ARTISTS IN LOVE, part 17
Many of Frank Frazetta's fans had trouble understanding why the "master of fantasy" couldn't fantasize a better lifestyle than a home in the suburbs with a wife and kids.
Frazetta was able to conjure up vivid worlds of savage barbarians and wild harem girls. He painted eyewitness accounts of magic spells on alien planets and colossal battles with dinosaurs.
How could such an imagination possibly be satisfied with middle class domestic life?
But Frazetta made no apologies for his choice, shrugging, "I got married, had kids, did my thing."
Frazetta said he picked his wife Ellie over all the other girls because "I sensed that she would be forever loyal and I never had that feeling about any other girl I'd been involved with." Apparently her ability to pilot a space ship was not even a consideration.
They started out with very little money, but you don't need much when you're young and hot blooded. Ellie recalled that when they moved into a small apartment in Brooklyn,
we used to have water pistol fights in our apartment in the dark. Have you ever been squirted with water in a pitch black room? Oh, it's creepy! We did all sorts of silly things when we were young. I had to clean up the mess in the morning, but so what? We had fun and it didn't cost a dime.Years later, a more matronly Ellie tried to keep the evidence of their early frolics under wraps, saying "I don't want my grandkids to see their grandmother like that."
As the couple matured, Ellie primly scolded Frazetta for paintings she now considered "too sexy" or "sacrilegious."
"I really didn't care for... the alien crucifixion.... when you start messing with people's core beliefs, that's when the joke's gone way too far." --Ellie
In a recent blog post about Frazetta, a friend describes Frazetta's frustration when Ellie stopped posing for him:
[O]ne time I really did want to use her and she said a flat "no". I had an idea to do a follow-up book to that book of monsters I did for Danzig. It would be in different types of pencil, all nudes, all using Ellie, and using very different types of really dramatic lighting. Ellie would have been my life model. She said "no". She said she was too busy with the business and the kids. I dropped the whole thing.When his art offended her, she threatened to destroy it. She pestered him into altering a painting when she thought a woman's rump was too large. To please her, he would paint pictures of Jesus.
Frazetta fans watched aghast: would married life tame their hero?
Outsiders can't always appreciate how marriage provides its own version of magic spells and alien planets. Marriage can introduce you to the true meaning of life-or-death stakes; you think a giant lizard with a ray gun is daunting? Try bringing new life trembling into the world, and taking permanent responsibility for it.
And of course, marriage also provides you with an opportunity to do your own version of that barbarian-and-harem-girl thing.
A couple must get beyond what poet Eavan Boland calls "the easy graces and sensuality of the body" and face life's true challenges before they understand "what there is between a man and a woman. And in which darkness it can best be proved."
The Frazettas stayed together through thick and thin, through lean years when assignments were hard to find, through vicious quarrels and illness and a stroke. Frazetta grumbled that he should have divorced Ellie long ago, but he was "too lazy."
After Ellie died, Frazetta's publisher J. David Spurlock visited him alone in his studio. Spurlock discovered that Frazetta had taken down his world famous illustrations from the walls and replaced them with pictures he had painted of Ellie over the years.
Spurlock reported that even when the face wasn't an exact likeness, it was obvious that Ellie had been the inspiration for each picture Frank selected.
In case there was any lingering doubt about the role Frazetta's marriage played in his work, Spurlock spotted Frazetta's famous painting, "Adventure," on his drawing board.
Frazetta was carefully repainting the face on the girl as the face of his late wife.