“Lolita in Sag Harbor” explores an iconic movie image in the place where it came to life.
LOLITA, MOTEL (Sue Lyon).
Little-known fact: The famous poster image of Sue Lyon, star of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film Lolita—with heartshaped sunglasses, pursed lips, and lollipop, all gleaming cherry-red— was created in Sag Harbor. The sultry publicity stills shot by legendary photographer Bert Stern are now on display, with his sketches and notes, at Christy’s Art Center.
To prepare for the shoot, Stern raided the Sag Harbor Five and Dime (now the Variety Store) “for comic books, American flags, junk candy, anything reminiscent of George Washington’s Delaware crossing,” recalled the photographer, who died in 2013. Shooting at “local diners, old gas stations, and crummy motels,” he tried to emulate the gaze of Humbert Humbert, the pedophile protagonist of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel about the titular teen nymphet.
“These photographs are the visual life of a love story that is one of the most celebrated and controversial literary achievements,” says Shannah Laumeister Stern of her husband’s work. She selected some 20 pieces for the show, including several unpublished shots. “They’re familiar musings, like memories we all remember even if we never had a personal encounter with the subject.”
Lolita was an inspiration for Stern, who won acclaim for candid portraits of Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, and Brigitte Bardot. Yet when asked to sum up his career, he left celebrity aside, offering this perceptive epitaph: “I took audacious pictures that got people to want things.” “Lolita in Sag Harbor” is on view through September 8 at Christy’s Art Center, 3 Madison St., Sag Harbor, 631-725-0534.