The Jackie Look is a performance piece from Karen Finley, a name synonymous with performance art in the 1980s and 90s. The show itself is a two-pronged thrust at the audiences sensibilities. Before the show even officially begins, a loop of Jacqueline Kennedys life in pictures plays on stage. These pictures run the gamut from her youth until her years in the White House, no further and they serve to bring Jackie, the person, wife and mother, back into focus.
Karen Finley portrays Jackie with her dark glasses and the breathless voice often associated with her. In the first half of the show, Jackie is ostensibly presenting a lecture about the stylization of being photographed; she explains that she was (and still might be) the most photographed woman in the world. But the discussion soon turns to the museum in the Texas Book Depository. Jackie takes us on a tour via the web and gives her opinions on the various collection pieces and the appropriateness of their inclusion.
The humor is occasionally uncomfortabe. John and Jackie Kennedy stand in a honored place in American mythology, and it seems sacrilegious to laugh at them. But through persistence and humor, Karen Finley loosens the audience up.
And then she twists the evening completely.
Changing sides of the stage at one point, she shifts the focus of the show. Now she, as Jackie, discusses the impact of fame, of iconic imagery. She discusses the stylization of both tragedy and fame. She discusses Princess Diana, Michelle Obama and even her daughter Caroline, and the way the press treated her during interviews last year.
The images flashing in the background change as well. Whereas the first set of images were all of Jackie and her family through the White House years (the one exception being a Warhol print of Marilyn Monroe), now the pictures flow with her words, the funeral, Aristotle Onassis, her children in adulthood, Michelle Obama.
The voice breaks occasionally and the mood of the piece, which was full of parody and reminiscent of the old and famous album, The First Family, swings more serious. Karen/Jackie wonders about fame and its result. Fame for her and the other people she discusses is often not the aim or famous but, rather, an outgrowth of their relationships with others. It is a thoughtful journey, made more poignant by the humor and close relationship she built in the first half of the show.
The Jackie Lookis a journey of transition in our interpretation of Jacqueline Kennedy. It knocks her off her place on Americas mythic pedestal with humor, then rebuilds her as a thoughtful woman who learned to live a real life in the spotlight.