Tag Archives: paintings

Female Gaze Friday: Jen Mann

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’s works are Cotton Candy and Sway by Jen Mann:

Jen Mann, Cotton Candy, 2013, oil on canvas, 48"x46"

Jen Mann, Cotton Candy, 2013, oil on canvas, 48″x46″

Jen Mann, Sway, 2013, oil on canvas, 50"x50"

Jen Mann, Sway, 2013, oil on canvas, 50″x50″

I first saw Mann’s work on tumblr, where her brightly colored, bubblegum-like portraits are incredibly popular. Her paintings are beautiful, with an intriguing use of monotone figures against contrasting backgrounds. She limits herself to simply composed portraits with very clean, crisp lines and naturalistically rendered features. These portraits are from her Strange Beauties series and are inspired by the circus, the innocence of childhood, and dreams.

You can see more of Jen Mann’s work here or take a look at her somewhat different Fera series 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: Amy Sherald’s The Rabbit in the HatPony Boy, and High Yella Masterpiece: We Ain’t No Cotton Pickin’ Negroes.

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Female Gaze Friday: Amy Sherald

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’s works are The Rabbit in the Hat, Pony Boy, and High Yella Masterpiece: We Ain’t No Cotton Pickin’ Negroes by painter Amy Sherald:

Amy Sherald, The Rabbit in the Hat, 2009, oil on canvas, 54"x43"

Amy Sherald, The Rabbit in the Hat, 2009, oil on canvas, 54″x43″

Amy Sherald, Pony Boy, 2008, oil on canvas, 54"x43"

Amy Sherald, Pony Boy, 2008, oil on canvas, 54″x43″

Amy Sherald, High Yella Masterpiece: We Ain't No Cotton Pickin' Negroes, 2011, oil on canvas, 59"x69"

Amy Sherald, High Yella Masterpiece: We Ain’t No Cotton Pickin’ Negroes, 2011, oil on canvas, 59″x69″

Amy Sherald’s paints portraits of black men and women in which she removes all color from their skin. In Sherald’s words,  her work “began as an exploration to exclude the idea of color as race from my paintings by removing “color” but still portraying racialised bodies as objects to be viewed through portraiture”. Her figures started out with fairytale-like details which constructed an alternate version of black history. From there, her work evolved to place black figures in environments like circuses, which more directly called out themes of blackness and racialisation.

Sherald’s work focuses on self-identity and constructed identities. She draws from her own experiences as one of the few black children in her private schools and how her identity was formed by those experiences.

I saw one of Sherald’s paintings at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and was struck by the sparing use of color and the flatness of certain portions of her paintings. If you ever have the chance to see her work, go! Her paintings are even more striking in person.

You can see more of Amy Sherald’s 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: Sasha Panyuta’s Bryan.

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Melissa Huang: Updated Portfolio

To all of my fellow artists and art enthusiasts: I’ve done some portfolio restructuring and now my artwork is separated into the easy to peruse categories of painting, drawing, sculpture, and printmaking. Check it out here!

Melissa (2012)

Melissa, 2012, oil on canvas, 36″x48″

Peter, 2012, oil on canvas, 36"x48"

Peter, 2012, oil on canvas, 36″x48″

Feel free to contact me (mah5588@rit.edu) if you’re interested in purchasing a piece, commissioning a portrait, or if you’re just plain curious about one of the works. Thanks, and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

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New Paintings: Fall 2012/Spring 2013 Artwork by Melissa Huang

This past fall at Rochester Institute of Technology and this spring at Florence University of the Arts, I’ve been able to create a number of new paintings which I’d love to share with you! Remember, you can always see my current work on the portfolio page of this site.

These are the two main paintings I created during the fall (each one is 3 x 4 feet). I was exploring themes of childhood and gender expression. These paintings were accompanied by three smaller works, close-up images of hands clutching toys.

Melissa Huang, Drew, 2012, oil on canvas, 48"x36"

Melissa Huang, Drew, 2012, oil on canvas, 48″x36″

Melissa Huang, Jamie, 2012, oil on canvas, 36"x48"

Melissa Huang, Jamie, 2012, oil on canvas, 36″x48″

These two pieces refer back to this work and this work.

And here’s the main painting I created this past spring (While studying in Florence. I’ll freely admit it, the altars and paintings of saints heavily influenced me!):

Melissa Huang, Self-Portrait as a Young Woman, 2013, oil on canvas, 31.5"x 47"

Melissa Huang, Self-Portrait as a Young Woman, 2013, oil on canvas, 31.5″x 47″

I’m trying to move in a new direction with this piece. Here’s the statement for this work:

Many young women feel trapped between two worlds; that of childhood and adulthood, purity and new found sexuality. My work depicts the tension between the innocence of youth and conflicted feelings of womanhood. While at times my paintings tend toward the soft and feminine at others they are aggressively confrontational. It is the contrast between these two states I wish to emphasize. These works explore feelings of new desire, naivety, and the intriguing fear of the unknown.

And here’s an accompanying animation I designed (it’s best if viewed as a loop). The music is created by Drew Tetz (graphic design portfolio here, music here).

So there you have it! I’m excited to return to my final year at RIT and create a ton of new artwork. I’d love to hear any questions or comments!

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Women in Art: Audrey Flack

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:

Chanel, Audrey Flack

"Chanel" by Audrey Flack (1974)

"Wheel of Fortune" by Audrey Flack (1977-1978)

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.

"Big Self Portrait" by Chuck Close (1967-1968)

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.

"Bond's Corner" by Tom Blackwell (1975)

"'34 Ford Tudor Sedan" by Tom Blackwell (1971)

It’s like we’re bathing in testosterone! Cars and bikes! Fuck yeah! Continue reading

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Women in Art: Mary Heilmann

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. 

Mary Heilmann

 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. 

  1. Jeff Koons should really stop trying to excuse the fact that he has workers who physically make the pieces he designs. We knew and accepted this from the start, and the defensiveness just make him appear to feel guilty.
  2. Mary Heilmann may be one of the most entertaining Art21 artists we had ever watched. Her amazing personality extended to her work, which became interesting, groundbreaking. It was subversive and surprising in a way that was less overt than Koons’ sculptures. 

"Go Ask Alice" (2006)

Heilmann originally studied ceramics, and we can see the influence of ceramics upon work  throughout her career. While many artists treat a canvas as merely a two dimensional object, flat surfaces with sides only acting as extra, rather than a part of the work, Heilmann treats her canvases as three dimensional pieces. She’s quoted as saying,
First they’re objects and then they’re pictures of something.
We can see this in her use of nontraditional canvas shapes and thus her incorporation of the sides of canvases and the walls into her work. We also see this in her use of other three dimensional objects, such as brightly painted chairs to slide around and view her work in.

The viewer would sit in these chairs and view Heilmann's paintings. They gave the audience the ability to roll around the gallery.

The thing that my class loved so much about Heilmann was her desire to be contrary. To go against what was popular at the time (in this case, nontraditional materials in sculpture, ceramics, etc) and embrace what was considered a bit passe (the seemingly less and less important field of painting). Despite defying some of her ceramics teacher’s requests and often making work that they did not like, Heilmann won awards and made a number of useful connections at this time. These connections are part of the reason she left the field of ceramics and entered the field of painting. As she entered New York in 1968 her goal was still to excel at nontraditional materials and “play with the boys”, the boys being renowned artists such as Bruce Nauman, Richard Serra, and Donald Judd. However, the art world was still very much a boys only club, and Heilmann found it difficult to gain acceptance into this group of sculptors. Heilmann, of course, didn’t give up. She instead defiantly refocused her efforts on a field many sculptors of the 60’s looked down upon, painting. In fact, Heilmann said of this shift,

I wanted to be on the edge. Original. And that meant going against the status quo.

Continue reading

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Women in Art: Artemisia Gentileschi

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!

Artemisia's "Self Portrait as the Allegory of Painting"

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.

Orazio's "Madonna with Child"

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! Continue reading

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Women in Art: Jenny Saville

My last post on weight issues in the art world made me want to further investigate specific artists. In this case, Jenny Saville. She’s an incredible artist who utilizes mark making and sophisticated application of paint to create figure paintings of large women, working with how women are viewed by men, by themselves, and how we as a society perceive gender (among many other interesting topics).

For my Women/Gender/Art class we wrote research papers on women artists throughout history and how their work related to gender, or how their gender caused historians and critics to treat them differently from male contemporaries of their time. I really wanted to compare and contrast the depiction of the female nude by Jenny Saville and Will Cotton, but alas, they were rejected as too recent… Instead I went with Harriet Hosmer and Hiram Powers, which was interesting as well, but my research paper writing heart truly belongs to my original topic!

Saville's "Propped" and Cotton's "Cotton Candy Clouds". Their depictions of the female nude are so vastly different. It's enough to make me actually want to write a research paper.

But enough of those dreams, that paper can wait for another day!

Today I want to focus on Saville.

More after the jump!

Continue reading

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