So I am writing this synopsis all amped from watching tonight's episode of Six Feet Under. I figure good writing should inspire me, might as well be productive. Kind of like how looking at good art gives me ideas about my own work.
Anyway, so this synopsis will hopefully solidify my thoughts and get my ass in gear. I am all psyched to hand my advisor a copy at the orientation breakfast. And next week is chock full o' running around with my sister, to her baby's doctor's appointment (oh no, shots!) and to get her wisdom teeth pulled. So I want to get chugging along, because it's much easier to keep going than to get started. So about Lisa Yuskavage.
Lisa Yuskavage is a painter. She's in her early forties, born in Philadelphia and raised in scenic Juniata Park. She's a Catholic School girl, like myself. Also, In her extended family she has an aunt who is a nun. This is often mentioned in biographies of hers, because the subject matter she paints is so stunningly not religious (I don't get this, but hey, I write about porn with my background). She also went to Tyler, which is where I go now. Cool stuff.
My thesis will be broken down into three chapters. The first two will speak about the ways in which her paintings are criticized. She often receives acclaim for her paint handling and techiques that she uses in making her painting. Formal qualities of her work are often paralleled with old masters, and her use of plaster maquettes especially is aligned with Tintoretto and Michelanglo. So oftentimes writers gush about color, lush brushwork and other visual qualities of her work.
The second chapter represents the catch to her work. Her paintings are traditional in their subject matter, to a point. She paints the female nude or semi-dressed. So have thousands of other painters for thousands of years. But her babes are not model-thin, or in many cases even realistic. They are painted from memory or imagination, and often their sexuality is pronounced to say the least. She takes cues from Penthouse magazines from the 1970's, from which she remembers learning about sexuality in the first place. This section has the potential to be huge. I can bring in other artists who work in this vein. Vargas girls, Mel Ramos, John Currin, Vanessa Beecroft, etc etc. But what makes Yuskavage's work so interesting is the tenuous relationship they have to feminism. She is a woman, after all. But her work is not a clear criticism of pornography, nor does is necessarily embrace it. Second and third wave feminism, oh my! So as you can see, this section is the biggest, and it's the most rich with possibility. It helps that last semester I got the chance to see Lisa speak at ICA and she addressed her strange relationship to the f-word. She said, when asked if she was a feminist, "Well, what's the opposite? I mean, it's not as easy as saying, well, I'm not a misogynist, so I must be feminist." Yeah, paradox, gotta love it.
The last section will deal with one of her most talked-about bodies of work. The Penthouse pictures are right for this because they have a naughty subject matter, and they are copied from magazines (with just enough artistic tweaking to be acceptable). See Day and Night. So we have dubious subject matter and questionable technique.
I guess what makes this project persuable is that though she has been written about a good deal for such a young painter, I don't feel anyone has quite gotten it. I feel like she is purposely mixing high and low, and that she is deliberately contradictory. It seems to me that there is an attempt from both factions of each aspect of her work that are trying to claim her for their own.