In 1950, Vladmir Tretchikoff painted “The Chinese Girl”, which went on (despite critical poo-pooing) to become one of the world’s most popular paintings and best selling art prints, basically going “viral” in the 60s and 70s. As you might have guessed, the piece became known as “The Green Lady” because of her lovely viridian skin tone.
Recently the Daily Mail UK tracked down the actual model and you can read all about it right here. Monika Sing-Lee finally gets to tell a bit of her own story, though sadly (and typically) Tretchikoff got rich and Sing-Lee spent most of her life in poverty. I hope she’s seeing some green of her own now.
The first appearance of an Orion slave girl was in the original pilot, “The Cage,” which featured a different Captain and crew. (You can read more than you ever need to know about it here.) Some of the cast got shuffled around a bit to other roles in the re-jiggered series — Spock got to stay, Shatner stepped in as Captain, and Majel Barrett got demoted from 2nd in command to a blond nurse. Long story short — the tale told in “The Cage” is exactly the kind of thwarted love story that grabs my strings.
So I painted a sort of classical Renaissance portrait, replacing the usual Italian countryside with an alien landscape. One of my favorite things in paintings of a certain era is how there are often little clues n’ bits that semaphore part of the story, so Vina is holding a crumpled picture of her lost love, Captain Pike. And proceeds to wait. A long, long time.
An Orion dancing girl appeared in a later episode — this time the green skin was inhabited by none other than Yvonne Craig, Batgirl from the old “Batman” TV show. She once told a hilarious story on Howard Stern about how the director was furious at her for smearing her green body paint all over Shatner (they were running out of clean uniform shirts for him) but she wasn’t sure how to do her “erotic dance of seduction” without touching him. She had just decided she would play with his hair in the next take instead, when she strolled by his dressing room and saw him holding said hair in his hands, combing it out. So she figured out a way to do her bit without laying one green finger on him. You can see that touchless dance, as well as some of her other super cute moves, in this swell clip:
On a slightly sour note, when I was looking for pics of Vina for this post I found my painting on someone’s blog — the original blogger said some very nice things about it but one of the comments blew my mind: “You should commission some oil paintings from the far east for cheap. I am sure some talented Chinese or Indian painter would happily replicate “Vina The Longing” for $100 or less. I have a friend who runs a company that hooks up artists with western businesses, and if I had the wallspace I would be totally on top of these kinds of commissions. ”
WTF?!? What’s the word I’m looking for… reprehensible, abhorrent, total-lack-of-integrity mega-douchery? Geez people, IT IS NOT OKAY TO PAY SOMEONE IN INDIA, CHINA OR ANYWHERE ELSE TO RIP OFF ANOTHER ARTISTS’ WORK.
So we can wind it all up on a happy note, here’s a variation on The Chinese Girl that appears on the cover of a fabulous CD compilation, The Sound Gallery, which I’ve been overplaying for years. It’s full of late 60’s/early 70’s British instrumental goodies, sort of mad orchestral funk that the compilers said “will explore the world of some of the most exciting mood music ever recorded.” Maybe you’re still not convinced, but it’s crazy fun for the ears, go hunt it down!
Frank pointed out that I forgot someone — Athena, The Girl from the Green Dimension (from Lost In Space). Check her out!