About The Apotheosis of Dolly or What we Saw at Dollywood’s “My People” Show While Taking Shelter from a Storm After Being Rescued from the Log-Flume Ride “Daredevil Falls”
I created The Apotheosis of Dolly etc. in response to East Tennessee State University’s Department of Art & Design’s announcement for Dolly: Positive/Negative 35, an exhibition in early 2020. This show sought “works that emerge from the ideas or associations [Dolly] represents: homespun charm and Appalachian heritage but also camp and celebrity and sexuality; [and] an embrace of Christian traditions alongside vocal and longstanding support of the LGBTQ community.” I appreciate how, as the exhibition announcement mentioned, Dolly is “a unifying cultural figure” with “her special ability to occupy middle ground in America’s cultural wars.” I enjoy how she does this with grace, wit, charm, and playfulness. And, particular to this painting, I am interested in that Dolly Parton successfully unites the contradictory qualities of excess, sensuality, approachability, camp, commonsense honesty, showmanship, and humility into an artistic identity.
This painting is the depiction of an actual event, experienced in May of 2019 when a group of us were at her theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. After being rescued from a sinking log-flume car and, later, when rain closed the rides, we went inside to see a show. A giant digital projection, a literal much larger-than-life Dolly fantastically multiplying into other Dollys, dances and sings while her extended family perform along with her, choreographed, talking, and reacting to her as if they weren’t next to a 50-foot, hologram-like image of a global celebrity. This was a beautifully magnificent, strange, and contradictory moment: down-home simplicity unselfconsciously set to over-the-top grandeur and spectacle. Inspired by this experience, The Apotheosis of Dolly etc. is my depiction of the ascendant cultural phenomenon that is and forever will be Dolly Parton.