Lisa Yuskavage’s Paintings Of Voluptuous Women Reclaim Femininity

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If her voluptuous women with their cartoon eyes weren’t enough, Lisa Yushavage captured my soul by saying:

“As an artist you’re supposed to spend your life doing something that’d be an utter waste of time for anyone else. And even so, there’s no proof you’re not wasting your life making some total crap.” (Source)

Using her exceptional skill in oil paints to create hyper-hued landscapes with ripe, almost blowsy, nudes is clearly not making crap. With a career that started in the mid 1990s, her work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at prominent institutions, including the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City; Royal Academy of Arts, London; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia.

“I don’t want my pictures to be up to any good. I like the idea that they’re troublemakers. So if I’m told they’re bad for the world, it pleases me. I don’t want to make something that’s an antidote. I want to pose questions. That’s what I do. I suppose I strive to bother people and be loved for it. That’s the dream.” (Source)

These are erotic pictures of women, painted by a woman. Rather than the patriarchal view of sexual woman as object, these women are sexual for themselves. Sometimes kinky, often controversial, these paintings have been compared to soft-core porn. It’s intended as an insult, but it’s actually a reclaiming of power and the ability to depict women in all their forms. “It’s not about being well behaved,” Yaskavage says. “It’s not about behaving for others.”

The essence of female power is not that women must be desexed, it’s that women can decide how they want to be seen—sexy, silly, powerful, maternal, erotic, masculine, intelligent, profound—any combination of these, and much more. Yaskavage’s women are the creatures of her mind, brought to life through her skill with a paintbrush, and behaving in exactly the way they’re meant to in the worlds she’s created.

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Andi Schreiber Documents Middle-Age And The Need To Be Desired

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Andi Schreiber refuses to disappear. In her ongoing series, “Pretty Please”, she documents life as an aging suburban mom in a youth-obsessed culture. “Middle-aged mom” must be one of the least sexy descriptors around, redolent of yoga pants and stretch marks and sun-damaged skin. Yet as the years have passed, Schreiber has continued to feel young and sexual, even as she’s felt that society has closed those roles to her. She says:

“When I was in my thirties I heard the expression “Invisible Forties.” I couldn’t imagine how sexually inconsequential I’d feel throughout this decade.”

The powerful documentary style photos in “Pretty, Please” beg you to look. Honest and vibrant, they are not always comfortable. Victoria’s Secret has trained us to expect sexy lingerie on a young, taut body, not on folded and stretched skin. And yet, why isn’t this just as beautiful? Grow old or die, those are the only options. Why can’t we appreciate the child-scarred body of a woman who wants to be seen?

Self-portraits are interspersed with images from Schreiber’s life. A drop of blood on the toilet seat symbolizes her ebbing fertility; the lit interior of her closet holds neatly hung clothes and shelves of shoes, but also, stashed up and away, naked kewpie dolls, whimsical and eerie.

“You get into your 40s and things are very different, your perspective changes, and the way the world looks at you changes as well.”

In “Pretty, Please” we’re looking at Andi Schreiber and she’s looking back. This is definitively her — her life, her body, her blood — and yet this desire to be seen, to be valued on her own terms, could also represent the scores of middle-aged women who chose family and stability and have had their sense of self sacrificed to their suburban houses, and diapers, and carpools.

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