Lips First

Natalie Irish kisses her portraits into life.

Irish sometimes worries about being typecast into only a lip-painter, but Rogers is confident in her talent: "If you can paint a picture like that with your lips, kissing the canvas, then of course you can do some amazing stuff with your hands and with brushes." You just have to make a loud noise, Rogers says, to get people to look.

White gauzy sheets are draped from the ceiling of Chris O'Malley's spare bedroom, acting as makeshift diffusers for the bright floor lights. Baby oil, Vaseline, and tubes of lipstick are strewn across the bathroom, while a keg of home-brewed beer chills in the bathtub. This could pass for the set of a low-budget porn. But videographer O'Malley is filming Irish as she creates her newest lip painting, one the Houston Press commissioned for this issue's cover.

First, O'Malley shot Irish lip-painting Marilyn, followed by Hendrix. Today, Irish will kiss the likeness of a brand-new star: herself.

Irish's lip-print oeuvre includes a portrait of Jimi Hendrix – commissioned by famed poster artist Jermaine Rogers –
Painting by Natalie Irish; Photo by Chris O'Malley
Irish's lip-print oeuvre includes a portrait of Jimi Hendrix – commissioned by famed poster artist Jermaine Rogers –
...and one of Marilyn Monroe.
Painting by Natalie Irish; Photo by Dennis Bateman
...and one of Marilyn Monroe.

Her online store is nearly cleared of lip prints, all of which are signed and limited-edition. "It gives the normal everyday person a chance to buy and afford your artwork, and also it becomes collectible because there's only a few," she explains. Irish sold out of Marilyns, and she's almost out of Hendrix prints. Even Ripley's Believe It Or Not! wants a piece. "They're going to buy some originals," she says. "I'm more excited about that than anything. Freaking Ripley's? I never imagined that this would be seen in any other light than just a weird way of painting."

Irish painted and scrubbed the canvas for today's self-portrait a week ago, creating a textured effect for one of her first mixed-media smooching sessions. Once the Vaseline resist dries, the canvas will be ready to kiss. But while Irish chats with O'Malley in the studio, red drains from her cheeks. She looks woozy and reaches into her back pocket to check her insulin pump. "My blood sugar's really high," she tells O'Malley. Whoops. As she rushed to get here early in the morning, Irish ate a granola bar and forgot to give herself insulin for it.

"Uh, do you need to go for a run?" O'Malley asks, confused.

"Do you want me to go to the hospital?" Irish replies with a weak laugh. "I need to lay on the couch for 15 minutes."

When she emerges from the living room a bit later, Irish is smiling and apologizing. Bateman calls her cell to check up on her. She explains the granola bar fiasco. "I'm not completely fucked up, but I also can't see 100 percent straight," she says. "I'll deal with it. I have to work."

Irish hangs up and faces the blank canvas. She steadies a pencil in front of her nose, charting the invisible coordinates where she'll kiss herself onto her canvas.

Game time. In the bathroom, Irish slicks on her tangerine lipstick, planting a test smooch on the mirror. Her color is back, and she's ready to work. "Better not ever wash that mirror," she yells to O'Malley playfully. "It's gonna be famous."

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My Voice Nation Help

this is such the truth...she was married and cheating on her husband while he worked offshore...drinking and boozing with total disregard of her safety or the husband working his ass off for her and their future...

Mr. Ripley
Mr. Ripley

She's amazing! That's quite an ability.

Hopefully with fame she can use a real videographer who actually has talent to showcase her work who focuses on the artist and not a desperate attempt to get noticed too.


Natalie- Check out the wireless, tubeless insulin pump by Omnipod! You load the pod, put it on, and it lasts for 3 days. Plus the control module doubles as your glucose meter. My girlfriend lowered her A1C by a full point after about 6 months on the pod, and loves it in comparison to her old pump. Only down side is you cannot take the pod and reconnected it like a standard insulin pump.

On another note, I really enjoyed this piece, the story, and the artwork!

Gabriel Dieter
Gabriel Dieter

She sure is cool huh! I'm so happy for her to have the interest she deserves!