Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lisa Yuskavage's Issues

Recently, I saw Lisa Yuskavage talk about her work. She said she needed to make art to live. Like, or else she'd be miserable. Miserable or dead. (She didn't really say that, but what the hell.) I guess she needs to express herself. She talked about her time in therapy (a lot), something I haven't heard at other artist's talks I've been to. She used words like "transference" and showed slides of (a few of the many) portrait paintings she's done of her shrink. She is an accomplished painter, but perhaps her artistic conversation is mostly with herself. Like, she uses the language of painting to navigate her own issues. I am not particularly interested in her psychology, even though she seems like an ok person. A lot of her friends came to her talk and cheered her on from the front row. It was strange. I mean, she's been famous for years now, how much more encouragement does one need? And with talk like this how the hell did she get so famous? (i.e. the talk I saw was sponsored by the Public Art Fund)

I mean, looking at her paintings I imagine there's been some fruitful discussion of gender, sex, desire, other stuff. But I'm not sure there's been as fruitful a discussion of art. But perhaps that's why her works are so popular: they're relevant, topical, accessible. Conversation starters. And besides, oil painting is in these days, and John Currin is in. But as far as being avant-garde...

She said some of the usual stuff about color, its symbolic and visual effects. She talked about figurative images and narrative in painting, which was interesting, I'll admit. And I guess we could talk about low content (porn) in high culture (oil painting) and the similarities between classic figurative painting and classic 70's pornography (see Warhol). And I do like this painting I put up of hers. It reminds me of the way Picasso used to deconstruct women's bodies, only this time there are hints of cosmetic surgery, anorexia, prostitution.

But I guess I'm not so interested. I've said it before (I think) and I'll say it again, I love the avant-garde (i.e. questioning and expanding the boundaries of art) and I'm not into work that's mostly topical (i.e. the artist's emotions/psychology, sociology, gender studies, etc.). I am into art because I like to talk (mostly) about the field of art, not other stuff. So, what I'd really like to know is how is Yuskavage's work relevant to the field of contemporary art? I mean, from the talk I saw it seems like she's not even sure. She just does it because she has to.


Anonymous said...

Haha, starting your critical discussion sentences with "Like" is certainly a way to get the discourse ball rolling. Excuse me as I roll my mascara'd eyeballs. As a painter that approaches her work from a similar vein, i.e. self-referential, using psychological projections, and personal exorcism of subconsious manifestations, I can honestly say I appreciate Yuskavage's work above and beyond that of Currin or any other contemporary artist out there at the moment. Certain groups within the art world have perhaps forgotten the compulsive pleasure that accompanies the unveiling of a slightly masturbatory image to first one's own eyes, and then to an unsuspecting audience of pseudo-art-savants and the public at large. The reason Yuskavage keeps painting is because she is still as obsessed and intrigued with the ideas that spurred her to pick up a brush in the first place, and that kind obsessive ambiguity is the most beautiful part of her art, and cannot be deconstructed by art-speak, otherwise, why paint? Her work evokes immediate sensual pleasure, from a woman's perspective. Perhaps that's hard for some other women to appreciate, from behind the wall of female scrutiny and scorn. I wonder what you think of Mary Cassatt's body of work, pun intended.

Anonymous said...


Can you tell me the title of the Picasso painting you compared to Lisa Yuskavage?

Kelli B