Cecily Brown · Mira Dancy · Koak · Aks Misyuta · Danielle Orchard · Dana Schutz · Brittney Leeanne Williams
I am not your muse. I may be your friend, your wife, your lover, your inspiration, your fear, the target of your contempt or the object of your desire. I am a person in the midst of life – you are my painter and I am looking right back at you.
From early antiquity, art was about beauty and it belonged to men – it was subjective and tied to one gender’s needs and desires. Even in its attempt to glorify women, the foundational hierarchy was firmly in place – and at it worst, obscene. The painter and the model – the man and his muse.
Fortunately, as human beings we’ve become a bit more aware of our potential and thereby also our responsibility. The artist is no longer a man looking at a female body – undressed. The artist now is a woman who can paint women on an equal footing with an eye not only to beauty, but to all that is human. The time is long past where women were painted only according to prevailing beauty standards, or sometimes (in a misogynistic manner) portrayed as devils. Women now are portrayed in a myriad of ways, and women can depict women as they are, active, acting and confrontational. As is.
That doesn’t mean that women can’t also be painted as seductive and mischievous – in fact, women are painted more erotically than ever before. This doesn’t mean that women can’t be portrayed as beautiful – women are painted more beautiful than ever before. And are also painted uglier and angrier and sillier and more caricatured than ever before. It is, after all, mostly about conveying artistic intent to the viewer so that we understand what the painting is all about and perhaps even have an emotional reaction to it, no matter what our gender.
The artists we have invited convey intent powerfully and unmistakably. Their starting point lies with the sitter and their story. It’s about the person and less about the painter. They reveal something about the person they paint that the sitter may not themselves be aware of. In order to do that, it requires that one is genuinely interested in the sitter, and these artists, these women, most certainly are.
It’s not only a question of using your right to paint bushy pubic hair, natural shapes and all the explicit attributes that historically are linked with paintings of women. It’s the possibility of painting a woman who looks back at you without shame that is interesting – as she is and wishes to be. It demands a respect and a sensitivity to seriously look and depict a person as touchingly, as crazily, and as real as one can.
The female artists we’ve invited to mark the International Women’s Day, can. They don’t only paint with brushes but with love, knowledge and insight, and they show that everything is possible and allowed, finally. Even being a muse.