Saturday Art: Cameron, Art and Magick
“Dark Angel” portrait of Jack Parsons, by Cameron
(Second image, below the jump ,is NSFW and was declared by LAPD in 1957 to be “lewd”)
Cameron Parson–she despised her first name, Marjorie–led a storied life, filled with art, passion and magick. Born in Iowa, she joined the Navy during World Wat II, but went AWOL when her brother was injured and spent the rest of the war confined to base, leaving with an honorable discharge. Following her family to Pasadena, she met Jack Parsons, a notorious and brilliant rocket scientist, one of the founders of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the discoverer of solid rocket fuel.
Months earlier Jack Parsons–a follower of English occult practitioner Aleister Crowley, dubbed “the Great Beast” and “the wickedest man win the world” and head of the magickal group Ordo Templi Orientis–had performed a series of magickal rituals with a boarder at his rambling house. The boarder, who shall remain nameless, was a pulp fiction writer who would later go on to found one of the most goofy and litigious celebrity-heavy cults in modern history. He and Parsons had performed sex magick to conjure up an “elemental” girl friend, the Scarlet Woman, Babalon, for Jack, since the boarder had taken up with Jack’s current lover, Betty, the half sister of Parsons’ ex-wife.
Parsons and the boarder performed the sex magick rituals, and Cameron walked into Parsons house, a bohmian enclave of writers, artists and oddballs. The two became lovers and eventually married, with Cameron becoming more and more immersed in the O.T.O., though she took breaks from Jack and his lifestyle in the desert, at a Swiss nunnery and in Mexico.
In 1952, as Jack and Cameron were preparing to leave for Mexico where Parsons–who had lost his security clearance at Hughes Aircraft–had been offered a job, the scientist dropped a container of mercury fulminate and blew himself up. It was a grisly end for the Dark Angel. Cameron retired to the California desert for three years and then emerged again in Los Angeles with a series of paintings called Parchments, and reaffirming her friendship with Walter Berman and others in his circle. Fellow occultist Kenneth Anger cast her opposite Anais Nin in his 1956 film Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and director Curtis Harrington filmed Cameron’s artwork and rituals for The Wormwood Star.
However, her most notorious moment came in 1957 at the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles she and Berman were part of a group show. Cameron’s drawing of a peyote vision was declared
by the Los Angeles Police Department, which shut down the exhibit. Neither she nor Berman would publicly exhibit their works again in their lifetime.
Three of Cameron’s artworks, including the censored piece, and several of Berman’s are part of LA Raw now at Pasadena Museum of California Art as the statewide Pacific Standard Time multi-exhibition continues.
Side note for fans of coincidence: Jack Parsons’ magickal name was Brother 210, referring to the numerological value of his magickal motto “Thelema Obtentum Procedero Amoris Nuptiae;” the freeway that runs past his old home on Orange Grove Avenue, (now an apartment complex), past JPL and out to the area where he and fellow scientists tested their rockets is the 210/Foothill Freeway. Construction on the 210 began in 1958, six years after Parsons’ death.