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Female Gaze Friday: Annie Kevans

Representations of the male figure in art are far less common than works depicting women. A long history of straight men dominating the art world has led to many images of winsome women, but fewer of beautiful men (I’ve written on this subject before; if you’d like to read more about the lack of male figures in art check it out here).

Every Female Gaze Friday I will post a woman-created work of art depicting a man—one small act to reverse the male gaze! Not all images will be provocative, many will be nonsexual or even disturbing. Hopefully this will be a way of learning more about women artists (as well as looking at dudes)!

This week we’ll look at a series of portraits by painter Annie Kevans:

Annie Kevans, Benito Mussolini, oil on paper, 51 x 41cm

Annie Kevans, Benito Mussolini, Italy, 2004, oil on paper, 51 x 41cm

Annie Kevans, Francisco Franco, Spain, 2004, oil on paper, 51 x 41cm

Annie Kevans, Francisco Franco, Spain, 2004, oil on paper, 51 x 41cm

Annie Kevans, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union, 2004, oil on canvas, 51 x 41cm

Annie Kevans, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Union, 2004, oil on canvas, 51 x 41cm

As you may have noticed, Annie Kevans’ Boys series depicts the faces of real dictators as innocent children. Childlike features are exaggerated, creating rosy-cheeked, doe-eyed versions of violent dictators. Her images exist in stark contrast to what we know about these men.

For Kevans, accurately portraying people is not the focus of her portraits. She views her work as conceptual, and the rift between the accuracy of the portraits and what we know to be factually true adds to the concept.

Kevans is also well known for her series, Lost Boys, including portraits of now-grown child stars as they used to be. In this series the contrast is also important, as the viewer compares, say, and adult Michael Jackson with his younger self.

Stylistically, Kevans appears to be very similar to Karen Kilimnik with her loose painting techniques and flattened value planes, although the “celebrities” she selects exist in a very different vein. Kevans’ undefined brushstrokes only add to the jarring sense of innocence in these portraits.

Annie Kevans, Michael Jackson in Blue, 2009, oil on paper, 50 x 40cm

Annie Kevans, Michael Jackson in Blue, 2009, oil on paper, 50 x 40cm

You can see more of Kevans’ work here. Check back on Fridays for more images of men by women. And feel free to suggest works of art or artists in the comments!

Take a look at our previous Female Gaze Friday: Paintings by Feminist artist, Alice Neel.

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