Artichoke Woman

In 1986, Sue and long-time friend Joanne Gallaher collaborated on one of Bennett’s most iconic images. Partially inspired by Marilyn Monroe’s 1948 status as Castroville (California)’s first-ever honorary Artichoke Queen–and later Monroe’s first Playboy centerfold image in 1953–Sue and Joanne combined their mutual love for artichokes into both an homage and a creative project. The picture is more explicitly a takeoff on a Bette Midler photo by Annie Leibovitz taken shortly after Midler’s movie “The Rose” (1979) was released; Leibovitz’s picture utilized strategically-placed rose petals to mimic Monroe’s earlier photo. It wasn’t until the next year when a postcard using the picture (featuring Joanne as Monroe) was created and sold at the The Giant Artichoke (restaurant)–then later used as the official poster for the 1988 Artichoke Festival–that the picture gained notoriety and a little bit of controversy.

Artichoke Woman [Joanne Gallaher]
Castroville, California, 1986
Sue Bennett, Photographer
On Location in Castroville

The following images were taken by Joanne Gallaher in the Spring of 1987 when she and Sue visited with some of the artichoke growers in the Castroville, CA area.

Sue with Silvio Bernardi
Sue with Silvio Bernardi, 1987. Castroville, CA. Photograph by Joanne Gallaher
Sue Photographing in Artichoke Fields, 1987. Castroville CA. Photograph by Joanne Gallaher.

Bennett Artichoke Notes, 1986 ca.
Click here for responses and media coverage related to “Artichoke Woman” after the picture was taken

Sue was close friends with both Joanne and her husband Bill Mueller; they first met in 1977. An architect, Bill designed Bennett’s studio space in Flagstaff’s Babbitt building in the early 1990s. After Bill passed away in 1999, Sue spoke at his memorial and regaled the gatherers with amusing stories involving the three of them.