Seeing The Other Side Of American Legend Frank Sinatra

By Catherine Thorbecke

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The New York Public Library and the Grammy Museum in LA have collaborated to produce a most unique exhibition on display at the Lincoln Center entitled Frank Sinatra: An American Icon. The exhibition commemorates the legend of a man who would have turned one hundred years old in 2015. The title epitomizes what Sinatra has become in our society: an icon of the American dream.

The son of Italian immigrants, Sinatra supported himself with a paper-route and came of age with a strong spirit molded by a youth in the Great Depression. He then went on to become one of the best-selling musicians of all time and an idol during the Golden Age of Hollywood. The blue-eyed-bad-boy mixed classy with rebellious and reached a level of fame unmatched at its peak and a successful career that spanned over half a century. The exhibition offers intimate glimpses into Frank Sinatra’s private life and includes many personal items that the curator acquired from Sinatra’s family members.This show reveals a tender, humanized, side of the legend of a man and explores what went into making his career.

The impeccably curated exhibitions offers a complex understanding of this “american icon” including a re-creation of Sinatra’s childhood home in Hoboken and visual scenes of the 1930’s New York City landscape that Sinatra lived in (and later sang about in his most inspirational American anthem New York, New York). This tender childhood scene is juxtaposed beside an exhibit of Sinatra’s mugshot. The idol was literally arrested for “seduction,” which scribbled below his smug, youthful, face (apparently seduction and adultery were illegal at the time).The mug shot and the tender childhood scene reveal how Sinatra’s bad-boy image somehow worked with his innocence to create his lovable image throughout his career.

Many people don’t know that Sinatra was also a visual artist and produced many paintings and drawings that he never publicly shared. According to the exhibition, Sinatra used art as a way to deal with the stress and pressures that his lifestyle placed on him. This was the one art form that Sinatra produced only ever for himself. He would make paintings and sometimes give them to close friends and family members. One abstract painting has ‘Grandpa’ scribbled in the corner by Sinatra’s own brushstroke. The exhibition of Sinatra’s visual art reveals a tender side of the womanizing Hollywood bad boy with rumored associations with the Chicago mafia.

The Golden Age of Hollywood fashion may seem overly dated and irrelevant in the ripped-jeans, minimalist, era of fashion today, but Sinatra’s style is timeless. Displays of black-and-white photographs of Sinatra, accessorized with his signature fedora and perfectly tailored suits show a class and character that could never go out of style.

For those of you staying in NYC over spring break the exhibition is free and open to the public at the New York Public Library Center for the Performing Arts in the Lincoln Center and truly an inspiring glimpse into the world of an American legend.

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