Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Anna May Wong: La Malinche
Currently up for auction on eBay is this fabulous portrait by Armando Drechsler of Anna May Wong as the controversial "Mother of Modern Mexico", La Malinche. It's not as odd as first seems. During her early career, Anna May played a variety of "exotic" ethnicities besides her own: for example, the Arab girl Zira in The 40th Door (1924) and the Inuit girl Keok in The Alaskan (1924). Such ethnic transformations were commonplace in Hollywood at the time, not to mention the institutionalized practice of yellowface.
Drechsler's choice of Anna May Wong as his model for La Malinche is especially provocative because many of the charges leveled against La Malinche — even still today — were also leveled against Anna May: harlot, race traitor, miscegenist.
But it seems plausible to me that Drechsler, who was originally from Germany and likely familiar with Anna May's European sojourns, instead regarded both women as boundary-crossing pioneers.
Whatever the inspiration, with this painting he created a stunning testament to Anna May Wong's global appeal and world-class beauty.
* For more examples of Armando Drechsler's work, see Mexican Calendar Girls by Angela Villalba.