In 1967 Judy Garland was cast in the film Valley of the Dolls, a story of three women undone by drugs and stardom on Broadway in the 1950s. An amazingly gifted performer, Garland had been exploited since she was a girl by the entertainment industry. At this point in her career she was known to be unpredictable and painfully fragile. She was fired soon after work on the film began.
Some of the only footage that remains of Garland’s participation in the film are her wardrobe tests, in which she models her costumes for the film. These wardrobe tests have no script, no scenario, no song. The movement and nervous chatter are her own. Garland had performed professionally from the age of 2, yet in this footage she appears awkward and uncomfortable, and that awkwardness makes her feel authentic and vulnerable. With the help of The Fabric Workshop and Museum, I recreated this footage, casting eight strong women artists that I admire in the role of Garland. Performers include poet Anne Carson, choreographer and dancer Deborah Hay, artist Joan Jonas, singer Alicia Hall Moran, author and actor Tanya Selvaratnam, actor Kate Valk, artist Carrie Mae Weems, and ballerina Wendy Whelan.
After Judy Garland was fired from the film, she took her wardrobe with her. She wore them in her concerts until her death of a barbiturate overdose two years later, bringing long-lasting notoriety to the iconic late-1960s costumes.
— Suzanne Bocanegra
The Gund Gallery exhibitions and programs are made possible, in part, by the Gund Gallery Board of Directors and the Ohio Arts Council.
Feature Image: Suzanne Bocanegra, Valley (stills), 2018 (detail). Eight-channel HD video (color, sound). 4:44 minutes. In collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Photo: Carlos Avendaño, courtesy of the artist.