Grace Jones – An Appropriated Island Life

Grace Jones released her Island Life ’85 compilation album via Island Records. A very 70s Eurodisco sounding release, it has become a classic of the pop/reggae/electro genres, and includes classic tracks such as La Vie En Rose , Slave To The Rhythm, My Jamaican Guy and Pull Up To The Bumper.

Island Life Vinyl Cover Art

The Island Life Vinyl Cover Art is, however, the focus of this blog article. We do love the music and Grace herself, but it is the cult of attraction to the visual side of the album that fascinates us. MTV music channel and video formats were a new medium at the time, and the need for 24/7 content was only just in its’ nascent phase. Jones’ striking visual appearance and performance style were a perfect match for video television.

Creative Imagery

The Island Life cover creative imagery was composed by Jean Paul Goude, using a composite of imagery to make an impossible arabesque the key visual focus of the cover. In the shot, Grace is just touching her right foot with her twisted left arm. Her right arm is extended, holding a microphone with lead extending out to the right of the frame.
She wears a red bandeau and red leg warmer on her left knee and thigh together with a blue and white spotted legwarmer on her lower calf and ankle. And that’s it, unless you include the shiny, shiny oil all over her perfectly proportioned body!
The background of the photograph is intentionally simple – sky blue wall with wooden floor and mat to make Graces’ left foot pop.
Grace Jones Island Life album cover, 1985

He notes about that picture that:

“…unless you are extraordinarily supple, you cannot do this arabesque. The main point is that Grace couldn’t do it, and that’s the basis of my entire work: creating a credible illusion.”

We don’t think that any human could sustain a pose like this, but because it is shot to look like a natural pose, it gives the impression that Jones is doing it. Clever, right?

The concept visuals are below, showing how it was made. It looks easy enough to do from todays’ perspective, but remembering that Photoshop didn’t appear for another 5 or so years, it is actually very masterful manipulation of both the pose to trick the eye AND the finishing of the photography to make it look as natural as it does.

The typography is at the top of the record, which is sensible so browsers can see it immediately on flicking through records in a crate. We wish more design could be like this…

Sincere Appreciation Appropriation

Since then, many have tried to buy into the iconic imagery of Graces’ album. This is a definite sign of success, as well as a sincere appreciation appropriation of the creative concept.

Just because vinyl, art and film references go together (Alien Grace Jones):

The Grace Jones Project

In 2016 MoAD put together the exhibition that we all want to: The Grace Jones Project. Excerpt from their archive page:

“The Grace Jones Project explores the influence of model, actress, and singer Grace Jones. The exhibition brings together more than twenty works by an inter-generational group of artists working primarily in photography, video, and performance. Some artists pay direct tribute to Jones while others demonstrate a Jones-like sensibility in their engagement with the black body and queer identity.”

So good! Vinyl + art = Grace Jones.


But it gets better than fine art – in this blog appropriated Island Life imagery is reworked using the artists’ different body shape (left), then Grace, then a Lego inperpretation!


Celebrity appropriations

And then there are the celebrity interpretations of the pose:

Amber Rose V Grace Jones


Caleb Scott V Grace Jones

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Caleb Scott does an admirable job of balancing on a lightbox with a wide grin in Graces’ pose!

Kenya Moore V Grace Jones

Miss USA 1993 (also American actress, model, producer, author, television personality, and entrepreneur, Bravo series The Real Housewives of Atlanta from 2012-2018 and The Celebrity Apprentice 7 in 2015) does it with a boxing glove and orange towel…

Grace is clearly the winner in this article (if there was ever a comparison to be made) but we love that everyone, especially those with access to software and too much time on their hands, is prepared to follow suit with the Island Life vinyl cover art.


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