In 1967 Judy Garland was cast in the film Valley of the Dolls, a story of three women undone by drugs and stardom on Broadway in the ‘50s. An amazingly gifted performer, Garland had been exploited since she was a girl by the entertainment industry. At this point in her career she was known to be unpredictable and painfully fragile. She was fired soon after work on the film began.
Some of the only footage that remains of her participation in the film are her wardrobe tests, in which she models her costumes for the film. These wardrobe tests have no script, no scenario, no song. The movement and nervous chatter are her own. Judy Garland had performed professionally from the age of 2, yet in this footage she appears awkward and uncomfortable, and that awkwardness makes her feel authentic and vulnerable. With the help of the Fabric Workshop, Bocanegra recreated this footage, casting eight strong women artists that she admires in the role of Garland.
Performers include poet Anne Carson, author, actor and activist Tanya Selvaratnam, actor Kate Valk, choreographer and dancer Deborah Hay, artist Joan Jonas, ballerina Wendy Whelan and artist Carrie Mae Weems.
After Judy Garland was fired from the film, she took her wardrobe with her. She wore them in her concerts until her death of a barbiturate overdose 2 years later, bringing long-lasting notoriety to the iconic late-1960s costumes.
Valley was on view at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia, PA, as part of Bocanegra’s 2018 solo show Poorly Watched Girls.