keskiviikko 31. lokakuuta 2012

Artist of the Month: Lisa Yuskavage.

Hi guise! Happy Halloween!

Man Halloweens are so much fun xD I have to wait until saturday though, for my friend's Halloween p-a-r-t-Y.
Wow it's also getting kinda cold here in Helsinki. We even had a little bit of snow on my birthday O_o It's been a while since it snowed on my birthday. It was really truly a wonderful day =^_^=

I'm feeling somewhat stressed out X_x I have been doing nothing, but working hard for the past month. I barely have time to workout, or rest. But I shouldn't complain, you see couple weeks ago I got a call from London, from the Academy of Freelance Makeup. They had reviewed my application and called to tell me that I was eligible for the Total Pro course that I wanted to take. Hence I'm moving to London shortly after christmas! =D The course starts in early January and ends in early February (yes it's only 4 weeks) . I'm so excited! I can't wait to go back to UK. So I'm in a hurry to earn more money to pay for the rest of the course fee + I'm saving the rest for London. Hence after doing long hours at work, I barely have enough energy to workout or put out artist reviews...However, octobre's artist is a juicy one. WOOOPS! I'm still studying french ;D

Half family 1999.
It's yet another artist who paints nudes. Well Jasper Goodall doesn't exactly paint, but we see a lot of naked women in his work as well. Because his work is more cartoonish than realistic, there is no way I'd feel embarrassed or shocked whilst looking at even his most explicit pieces.
However, when I look at the works of Lisa Yuskavage...I can feel a red, hot colour rising on my cheeks.

Unlike her name suggest, Lisa Yuskavage was born in Pennsylvania US in 1962. When I first heard her name, I immediately assumed that she was from Eastern Europe. I was wrong (but it's good to review an American artist for a change). She studied at Tyler School of Art which I guess is part of the Temple University in Philadelphia. She graduated in 1984 as a Bachelor of Fine Art and two years later she got her MFA from Yale University. After that Yuskavage proceed to work on her art.   

In 1990 she had a solo show at Pamela Auchino Gallery in New York. Her paintings at the time were small and featured partially veiled upper backs of women. Even though she had painted them beautifully, Yuskavage said that it was the topic that didn't please her. In one of her interviews she said that finding a perfect topic had become an issue for her. So shortly after the solo show, she took a break from painting that lasted well over a year. During this time, she came to find her topic. She switched her women from coy to promiscuous and made them face the viewer.  She calls this new direction "kinky sfumatos," (yes thay's a word, sfumato: In painting and drawing: a misty indistinct effect obtained by gradually blending together areas of different colour or tone.) where she utilizes her technique and skills to give birth to subversional images. One of her first new paintings "The Gifts" delivered just that. It is a dark and haunted image of a pleading girl with flowers in her mouth, her hands are behind her back and her bare bosom is on display. For some reason, this painting gives me the creeps. There's so much emotion in her eyes that it makes my emotions bounce. I go from pitying her to being scared for her. I don't know what's going to happen to her. It creeps me out to imagine any girl in this kind of situation. It's a scary painting. Never the less, this painting alone is an indication of Yuskavage's artistic brilliance. 

After several years of relying solely on her imagination, Yuskavage started working on small clay sculptures. Which then led her to found photographs. But then she started to focus on her paintings again. Within two decades, Yuskavage has established her place in the art world, thrilling and shocking her viewers and critics around the world. Yuskavage says that dissatisfaction and boredom are deadly, but also important sources for her. Evidently she gets easily bored, meaning that she has to stay extremely interested to produce art. "Every painting has to really do something new for me" she says in one of her interviews. For over two decades she has been pushing the sexual envelope towards more commonplace in contemporary art. I guess she is also breaking the barrier of  the notion of what a woman artist is entitled to do. Her painting style may be very traditional in fine art terms, but it's up to you to decide whether her subject really truly is innovative, or just a bait to collect viewers. Since 2005 Yuskavage has been represented by David Zwirner gallery in New York. This is what Zwirner has to say about Yuskavage:

"Over the past two decades, she has developed her own genre of the female nude: lavish, erotic, cartoonish, vulgar, angelic young women cast within fantastical landscapes or dramatically lit interiors. They appear to occupy their own realm while narcissistically contemplating themselves and their bodies. Rich, atmospheric skies frequently augment the psychologically-charged mood, further adding to the impression of theatricality and creative possibility." David Zwirner

On with the paintings. 'Half family' came after 'The Gifts', which was Yuskavage's first 'obscene' nude. These two have nearly 8 years between them, so 'Half family' has that Rococoish colour spectrum that Yuskavage moved to work on after 'The Gifts '. 'Half family' is a sort of an icon now, because Kate Moss posed for W magazine 'dressed' like the girl in the painting. Actually the photo looked like something David LaChapelle would have produced, a really stripped down LaChappelle photo that is. But nope, wasn't him. Still there must be something very modern about the painting because it had to be recreated years later, and the girl posing for the photo just had to be a world famous supermodel. 'Half family' is a beautiful painting and colourwise it reminds me of Rococo paintings done in the mid 1800's. I mean seriously, look at that talent! The colours are so beautiful! There's energy and movement on the background, and the girl's proportions are all correct. I also like her hair very much and how the wind is blowing it across her face in a carefree manner. Initially there is something really childlike and sweet about the background of the painting. Those soft pinks and yellows give so much light to the otherwise dull background. But the matte blue and grey clouds have an air of storm to them, and combined with the soft green grass the landscape almost seems to be portraying an upcoming storm. The giant girl however is totally unaffected by the upcoming storm, she is too busy oogling her body/ weird panties. Here is an example of that narcissistic contemplation Zwirner wrote about in his review. The girls in Yuskavage'a paintings always seem too busy to notice anything because they are too busy studying themselves. There are a few exceptions when: 1. The girls are looking at the viewer, and  2. They are looking at each others. 
As for the theme and style of this painting, I give it a 5 out of 5. The whole image would suggest that this is a coming of age image. Even though to me it looks like there is a storm coming, the soft pinks and yellows suggest sun setting and the flowers on the girl's feet could symbol virginity and her womanhood. Meaning that the image is almost like a good-bye to her innocent (or maybe it's not innocent at all) childhood. Well it depends on how you wanna interpret this painting. But you have to admit, it is a brilliant painting. It is beautiful to look at, and I imagine many critics (and viewers) have had a lot of fun trying to crack this painting open. There are a few directions you can take whilst looking at 'Half family'. First of all, the viewer has to decide whether they can actually look upon this painting at all. There is a part of me that wants to shy away from Yuskavage's paintings because they are so naughty. As much as I love this painting, I would hide it from my parents when ever they'd come to visit me. Normally I wouldn't do that, but this time, it's different. My parents' view on this painting would be totally different from my view, and I know they'd judge me for wanting to put something like this on my wall. In 'Half family' I see an adopted girl, who came to live with her relatives after her parents passed away. Now she is slowly coming of age and is very curious about herself. Her relatives, of course, don't approve of her new found sexuality and the way she experiments with it. She is the naughty, promiscuous niece or cousin who can't be stopped. Which probably is why she chooses to act out her promiscuity, because she knows it annoyes her caregivers and because she knows that they dislike her for being that way. And that suits her just fine because she doesn't care, it's too much fun for her this way. This is what 'Half family' looks like to me, but I know my parents would most likely label this as porn, and give me a long lecture about how inappropriate the painting is and why I'm so naughty for wanting to put it up on my wall. (>=)). I adore the romantic colour scale, and the girl is exceptionally well painted! It has been a while since I have seen a contemporary artist who can paint this well. Yuskavage has recieved many thanks for her ability to paint like the Old Masters. She says she went through a lot to learn to paint Fine Art 'properly' and I can't see anyone who could paint as well as Yuskavage (except maybe Royo). I think that there are actually two parts to this painting, there's the real girl and then there is the fantasy girl in a romantic landscape. It depends on which one you want to focus on. Even though I can appreciate the image as a whole,and to me she seems more like a fantasy than reality, I can't get over the fact that her panties are way to small for her! I mean they are squeezing the living daylight out of her bum. Girl, your balloon/candy panties are awesome, but you have outgrown them!

Teresa and Lauren 2008
There seems to be a constant play between the characters in Yuskavage's paintings. It's kinda like a dialogue of 'Look at me, now don't look at me but if you look at me I'm going to look back at you'. Yuskavage has this to say about her girls: "If you stare at me, I'm going to stare back, but at the same time if you stare at me I'm going to disapear. But I'm also going to assert myself and make you feel really uncomfortable". And about her method she says "I'm constantly playing with who's the top and who's the bottom in the painting". Oh, Yuskavage quotes her work beautifully! She knows her work so well and she knows what her work is trying to say and why. I personally totally get what she is saying with that top/bottom remark. It's not just about the girls in the paintings playing with the viewer, it's reality. I don't know about you, but I sometimes have a moment of insecurity and I'm not quite sure whether I want boys to look at me or not. (and why not girls too. Girls look at me regardless, and especially in summer they give me really nasty looks. What?! I workout, I don't eat junk food, I'm slim, so no need to look so sour! I work hard to keep my figure!). I'm such a dizzy person anyway that I wouldn't notice if a bunch of boys walked after my heels, drooling all the way. But then there are those special occasions when I want boys to look at me, and then it's power play. "I'm going to stare back at you if you stare at me". And then there are those times, when I get insecure and the game changes and I'm no longer on the top. I digress. I'm just saying that I understand what Yuskavage's work is trying to say. There is something very human about the characters in Yuskavage's paintings, whether you choose to acknowledge it or not. "Teresa and Lauren" is a great example of this look-at-me-don't-look-at-me dialogue. Unlike some of her other paintings, this does not feauture any nature. Unless you want to read the green colour is a symbol of nature (which I don't). I however find this colour choice very similar to Salvador Dali's 'Soldier take warning'. Did Yuskavage use all green in "Teresa and Lauren" on purpose or was it something she just prefered? Because if this is a some kind of ode to Dali's painting then I can't help but chuckle (*chuckle*), because Dali's painting is a warning to soldiers not to sleep with prostitutes because they carry sexually transmitted diseases. So are we to assume that Teresa and Lauren have venereal disease? I guess that's up to you to decide. To me, they both look a little too inviting. But on second thought, I think I'll just go with my first idea and say that these two are just having a sleepover. Notice how Yuskavage pictures her girls, full, voluptuous breasts and bums. Or small breasts and voluptuous bums. Love it or hate it, it looks interesting.

Piggyback Ride 2008
 In her earlier series 'Bad Babies' Yuskavage's goal was to speak about shame and the inability to hide it. I think that's what Yuskavage's more tender and innocent paintings are about. 'Piggyback Ride' fits in to this category. Even though the naked girl in this painting doesn't seem to be ashamed of nakedness, whilst her friend is fully clothed, it does speak about that innocence of feminity that dominates some of Yuskavage's paintings. In a way 'Piggyback Ride' has a kind of fairytale-esque thing going on. Fairytales are all about linking the hero/heroine to nature, and to me, 'Piggyback Ride' looks a little Cinderella-ish. I reviewed Yuskavage the first time couple years ago when I was studying fairytales and creating my own fairytales (ah Rose Soldier, we have many adventures ahead of us, nee). After two years, this paintings still looks like a girl hitting puperty. She is somewhere in between her old, childish self and a new self that has began to understand her body and sexuality (which evidently happened to Cinderella). She wants to be seen differently from now on and she actually wants to show off her growing body. In my class, most girls started to wear tight pants and shirts to show off their growing tits and round asses to attract attention. And this happened when we were 11 or 12. But for some girls, it's embarrassing too. I'll tell you secret, I was dizzy until the end. I didn't wear tight pants and shirts when I was 12, that part of puberty hit me when I was about 14. 'Piggyback Ride' shows us that these two girls are in very different places, the naked one is alright with her body whilst the girl behind her is more modest and perhaps will never be one of those girls I just described. Rather than being exposed she represents the more traditional female image, body covered from gazes. To me, this painting is a manifestation of the two sides of the virginal female character in Fairytales.

I have to talk about the nature in Yuskavage's paintings. Nature and forests are especially close to my heart because I grew up in Finland, and our land is pretty much like a big forest. Yuskavage does a good job in mixing erotica and nature, and she paints landscapes really well too. In fairytales, nature is a huge factor in the stories for it is usually treated as a set, but it also gives vast amounts of sybolism for the stories. 'Piggyback Ride' takes place in a lake scenery where we have two girls, one of them is dressed, one of them is not. It is so cute how they have formed a link with their arms. The brunette has her right arm around the blonde's neck and her left hand is on her waist, holding the blonde's right hand. Because of the warm skin tones, I didn't see the link at first, but looking at it closer, together they are forming like a link or a protective space, if you will. The nakedness of the blonde girl combined with the scenery reminds me of primitive times when people were more united with nature (I'm thinking about Disney's Pocahontas now..). Now we have enstranged ourselves from nature because we don't need to fend ourselves constantly anymore. Of course there comes a time when nature strikes hard, but I'm saying that because some of us are living comfortable lives, we don't have to be worried about how to get food if winter comes early this year, or if there is a pack of wolves on the move. But perhaps this seems too primitive. What I'm trying to say is that every single Yuskavage painting that features both girls and nature, has a distinct link between them. In 'Piggyback Ride' that link seems to be puberty, nature is always there whether we like it or not. It's our nature to grow because that's what all nature's 'products' do. And in this case, the colours are nearly melancholic, because Yuskavage's intention is to make the viewer sad for the girl who's about to go through puperty. Again, there is a setting sun and after that, a new era begins. I don't like the colours in this painting, as much as I liked them in 'Half family', but once again this is exceptionally well executed. Personally I think Yuskavage's nature-and-girls paintings are much more beautiful and interesting than for example the 'Pie face' paintings. It's much more interesting to see girls posing obscenely in the hills than see portraits of them with their faces full of custard.

Walking the dog 2009
"Something usually sexualizes you. You may not even remember what it was - it can be a single comment." I think the girls in the rest of her paintings are promiscuous for the sake of being promiscuous (and nasty). They are depictions of the woman-child, of a girl who became aware of her sexuality, perhaps too young, and is now taking full advantage of it. In my mind, the girls in Yuskavage's "naughty" paintings are those girls who showed the guy who shouted "show me your tits!" their tits. I haven't done that myself, but I understand that one wants to be naughty for naughtiness' sake. I think there is really something to Yuskavage's vision of the woman-child. Personally I'm not quite sure whether the woman-child is a young girl like Lolita, who became a woman a very young age and is taking full advantage of her youth and promiscuity? Or is the woman-child a woman who has a somewhat child-like body and still has that innocent state of mind only children have?
For me, Yuskavage's paintings seem more obscene than for example some of the obscenest pieces of Luis Royo (and he has done some pretty obscene drawings!). The bashful side of me wouldn't put these up on my wall. But then again, the part of me that likes all things sexy, totally would. Seeing girls so fetishized and objectified would make anyone frown. However, it's not all that. I personally don't feel that Yuskavage's pieces are porn or Playboy images like many have suggested. I like to think that there is more to her images than 'titillation', shocking people for shockings sake. And painting obscene sex-like scenes because sex sells. Sex is just the cover, there's actually a lot of symbolism tucked in between the cheeks of Yuskavage's girls (if you want to think it like that). There is a part of me that would feel coy and ashamed if I went to see these in a gallery. But then the rest of me would just say that these are interesting paintings, they are sexy and exceptionally well painted, that there has to be more than just tits and pussies to them. One critic said that "to have the whole Yuskavage thing wrapped up in a package of high end gallery with critical imprimatur is what felt awkward and strange." Yuskavage had this to say "that was precisely the feeling I was going for". In the end, just like with Jasper Goodall and Luis Royo, it's up to you to decide what to make of 'the Yuskavage experience'. Me, I like it a lot.

I hope you enjoyed me review on Lisa Yuskavage, this was a juicy one indeed. Next month I'll give you my last book review for now. I know I said that I'd do 5, but I'll be really busy in December + December is already winter, and the book thing was just for autumn, for now.

Thanks for reading and see you next month!


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