Julian Schnabel’s Norma (Pool Painting for Norma Desmond) is on display for a limited time as part of the exhibition Julian Schnabel: Art and Film.
From his earliest works onward, Schnabel has referenced great films that grapple with issues of life and death. This painting refers to the Billy Wilder classic Sunset Boulevard (1950). The film famously opens with a corpse floating in a pool, and a voice-over telling us of its discovery at the Hollywood mansion of silent-film star Norma Desmond. It turns out that the corpse and narrator are one and the same – a down-and-out screenwriter played by William Holden. In response to this scene’s posthumous narration, Schnabel says, “There’s something subliminal and also transcendental about that moment. Achieving something that can only be achieved in art: where somebody can talk to you after death, without moving their lips while they’re face down in the pool… The poetic is stronger than what seems to be the limits of our natural bodies…and by building that into [the painting’s] title, it is saying, ‘Yes, I’m going to die, too, but this thing is going to last. Just like your voice is lasting, your words are with me here.’”
Audio: Listen to Julian Schnabel discuss this work:
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