Forward by Laurie Frank of Frank Pictures:
I knew Theo very little before her too short, peripatetic, resolutely creative life ended on February 28, 2008. I met her in Cuba in 1992, we spent a week in Havana together where she photographed Castro for Vanity Fair and I accompanied Anne Louise Bardach, who wrote the story. I saw Theo one more time, when she came to stay at my house in Hollywood. She had come to LA to ask for a show of her photographs at my gallery. I turned her down. It wasn’t that the work was not perfect. It was. In a time when commercial female photographers were virtually non-existent, Theo had shot three presidents and an award-winning array of covers of actors like Clint Eastwood, Meryl Streep, and Jennifer Aniston for the best magazines in the world. But it was consummately professional photography that Theo showed me, not the skewed, deeply personal vision that could only belong to a singular eye. Had Theo showed me her hand painted photographs, the series, Flavors In 1975, I would have jumped at the chance. Lucky, for me and unlucky for me, because I didn’t speak to Theo again until 3 weeks before her death. I hope my love for Flavors In 1975 and the great privilege of representing the work will inspire equal awe, delight, and remembrance of Theo Westenberger, the artist, the consummate photographer, the laughing lovely girl.
Theo had grown up in a Richard Neutra house in La, Canada-Flintridge and these are the photographs of a homegrown eye. They are exquisite perceptions of a specific moment and a particular place, so captivating of that time and that place that the fact that a look from our vantage point from the twenty first century backwards to the used car lots, miniature golf courses, detritus of the Rose Parade, Goodyear blimp, and Cinderella’s castle doesn’t render them clichés, is almost an impossibility. Yet Theo pulls it off. Yes, these are our perceptions too, this is how we all remember the California of the seventies, but each photograph holds a particular surprise, a pop and a power that blows them out of the ball park (even if it is Disneyland). There was no Photoshop in 1975, the happy incongruities had nothing to do with iphoto or even luck, just everything to say about Theo Westenberger’s gift and her sense of humor. Using Marshall’s oil paints on black and white prints, she radically recreated her environment to realize her very own private left coast, a gorgeous place in living color that is to be her living legacy.