While most artists incorporate the use of photography in their work, many won’t admit it. There’s a widespread belief that working from a photograph is worse than working from real life or from your imagination. As far as I can gather, the idea for most photography shunning artists is that it’s too easy to translate a 2D image to a 2D work, while the idea for most non-artists is that the photographic image is already in existence, so what’s the point?
To any photorealism shunning audience members, I ask you to suspend your disbelief for a short while, and take a look at the work of Audrey Flack:
Interesting, isn’t it? And a style that, while naturalistic, I don’t think that you can claim is derivative of a photograph. A photo of a similar still life would lack the vibrancy, the sense of movement, the certain je ne sais quoi that this work has.
Audrey Flack is a photorealist (hyper realist, super realist…) printmaker, sculptor, and as we’ll be focusing on here, painter known primarily for her work throughout the 1970s and 80s. She is one of the founding mothers of the photorealist movement, and her work has helped to legitimize the idea of working from a photograph.
Even amongst the other pioneers of photorealism Flack encountered adversity. Her subject matter was considered too feminine, too emotional for the seemingly never-ending stream of masculine cars, empty and passionless streets, and coolly-toned portraits of her contemporaries. As Flack stated in regards to such criticism, “I painted what was around me and what I was interested in. This was then deemed “feminine” subject matter. I just happened to be a woman”. To an extent, I agree with critics on this. Flack’s work is arguably very feminine. The subject matter are objects generally owned by women and many of her paintings have feminist undertones. However, this became one of the main insults directed towards her work as critics and contemporaries insinuated that her paintings were somehow “too feminine” to be photorealist, too tied to her emotions to be compared to the work of Estes and Close. Which I personally find ridiculous. Many of Close’s paintings, in particular, are fairly emotional. Take a look at this portrait created around the same time as Flack’s “too feminine” paintings.
I would hardly call this unemotional. I would also say that the portrait is highly masculine. The subject is looking down at us, placing himself in a position of power. His gaze could be read as one of contempt, as a cigarette (Masculine!) droops from his lips. Yet, are there complaints that this is too masculine? And for that matter, if artwork can become too feminine or too masculine then are we striving for androgyny? It seems as though only one end of our gender spectrum is considered unsuitable as a subject of art. In fact, I would claim that in the photorealist time period anything not decisively male would not be considered high art.
Of course, I can see how you could argue that this piece is not masculine in the way that Flack’s piece is feminine. And thus we get to the work of Tom Blackwell.
It’s like we’re bathing in testosterone! Cars and bikes! Fuck yeah! Read more →
There are some artists I have to love for their work, and then there are artists like Mary Heilmann, who I mainly love for something else. With Heilmann, she has an incredibly magnetic personality. She has this urge to be in the spotlight and has always chosen the most dramatic options available to her.
My 2D design class watched an episode of Art21 featuring both Mary Heilmann and Jeff Koons. While we had all heard of Koons’ work none of us had heard of Heilmann. Upon viewing her paintings we didn’t think they were anything special. Us students are impressed by things that are flashy, exciting, maybe a little bit taboo (This always reminds me of something I heard from one of my teachers at the Cranbrook summer camp: “If you can’t paint well, paint red. If you can’t paint red, paint big. And if you can’t paint big, paint shiny”. If anyone knows who my teacher was quoting I would appreciate you letting me know!). And Heilmann’s work? Heilmann’s work was small. It was colorful, but not in a way we found to be special. And her composition and subject choice at first seemed lacking.
However, as we continued on through the episode we started to feel two things.
First they’re objects and then they’re pictures of something.
I wanted to be on the edge. Original. And that meant going against the status quo.
Today I’m going to talk about an artist you’ve likely heard of, Artemisia Gentileschi. Or rather, most of us have heard of her as the woman artist who was raped and then spent the rest of her career depicting her personal revenge upon men in her artwork.
Which, in case you were wondering, is complete and utter crap. But I’ll get to that in a minute. First, some background!Sidenote: Generally I refer to artists by their last names, but as I’ll be discussing both Artemisia and her father Orazio in this post I’ll be using first names. Not pulling a Bill Clinton is Clinton, but Hillary Clinton is Hillary type thing!
During the 1600’s women were not well received as artists, and needed exceptional circumstances (read: either money or privilege and often both) to pursue artistic careers. Apprenticeships were generally only open to young men. Women who wanted to go into art had to be either wealthy, born to an artist, or go into a convent that produced artwork. Artemisia Gentileschi was lucky enough to be born to the painter Orazio, opening doors that would be closed to many other women of the time period.
Not to say that she owes her success to her father. Artemisia was incredibly talented. Her technique and her unique perspective on frequently used artistic subject matter separates her from other artists of the time. She’s one of the few women artists who is consistently featured in art history classes, often the only woman artist. In my high school art history class she was the only woman artist we learned about before the 1900s.
So Artemisia was able to apprentice under her father. She learned much of her stylistic techniques from Orazio, who followed Caravaggio’s style. However, Artemisia’s work is much more naturalistic compared to Orazio’s idealization.
This is when things become truly depressing. Artemisia was denied entrance into the all-male academies of art because of her sex. Women were not allowed in the academies, no matter their level of talent. Seeing as how Artemisia was incredibly talented and deserved to become an artist, Orazio asked one of his peers, Agostino Tassi, to privately tutor her. Under his tutelage Tassi raped Artemisia, and then coerced her into continued sexual relations with the promise of marriage. Once Artemisia realized that Tassi would never fulfill this promise she told her father what had happened. Orazio sued and Tassi pulled out all of the stops, having friends claim to have also slept with Artemisia, and generally damaging her reputation in any way he could. It eventually came out that Tassi was already married. Tassi was allowed to choose between jail time and exile from Rome. He chose the latter, but returned only four months later.
A horrible experience for anyone to go through. And to make it even worse, it would define her artwork in the eyes of historians and critics for a very long time.
More after the jump! Read more →