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This is a life-size replica of a bouquet of twelve roses, cast in semi-transparent dark pink resin. The long-stemmed, open blooms and their proliferation of reddish-pink leaves are tied together at the base with a maroon coloured satin ribbon. The bouquet is displayed lying on its side on a white plinth. The work is based on the bouquet of red roses carried by Jacqueline Kennedy (1929-94) on the day that her husband, the President of the United States, John F. Kennedy (1917-63), was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. A photograph taken on that day, 22nd November 1963, shows Jackie holding the bouquet (reproduced in Keith Edmier, p.16).
Although it may be exhibited separately, A Dozen Roses is a companion work to Beverly Edmier 1967 (Tate T07747), a cast of the artist’s pregnant mother a few months before his birth. Beverly Edmier wears a pink wool suit resembling the one worn by Jackie Kennedy on the day of her husband’s assassination and has a similar hairstyle. Her bowed head and bared belly are cast in the same shade of pink resin to that of the roses. Because the resin is transparent, the unborn foetus is visible. Beverly Edmier 1967 has been compared to a Madonna and child and also to a traditional pietà, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding her dead son. The sculpture unites allusions to life and death through the duality of the virgin as rejoicing and grieving mother. A Dozen Roses reinforces the theme in the flowers’ resemblance to votive offerings. In medieval times, the Virgin was associated with plant motifs and sometimes called the ‘Rose of Sharon’ (now the name of a variety of pale pink hibiscus with a deep reddish pink centre). Throughout art history flowers have been associated with growth and fertility but also, in the tradition of the still life, a memento mori or reminder of transience and death. Evoking rosy stereotypes of femininity together with the raw pain of birth and loss, the two works also allude to some of the more tawdry aspects of consumerist life in 1960s America. The casting process, suggesting mechanical reproduction, and the brightly coloured synthetic materials emphasise this.
Edmier trained as a prosthetic special effects artist for the film industry before becoming an artist. Works such as Victoria Regia (First and Second Night Blooms) 1998 (Stichting Akso Nobel Art Foundation, Arnhem and courtesy Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York) are the result of intricate casting processes from life producing, in this instance, two giant pink water lilies. Edmier uses images drawn from a range of popular sources, including science fiction writing and the mass media. The artist’s personal history is usually the starting point for works which express a concern with the impact of celebrity figures and collective memory on the individual and an interest in understanding the way mass culture affects lives and shapes memory. Edmier’s work recalls that of American Pop artist Andy Warhol (1928-87) who used images of Jackie Kennedy and other popular icons, including the film star Marilyn Monroe (1926-62), to make prints and paintings. In such works as the print portfolio entitled Marilyn 1967 (Tate P07121-P07130) mechanical repetition combines with colour changes to produce ten variations on the same iconic image (a photographic portrait of Marilyn Monroe). Edmier’s work also relates to the media-aware and ironic yet highly personal statements of a slightly older generation of American artists that includes Jeff Koons (born 1955) and Robert Gober (born 1954).
A Dozen Roses was produced in an edition of three plus one artist’s proof. Tate’s copy is the second in the edition.
Catherine Grenier and Catherine Kinley, Abracadabra: International Contemporary Art, exhibition catalogue, Tate Gallery, London 1999, pp.42-5, reproduced p.42 in colour (detail)
Mark Sladen, The Americans. New Art., exhibition catalogue, Barbican Art Gallery, London 2001, pp.264-73, reproduced p.270 (detail) and p.271 in colour
Keith Edmier, exhibition catalogue, Douglas Hyde Gallery, Dublin 1998, pp.2, 16 and 23,
reproduced p.5 and pp.18-19, figs 15 and 16 (detail) in colour