In my Village Voice tribute to the life and art of Sonja Wagner, who is seriously ill, I described her body of work as running "the gamut from the religious to the profane." Somewhere in the middle of that gamut is her Dead Blondes triptych, three Warhol-like paintings, which she also made into prints, of two women and one very young girl, all of whom were sex symbols who met tragic ends.
The official cause of Marilyn Monroe's death, in 1962, in LA, at age 36, is probable suicide by acute barbiturate poisoning, though speculation has persisted for decades that the CIA or John and Robert Kennedy had her murdered.
Jayne Mansfield, seen above, was Monroe's chief competitor in the sex-symbol arena. She died in 1967, at age 34, in a car crash in Mississippi. Her attorney Sam Brody and their driver, Ronnie Harrison, were also killed, though three of her children traveling in the back seat, including Mariska Hargitay, survived.
Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey, a child beauty queen, died of strangulation and a skull fracture. Her body was discovered December 26, 1996, in the basement of her family home in Boulder, Colorado. To date, nobody has been convicted of the murder.
As grisly as the circumstances surrounding these three deaths seem, it's typical of the kind of material from which Sonja drew her inspiration.
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