Minter moved to New York City in 1976, after earning a master of fine arts degree at Syracuse University. She became involved in the nightclub scene in Manhattan of the late 1970s and early 1980s. She also taught in a Catholic boys' school. In 1985 she began working in art again.
While still a student in Florida, Marilyn Minter created a series of photographic studies that involved her drug-addicted mother, which is now praised. Through the 1980s, she explored Pop-derived pictures often incorporating sexuality, setting the tone for many of her works.
In 1989 Minter created a series of works based on images from hardcore pornography. She received much criticism for this from feminists who saw it as an expression of the victimization and objectification of women, rather than a statement on the absurdity of such images.
In 1990, her infamy intensified when her television ad, 100 Food Porn came out. Through the 1990s she refined her works, which despite still having pornographic undertones, exuded a sense of glamour and high-fashion.
In 2005 Minter had a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art which focused on her recent works - hyperrealistic close-ups of seemingly glamourous images, including makeup-laden lips, eyes, and toes.
March 2006 Minter took out ad space on four billboards in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. The billboards presented photographs of high heels kicking around in dirty water, and stayed up in Chelsea for a month. Minter also had a spot in the 2006 Whitney Biennial.
In 2007, her first retrospective monograph was published, and she had shows in Sweden, the U.K., Spain and France. A series of photographs she took of Pamela Anderson, commissioned by the art quarterly Parkett, were later featured on the cover of Zoetrope All-Story. Her book involved a heavy gloss, mutli-colored paper making it feel almost wet, setting the book apart.
In 2008 Marylin Minter collaborated with international skate/street wear brand Supreme to produce three limited edition skate decks.
In 2009, excerpts from Minter's "Green Pink Caviar" video were used as the video backdrop for the opening song in Madonna's Sticky & Sweet Tour.
Marilyn Minter /"Barbed Wire" (with Pamela Anderson). Marilyn Minter's work can blur the line between commercial and art, making some uncomfortable
Sometimes she presents the photograph as the work itself -- the Regen show includes several photos. For the paintings, Minter layers enamel on aluminum and paints the final layer with her fingertips to soften the image.
For the last decade or so, Minter has been making colorful, tightly framed pictures that mimic glossy fashion spreads and beauty advertisements -- except that in these pictures, like the photographs of her mother, something is off.
In a close-up of a woman's eye, the glittery makeup is clumped and smeared. In a sensuous picture of an underarm, stubble can be seen sprouting from the skin. These are pictures of bodies that seek an idealized standard of beauty -- and fail.
The pictures appeal to audiences, Minter said, because they are honest.
"I think I might be hitting the zeitgeist," she said. "All around you you're looking at beautiful people that have been turned into robots. Maybe the eye is craving a little upper lip fur."
While Minter's work has gained respect in the art world -- she has had shows in England, Sweden, Spain and France, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles have both added her work to their collections -- it has also, ironically, been embraced by the world of fashion and beauty.
In recent years, Minter has shot pictures for Paper Magazine and Allure and has made advertisements for makeup companies.
Whenever she does commercial or editorial shoots, she works on her own projects in between takes. For example, she filmed "Green Pink Caviar" in the middle of a M.A.C. makeup shoot. Minter calls herself "a parasite of the fashion world," but the blurring of the line between her art and commercial work makes some audiences uncomfortable, said Joshua Shirkey, who curated Minter's show at SFMoMA. Shirkey pointed to a 2006 public art project that featured four of Minter's photographs on billboards in New York City.
The pictures, of gem-encrusted high heels kicking through dirty water, could have easily been mistaken for advertisements. "We want to believe that art is separate from fashion and magazines," he said. "What is difficult with her work is how close that edge is." Minter is interesting, Shirkey said, because she avoids didactic readings of our visual culture. "Instead of just rejecting it and saying, 'This is evil and I want no part of this,' she's saying, 'How does it work, why does it work, why does it have an affect on us?' " Shirkey said Minter's late-in-life success helps "make a case for letting ideas simmer." "In the art world there's so much emphasis on 'Who's the next big thing?' " he said. "This whole system is driven by youth. But here's a mature artist who is making the best work of her career."
Marilyn Minter's latest pictures look like high fashion throwing up: Big, glossy close-ups of lipsticked mouths spewing diamonds, pearls and colorful, glittering goo.
Both luminous and grotesque, they are meant to evoke the experience of flipping through a glamour magazine like Vogue, Minter says.
"People get a lot of pleasure out of it, and at the very same time they know they're never going to look that good," she said. "So my aim is to try to create that same paradox. Because it's a very complicated thing, the way we look, and what it feels like to look."
Minter,62, has worked largely under the radar for most of her 40-year career as a painter and photographer, but her more recent meditations on glamour have helped bring her to art world prominence. She had a solo show at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2005, and her work was seen in the 2006 Whitney Biennial (one of her pictures, of a woman's cracked heels wedged into dirty stiletto pumps, was featured on the invitation to the exhibition).