the magic bus clutching our guitars which we couldn’t really play and living in foreign lands – happy times. I had no idea then of course what the future had in store for me and that I would one day have to deal with what was in those days a certain death sentence HIV/AIDS. Since the day of my diagnosis ten years ago my sister has been my constant support and I don’t know what I would have done without her. Who knows, maybe one day in the future our faces might adorn drab sitting rooms and people will ask the same questions and wonder who we were like, they did with the green lady.

“Then there’s a million of questions to ponder over as you stare at her from the sofa. Why is she green? Why are only the face and the hair fully painted? Why does she wear a 19th century Chinese gown and Max Factor lipstick? How old is she? This picture can keep you busy for years and you still won’t find the answer.”

Maybe people will say that about us. Why are there only three sparkly slippers? Which one was HIV positive? Why are they wearing bizarre clothes like something out of Arabian nights with their bare feet resting on treasure chests. The answer to that of course is (Duh) so that we will win the lottery of course and the pink Balinese hut in the corner is where I am going to live when I win it.

Making money or becoming famous through art is almost as impossible as winning the lottery or finding a cure for HIV – I certainly would be a green lady if I believed otherwise, but in the refrain of the famous song – I can dream can’t I?


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