When Eddie Muller decided that NOIR CITY 14 would explore the theme of The Art of Darkness—the insanity inducing struggle to create in our "bitter little world"—the idea for the teaser image and the main poster "immediately sprang" to art director Bill Selby's mind, "I wanted to pay tribute to two of my favorite painters, Jean-Léon Gérôme and Norman Rockwell and repurpose two of their iconic images to tell a story. Gérôme and Rockwell might seem at first an odd pairing, but they somehow made sense in a classic-drug-induced-hallucinogenic-montage sort of way (think Dick Powell as Philip Marlowe being knocked unconscious in Murder, My Sweet)."

Selby pitched Muller his idea and sent rough comps of both posters to him. Muller gave his thumbs up and the process of turning an idea into a piece of art, or rather two pieces of art, began. NOIR CITY emcee and poster boy Muller first cast real-life artist's model Aja De Coudreaux as Ms. NOIR CITY 14 to grace both the poster and the stage of the festival's home, San Francisco's historic Castro Theatre.

Next came the search for a location. Muller contacted a seemingly unlikely ally, veteran actress Diane Baker, who Muller interviewed about her extraordinary career following a screening of her 1965 late era noir Mirage at the 2011 Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival in Palm Springs. Ms. Baker is now the Executive Director of the School of Acting at the Academy of Art University and she graciously gave her permission to use one of the school's painting classrooms for the photo shoot. Selby and NOIR CITY photographer David M. Allen collected all the necessary artistic props, and the shoot took place with De Coudreaux, Muller, Allen and Selby.

In an impressive one week, Selby transformed the photographs from the shoot into the festival's signature posters, "After taking bits and pieces of a dozen or so photos from the several hundred we shot, I composited and completed the two photo-illustrations in Adobe Photoshop CS6." Selby explained how the resulting dual posters tell a story intertwining creation and destruction and rife with artistic references that play on and expound them.

"The first NOIR CITY poster is a 'before' image, riffing on Gérôme's 1890 painting, Pygmalion and Galatea, depicting the moment in the Greek myth when the sculpture of Galatea is brought to life by the goddess Aphrodite, in fulfillment of Pygmalion's wish for a wife as beautiful as the sculpture he created. My dark reimagining represents the archetypal noir struggle. Gérôme's sculptor is replaced by a gun-toting hard-boiled detective, locked in a nightmare embrace with his knife-wielding quarry, a stone-cold femme fatale, forsaking her pedestal and springing to dangerous life. The moment is frozen in the spotlight, the battle timeless. Who will live? Who will die? Will there be a victor in this desperate battle of the sexes?

"The answer is revealed in the second festival poster, the 'after' image, using Norman Rockwell's 1960 Triple Self Portrait as a template. Rockwell's painting was humorous, and ours is, too — only a lot darker. The model's adversary lies dead at her feet on the floor at the lower left. She paints her 'confession' (or could it be her triumph?) on the canvas, integrating the image from the first poster. Reference photos are tacked to the canvas echoing various creative arts — writing, dance, film. In the mirror's reflection is photographer and photojournalist Weegee, who has stumbled upon the crime scene. Our model glances away from her canvas, into the mirror, makes eye contact with the photographer and with us – she is guiltless, enigmatic, click! – the art of darkness is captured."

MODELS: Aja De Coudreaux & Eddie Muller

NOIR CITY 13, January 16-25, Castro Theatre, San Francisco

NOIR CITY 13, January 16-25, Castro Theatre, San Francisco

Film Noir Foundation

Copyright © 2016. Website design: Ted Whipple/Incite Design;
poster and logo design: Bill Selby; poster and NOIRCITY photos: David M. Allen