artist's proof , published state
Not signed. Not dated. Not titled. Not inscribed.
printed image (irregular) 39.0 (h) x 24.2 (w) cm
Gordon Darling Australia Pacific Print Fund 2007
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Prism is one of Melbourne’s leading stencil artists and a member of the influential Everfresh crew. Not titled [red shoes] recalls a scene from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz – the stripey stockinged legs of the Wicked Witch of the East, after she is crushed by a house during a tornado and before Dorothy takes possession of her magical ruby slippers. At the sight of the witch’s immobile legs, a local troop of munchkins emerges to celebrate the occasion with their song, “Ding dong! The witch is dead!” This catchy musical number has been a surprise hit on the charts since the 1940s, even being covered by Ella Fitzgerald, and was still being sung by television comedians in 1990 when Margaret Thatcher was ousted by the British polls. The dead Wicked Witch is a meme that has firmly entered popular culture, and is therefore ripe for appropriation by street artists interested in recycling images taken from the media, urban folklore and pop mythology.
The artist’s spontaneous execution of this work, swiftly sprayed and torn from a sketchbook, points to its origins as a live work on the street, where the Witch’s legs might have been spotted sticking out the side of something like a Melbourne garbage compacter, circa 2003. In that setting the sense of humour and revelation is fresh and sudden. In the reflective space of the gallery, we might pause a moment longer to think about the contemporary relevance of this cartoon emblem of evil defeated.