ASTRONAUTS AND BOND GIRLS
A stack of Life magazines from the late sixties sat in the corner of Marcia Hillis’ studio for
years. There was something about that compelling image of Neil Armstrong stepping out to the
launch pad of Apollo 11 on the cover of the July 25, 1969 issue that captivated her imagination.
The power of that one picture defined an entire childhood, encapsulating that early life phase of
untainted hope and utter fearlessness. Years later these images still commanded her attention.
She drafted some charcoal test sketches in order to try to understand her intrigue to them.
Then, the Bond girls jumped unexpectedly into the scene. When paired with the astronauts,
they began to weave surprising narratives. There was something dynamic between the wistful,
hopeful Ursula Andress grasping her conch shell, (her prize for diving courageously into the
vast unknown deep sea) and that eager, determined Neil Armstrong striding forth boldly into
his equally mysterious frontier, outer space. Both exude the power of iconography, though one
is fact and one is fiction. Marcia’s interest in this juxtaposition led to the creation of her new
Initially these astronauts and Bond girls depict the contrasting power and fragility of male
female interaction. They surprise, evaluate, confront, play coyly. Their iconic value is of a duel
nature; they exemplify our cultural male/female ideal, and simultaneously on a deeper level
another iconic status emerges. These images signify a very specific era. Their presence reflects
one of America’s greatest moments, one in which the entire country was united with hope. We
were a nation built upon courageous pioneering that was finally exploring that boundless and
terrifying last frontier. It was a moment of our greatest strengths and aspirations. And, one in
which romance and fantasy also prevailed. It is a moment worth holding on to.
These paintings are bright and joyful. And though the female is exposed and the male wrapped
deeply beneath his astronaut suit, they both do in their own way acknowledge our predicament
as human beings navigating inevitably into our own personal unknown voyages. The Bond
girls do gaze directly out towards the viewer, while the astronauts remain cloaked under their
helmets, yet both connect with the viewer by conveying both strengths and vulnerabilities. They
are painted in a flat, unsculpted manner. The graphic nature of them contrasts with their vivid
humanity. So, stripped of extraneous cues, the viewer has plenty of space to construct his/her
own narrative. Here, less does indeed say more.