PALM DESERT, CA — CODA Gallery presents a new exhibition of paintings by Marion Pike (1913-1998), running Jan. 5-26. An opening reception will be held 5-8 p.m. on Jan. 5 in conjunction with El Paseo Art Walk/Palm Desert First Weekend.
Palm Springs Art Museum exhibited portraits by Marion Pike in 2007. Among her subjects were Coco Chanel, Dolores Hope, Bob Hope, Alberto Giacometti, Zubin Mehta (for the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles), and other individuals of renown. Now offering works from the estate, CODA Gallery showcases the artist’s floral still lifes and landscapes.
At Stanford, Marion set university records in women’s golf and graduated with honors in Asian history. It was after college that she decided to become an artist. Consumed by faces, her portraiture in particular reflects a signature style that she called “big heads.”
In 1966, Time magazine commissioned Marion to paint a portrait of Ronald Reagan for a cover story on his run for California’s governorship. The
6-by-3-foot painting hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Gallery.
“They really became friends,” John Pike Jr. says of his mother and her subject. “[When Reagan was president], he was always asking her to state dinners. Once she found herself sitting between Reagan and [French President François] Mitterrand.”
Marion also formed a great bond with Dolores and Bob Hope. Frank Lloyd Wright, whom she sketched in 1948 at Taliesin West, especially appreciated her 1947 portrait of Dolores.
Marion initially turned down a commission to paint Pope John Paul II because she knew he would not pose for a portrait. Then her close friend, actress Claudette Colbert, said, “I just met the pope. You must paint him.”
At Bob Hope’s 80th birthday celebration, Marion told Dolores she had a present for her: “I am going to paint the pope and give it to the Vatican in your name, because you have been trying to convert me for 46 years.”
Measuring 15 by 9 feet, Marion’s largest painting is one of several portraits she painted of her dear friend Coco Chanel, with whom she dined nightly while in Paris. Paintings of the fashion icon stand out as rare occasions when Marion painted a full body.
Just as she strove to capture the spirit of a person in her paintings, Marion took the same approach to floral still lifes. When Aldous Huxley suggested she try LSD, she replied, “I have been looking at the soul of a flower for two days, so I don’t need anything else.”
According to John, Gerald Van der Kemp, who oversaw the late-1970s restoration of Claude Monet’s Giverny gardens, “thought mother really had genius and allowed her to come and paint in the garden where Monet painted his water lilies.”
Hanging on a mirrored wall in John’s parlor so that it appears to float is a 47 ¼-by 47 ¼-inch painting of Mont Blanc that reveals Marion’s ability to look into the spirit of a place. Among her landscapes are multiple scenes of Notre-Dame, the Pont-Neuf bridge, and Venice. During summers spent at Claudette Colbert’s house in Barbados, she concentrated on clouds.
The vibrancy of Marion’s energy resonates today in the work she left behind. Perhaps she said it best herself: “Art is of no age. Art is of no time.
If it’s art, it is going to live.”
73-400 El Paseo
Palm Desert, California
About CODA Gallery
CODA Gallery’s 9,000-square-foot venue is located at 73-400 El Paseo in Palm Desert at the corner of El Paseo and Lupine Lane. For more information on Marion Pike and the gallery, call 760-346-4661 and/or visit www.codagallery.com.