It is unusual to get a day in February in New York City where the temperature rises above 40 degrees, but the day I meet with Lyn Slater, it is a balmy, sunny 70 degree afternoon and the gardens of the Cooper Hewitt Museum could not have provided a better surrounding for our conversation. Lyn is truly a formidable woman: a professor at Fordham University who holds two masters and a Ph.D. on social welfare and now, accidentally, a fashion icon whose blog Accidental Icon has given her a new modeling career and, to date, almost 460,000 followers on Instagram. She’s also a mother and a grandmother and shares her life with her partner, a scientist by day and her personal photographer by night. Her sense of style and unique point of view on fashion and design are refreshing, and so are her thoughts on feminism and female behavior in society. Hear more of Lyn's perspective in the video below.
It is not a secret that Raul de Nieves is one of my favorite artists; but my love for him isn’t just because of his work, it is because of who he is and his immense heart, respect and appreciation for people no matter who they are or where they come from. Being an immigrant myself, building a life for the last 20 years in this extraordinary country, and having the privilege and responsibility of becoming an American citizen is something that I don’t take lightly and neither does Raul.
I sat down with him in his studio, which is coincidentally located in Ridgewood, the border of Brooklyn and Queens, the most diverse and most immigrant-dense area in the entire United States, to talk about immigration, Mexico, building walls and tearing them down, mentally and physically if necessary. Humans are naturally and instinctively predisposed to love and to look for company and unity, not separation and hatred, regardless of politicians, temporary conditions and chaotic circumstances. In the end, all walls fall.
It's said that premonitions only come to people who can quiet their minds to see or hear beyond the physical realm. The never-ending bustle of New York City prevents people from pausing and seeing. Things are taken for granted: the eyes, which have been inundated with an overwhelming amount of imagery, at some point are not discerning anymore, and intuition can be drowned in noise. Midtown, in particular, is a good example of this: it hosts thousands of corporate offices; and men in grey suits holding lunch bags abound, moving fast in robotic and uninspiring attitudes. And then there is Lever House, which stands in the middle of this organized chaos, and all the great exhibitions that have been presented in the lobby and outdoor plaza of this landmark green, glass tower serve the city so well, not only because there is a need to escape the numbness, the apathy and the relentless force of this city, but also because the art presented is so compelling. Ranging from “The Virgin Mother”, that 33 ft. controversial sculpture by Damien Hirst to “The Snow Queen”, Rachel Feinstein's fairy tale of fantasy, ruin and beauty, Lever House’s shows remain in New Yorker’s memories.
The latest of such exhibitions is “Premonition” by Reginald Sylvester II, a 30-year-old, Brooklyn-based, African-American artist whom I met at Lever House's lobby for a walk-through of his show. There are eight large acrylic and oil stick-on-canvas paintings, visceral works with saturated colors and energetic strokes that create compositions oscillating between figuration and abstraction. There are some medium-sized works on paper and there is a grid installation of 15 smaller works on paper that incorporate figures and text. All the works are hanging on fences, and this is a feature of the exhibition that moves and intrigues me. Reginald says that since the cross hatching appears in his paintings, the fences came to life when he was trying to figure out a way to bring some of their elements into the three-dimensional space. “When there is so much circular motion in the way I paint, breaking that circularity with more straight lines in vertical and horizontal was necessary as far as my mark-making goes.” But I'm more interested in the conceptual reason of the fences, and so I press, and he adds that “they act as and do have a relationship to jail, to being imprisoned or locked up... because even with myself, I have a feeling sometimes of being free and not free at the same time.”
I noticed that the works on paper have sentences from Scripture and ask if his growing up as a Christian was such a pivotal part in his life that he had to express it in his paintings. But in his answer, there is more to it than that; there is his own interpretation of life as he gets older. The drawings have texts because they are like insights into the paintings: the latter take much longer to make, while the former are immediate and spring out of instinctive moments, ideas and thoughts that are coming to him like premonitions.
It is easy to fall into the trap of comparing the work of Reginald to that of Jean-Michel Basquiat because of the neo-expressionistic combination of using bold colors and rapidly rendered human figures with more abstract elements, not to mention the links of race and youth. Reginald is unfazed about this and sees the parallels as flattering, being quick to point out that Basquiat was influenced by other artists such as Picasso and that his own work draws from the legacy of Twombly and De Kooning, among others. One aspect, however, that Reginald believes joins him to Basquiat in particular is that the fears that the late artist had as a black person haven't changed today, especially in the art world were there isn't yet enough diversity across the board - not only among artists but also collectors, curators and gallerists.
Growing up, faith was a big part of Reginald's life. The evolution and growth of his work is faith-based and that's why he took up abstraction – to him, abstraction is the painterly way of faith. He told me: “You are not going into the painting to make an image, but to make a moment: life isn’t perfect, you make mistakes and marks that you are proud of; it is the faith in life, in God, that even when I don't know how the painting will turn out, it will come through because faith is believing in something that is not seen.”
Becoming 30 is usually a coming-of-age for many. In a way, I believe Reginald had a premonition that this show was a rite of passage that would change the course of his career, and I don't think people will need supernatural powers to see this.
Reginald Silvester II
390 Park Av
New York, NY 10022
Until February 28, 2018
Fake news, yellow journalism, sensationalism, Russian hackers, conspiracy theories. If real life weren’t as scathing, we’d think we are living inside of an episode of the acclaimed TV series “24” crossed with “The Truman Show.” And because of the strangeness of these times, looking at artists like Nina Chanel Abney becomes even more critical for our sanity. It is no secret that I’ve been a fan and supporter of her work for a long time because she represents all that I embrace in an artist: besides being an amazing person, she has a great technique - her canvases have incredible composition, a masterly use of colors, an upbeat look at art history, her own voice, an evolution of her language, and unapologetic subject matters: content that is so urgent, relevant and necessary today.
Her two current exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery and at Mary Boone Gallery show two divergent points of view: Seized The Imagination at Shainman represents the turmoil in this country, starting with fake news and ranging from politics to the media to racial tensions to the role of institutions (and those who believe in them). Safe House at Mary Boone is the answer to all that chaos: the healing, more uplifting, more positive view that an optimistic Nina wants us to see.
This video that I co-produced and co-edited with Peter Koloff reveals what Nina thinks about the content in both exhibitions.
Nina Chanel Abney
Seized the Imagination
Jack Shainman Gallery
513 West 20th Street
NY, NY 10011
Mary Boone Gallery
541 West 24th Street
NY, NY 10011
The unusually warm days of this past October may have been somewhat celebrated by New Yorkers who, like me, long for sunny days and balmy weather year-round, but deep inside we knew that something was off, that the consequences which include devastating hurricanes and decimating storms, are anything but good. Looking close at the effects of global warming is what Kenny Scharf has been doing for many years in his work. In the past two weeks Kenny had two remarkable events in New York: the first, Inner and Outer Space, is a solo show with Jeffrey Deitch on the Wooster Street location that includes a series of new paintings whose classic Kenny faces and characters are melting and disintegrating, bringing awareness to excessive temperatures from the over-utilization of natural resources. Additionally, the use of recycled garbage has been a constant in Kenny’s practice present in the assemblages and television sets he’s turned into art for many decades. The second is the inclusion of his work in the exhibition Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983 at the Museum of Modern Art comprising some of his early, most iconic works, including the cosmic cavern, which I’ve documented before in my book and previous posts, and which plays homage to Club 57, the East Village nightclub that fostered the arts and gave free reign to the underground and downtown creatives of the late 70s and 80s. The cavern, composed of thousands of plastic objects that Kenny has found on the street and that were discarded as garbage, have been coated with glow-in-the-dark spray paint and glued onto the walls of this space. 80s music can be heard overhead, thus engulfing visitors visually, auditorily and emotionally. I co-produced and co-edited these videos below with Peter Koloff, which are dynamic but profound conversations on global warming, politics, education and ultimately the survival of humankind.
ON ECOLOGY, GLOBAL WARMING AND THE ROLE OF AN ARTIST
ON EDUCATION IN THE UNITED STATES
Kenny Scharf - Inner and Outer Space
18 Wooster Street
New York, NY 10013
Until December 22, 2017
Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983
The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York, NY 10019
Until April 1, 2018
Love, dating, relationships and sex are all complicated experiences that every human being gets to undergo in life to some degree or another. The “complicated” part of these experiences got even thornier with the advent of online dating, taking everything to new levels of complexity within societal and cultural behaviors. Tinder, Bumble and any other app that makes dating, casual sex and other encounters easy, abundant, and almost instantaneous changed the dynamic of human relationships forever. Tinder, for example, has some 50 million users and produces more than 12 million matches a day. I’ve been married to the same guy for 13 years so I’m not a user of any of these apps, but I remember reading that 2015 Vanity Fair article shedding light on hookup culture and the end of dating as we know it. In talking to friends who do use these apps, I don’t know what to make of them. Do they really help form meaningful couples and connections? Are people being treated more like disposable facilitators to fill a need at any given time? Will expanding the pool of available mating candidates ever close the loop on choosing someone or will it make people feel like there’s someone better only a swipe away?
Intrigued by the work of Sophia Narrett, who I first discovered at the Museum of Sex’s exhibition NSFW: The Female Gaze, and by millennials who are approaching the subject of love and relationships in real life, I visited Sophia in her studio and was blown away by her and her work. I’m always looking for people who are making great art but above that, I'm looking for artists who have something to say. The content is what drives me although the execution is vital for aesthetic engagement. The fact that Sophia tackles process and content with so much authenticity really moved me. The craft of needlework and embroidery, the storytelling focused on sex and love, the intimacy between the work and the viewer (since one must come very close to appreciate the detailed labor and the narrative involved in each one of her pieces) are all winners.
Embroideries in the art world weren’t taken seriously until the 1960s, when women artists such as Miriam Schapiro and Judy Chicago decided to change the idea of the arbitrary “hierarchy” - that painting and sculpture were at the top and that more “decorative” and “domestic” handcraft were at the bottom. And that is precisely the medium Sophia has chosen and which she has mastered to a degree of detail so impressive, that even microscopic toenails are painted red in her diminutive subjects.
Like fairies, these women in her embroideries are enmeshed in fantastic narratives, all stylized and sensual - some wear Valentino garments whose hues and tones are impressively accomplished by the combination of threads chosen by this artist, some are naked experiencing all sorts of pleasures: from relaxation to sexual gratification.
Sophia tells me that even though it may take her six months to finish a piece, she is, like me, very focused on her subject matter. And her work is primarily about love: different manifestations of it at different times. “I’m exploring my fantasies and desires in a genuine and very autobiographical way, and in that process connecting to larger social issues where people can then project their narratives onto themselves” she says. For example, in one of her works, there are two couples playing a sex game on two different planes, according to her, right after the man comes from work. “It’s the same couple, just one scene after the other, and the work is called 6:00 pm.” How sexy and romantic, I think, although with my hectic life of work and kids, if we can make it to “10:00 pm”, we are golden.
There is a work in progress with several different narratives surrounding the same woman: when I look up closely, I see an embroidery of John Travolta in his most recognizable character of Tony Manero. Saturday Night Fever is Sophia’s favorite movie of all time, which is curious since this movie was released in 1977 and Sophia watched it while in college (she graduated from Brown in 2010). I ask her why this movie and she tells me that she was taken by the visuals, the fact that there is love (several love stories, in fact), that it explores what it means to have a crush, that the music is pulsating and engulfing (after all this is the movie responsible for putting Disco into the mainstream), and the overall cultural significance of it all.
The truth, as corny as it may sound, is that Saturday Night Fever is a masterpiece that has a very significant place in the cultural history of American movies which not only defined the aesthetics of an era combined with a soundtrack that is still played everywhere, but it also tackled racial tensions, the idea of upward mobility and income inequality among some other social issues, all of it taking place in a very different Brooklyn than the one we currently know. In Sophia’s work, there is a present for Travolta’s partner, a proposal, and an orgy of women is meant to symbolize the female character’s own pleasure. In Sophia’s words: “there are moments of art and love and transcendence in a world where there is so much hatred and violence: racism, homophobia, anti-immigration.” For Sophia love is transcendence and escapism in a positive way.
Sometimes escapism is what people want through online and app dating, to find a partner that has nothing to do with their immediate surroundings, who expands who they are and how they think. In a recent article published by MIT, researchers gathered sufficient evidence to believe that app and online dating are changing the composition of society in the United States. Simply by facilitating meetings between people who would never otherwise meet, there has been an increase in racial diversity in marriages. Interracial marriage is widely considered a measure of social distance in our culture and the fact that they are coming from online dating is benefiting society at large.
Of course, I ask Sophia if she’s dating. And yes, of course she is. She’s mostly dating people she meets online. And fittingly, she’s very happy to meet guys this way. She walks her talk and embroiders it too.
The separation of Church and State is such a pivotal and fundamental tenet in this country, simply and clearly stated in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” Without getting into the depth of legal interpretations or a complex religious and socio-political discussion on the subject, it is fair to say that since 1791 when the First Amendment was adopted, the people of the United States have had the freedom to believe what they want to believe and the government is free to make laws without regard to what religious orders may think or feel.
But not every country is as forward thinking as the United States, and one of those countries is Peru. Since the Spanish colonization in the 1500s, the Catholic Church, as it did with all other countries in Latin America, established itself as strong and inflexible, propagating some good values but also twisting and turning the word of Jesus to inflict fear and to perpetuate itself in power. Five hundred years later, the Peruvian Government is still intimately intertwined with the Catholic Church: the Peruvian Constitution recognizes the role of the Church in shaping the cultural, historical and social development of the country; all the schools have to impart Catholic education (whether they are private or public) and Catholic symbols are widespread in government buildings and public spaces. This certainly makes for a very restrictive, classist and intransigent society. Not to mention that the government can't pass any laws to protect or grant rights to anyone that the Church deems offensive or transgressive of their principles, which of course includes members of the LGTBQ community. This is kind of senseless if we consider that Pope Francis has given open statements to the press where he has requested Christians and the Church itself to apologize to every gay person that has been marginalized or hurt by limited, inhuman beliefs and behaviors.
Enter artists Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo and Andrew Mroczek (the former Peruvian, the latter American, both based in the United States) who since 2013 took on the task of celebrating, elevating and dignifying the humanity and the goodness of Peruvian transgendered women and gay men. Through two series of photographs, “Virgenes de La Puerta” (Virgins of the Door) and “Los Chicos” (The Boys), and two films, “Padre Patria” (Fatherland) and “Anda” (the term used to name the structure that holds large plaster figures of saints that are walked around on shoulders in public festivals and processions), Canon is a show at the Museum of Sex that is as moving as it is gut-wrenching. The name of the exhibition is a reference to the law and authority that certain Catholic rules represent and which can only be exercised and executed by top members of the hierarchy, some of which are also called “canons.”
As I walked through the exhibition first with Lissa Rivera, the curator of the show, and then with both artists, I experienced a wide range of emotions: sadness, compassion, admiration, respect, shock, anger, hope. The show’s information, captions, descriptions and all materials have been made entirely available in Spanish and English to create a truly inclusive and bilingual exhibit. Rivera also took the space and turned into a truly immersive experience: it is dark and moody, as if inside of a church, the music on the background from one of the videos is deep and ceremonial; the scent in the air is that of “palo santo”, or sacred wood essence, commonly burned in churches throughout Peru.
The Virgins of the Door is the strongest body of work. It’s comprised of several full-color photographs of transgendered women from Lima shot inside once-gilded but now decaying Peruvian buildings and historical settings, replicating a colonial religious scene from the 19th century. Allowing for a creative collaboration with the artists, these women decided what to wear or if they’d go completely naked, how to pose or if they were to use special props. They look defiantly and proudly at the camera, feeling validated for the first time in a long time, perhaps ever in their lifetimes. Crowns and embroidered capes and outfits envisioned by Barboza-Gubo and Mroczec and made in collaboration with local artisans were worn throughout, and some of these rich and elaborate pieces are on display at the show. These women are humble, highly devoted, pray daily, and practice the Scripture in a more honest way than those heterosexuals in upper classes who are self-righteous and hide behind shiny gates and substantial church donations. These women have been shut off from society, abandoned by their families, hurt and attacked physically and verbally for having incurred in the “sin” of psychologically identifying and/or physically changing their gender. They don’t have fundamental rights, they don’t have access to medical care or to proper and legal identification under their new gender and names. They can’t get the job of their dreams, or any decent job for that matter. They are mostly hairdressers or sex workers because there are no other choices. So many atrocities are accepted in a country that looks the other way while distorting the word of a generous, tolerant and inclusive Christ who said that “in my table everyone is welcomed.” Apparently not so in Peruvian tables.
The other photographic series is “Los Chicos,” showing portraits of openly gay young men who are proud of their choices and are using their voices for social activism. They don’t care and aren’t afraid to be who they are and expose it openly. These young men’s portraits were taken inside of a hidden manse that was once the perfect embodiment of the Peruvian upper class but is now abandoned. The ruin and rubble creates tension with the symbolism: a corrupt triangle of upper society, church and government complicit of hate crimes and cruel and inhuman treatment of those not fitting in the artificial standards carried from five centuries ago, the richness of Peruvian architecture and craftmanship, the marginalized and the disenfranchised.
In the two video installations, Fatherland is a metaphorical name to show how patriarchy is killing the motherland. The video exposes dark scenes of Peru, specifically of places where members of the LGBTQ community were physically assaulted or murdered. The captions on each give the name of the victims, the exact place where the act of violence occurred, a brief description of what happened and the year it happened.
“Anda,” a film debuting in Canon, features young gay men who are open and activists, especially people from the working class. They are naked, carrying on their shoulders the structure where the saints would go in a procession, but here there is no saint; they are only carrying wood. Wood that is empty and weighing them down.
When asked about a moment of humbleness, something that moved them to their core, Mroczek named an encounter with one of the subjects whose portrait is in the show: Nazia, a woman who was so broken who had to leave Lima and move to a smaller town because she couldn’t tolerate being abused and discriminated as she was, much less accepting the only job that was available to her: becoming a prostitute. For Braboza-Gubo, it was learning things that he never understood or thought possible: a woman called Leyla who said “I’m a mix half male, half female and I’m happy like this”, it dawned on him how different and complex humans within the LGBTQ spectrum can be, and that is what makes them all the more interesting and beautiful. To embrace all aspects of self: the masculine and the feminine, the divine and the human, the resilience and the vulnerability, this is the core of the show. And it’s important to remember that these aren’t issues that belong to Peru exclusively, these are issues of humanity that belong to the world.
Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo & Andrew Mroczek
Museum of Sex
233 5th Ave,
New York, NY 10016
Until January 15
From pop stars to politicians to slogans printed in $700 high-end fashion designer T-shirts, the whole “4th wave” Feminist Movement has been twisted and turned many times to fit political agendas and sell out arenas. The conversation of what “feminism” means brims with contradiction: what does it entail to be a feminist nowadays? Why do some women proudly call themselves staunch feminists but in practice fail to support their own gender? Is it sufficient to fight for equal rights without adding a dimension of spirituality and warmth and not lose some battleground for being perceived as “soft”? And then add the art world, the supposed “gender-blind” haven that doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo either about gender equality, whether it’s equal pricing of art or support by collectors, curators and gallerists.
Luckily, there are artists who are using the power of their work to speak up from a place of intuition using both heart and mind. It's a combination that shouldn’t be mutually exclusive and one that Robin F. Williams addresses so well. What follows is a condensed and edited version of a conversation that I had with Robin in her studio during the last days of summer while she was preparing for her upcoming solo show at PPOW Gallery in New York City.
Maria Brito: So tell me, what are the underlying tenets of feminism that you like to explore in your paintings?
Robin F. Williams: I’ve always been interested in painting the figure. I painted a lot of children in school without having to get into the gender issue. Then I started to paint men and look at the ideas of American masculinity. I wanted to invert the roles of the American identity, like an alternate reality, who-gets-to-paint-who. The paintings didn’t have a narrative of the conquering hero male, typical of American history, but I presented men in a more romanticized way. Then I started this new body of work which is the most difficult but also the most rewarding.
MB: Why is it the most difficult?
RFW: As a female artist, painting female bodies is a very well-tread territory. There are lots of catch-22s here about female authority and authorship, like women as subject instead of the object, and you can get really in your head about it. I approached some of these women with humor which frees me up a lot, but I wanted to focus on mixed messages: being a female artist, talking about female desire, and being sexual, although most of these paintings are about desires, any desire. In regards to feminine identity, we hear all the time these messages that say: “it’s better if you want less”, “it’s not good to be so ambitious”, “the less you aspire, the better it will be”. That’s not how I grew up, but as I heard more and saw more of the coded, sneaky messages that women and men tell each other, it allowed me to see that this is how things work. All these new paintings have a lot of things going on, especially contradictions: what if they are too sexy, what if they are opposing a feminist movement of not having to conform to male-imposed standards of beauty - these are all traps that have been created for women.
MB: Extreme rationalization of the work of an artist is also a trap, because you aren’t a random person who decided to paint the figure; you went to school, you know process and art history, and you have your own visual language within a world of figuration. And art is what exists within you. I find it very oppressive that we can’t do whatever we want because of very passive-aggressive standards invented by men but supported by women. “You can’t have it all”, or “You can’t be smart and sexy at the same time because nobody will take you seriously” or “Watch what you post on Instagram or how much skin you reveal, because what are men going to think?" And women will trash you too for this. A lot of the oppression comes from other women, super double standards.
RFW: Female sexuality is a very threatening thing to put out in the world.
MB: But if anybody is going to go out in the world and call themselves “feminists” they have to start by accepting that human beings, especially women, are not one thing or another - that because someone posts a picture of their bodies on Instagram, whatever way that body looks, that doesn’t and shouldn’t take away their credibility in what they do - whether they are teachers, lawyers, doctors, artists or art advisors. We have changed too much to conform to anybody’s idea of the path to follow or incongruent rules, especially creative people who have talent and something to say. Also, the continuum of art history that claims for people like you to be inserted in a specific spot following a certain tradition is a total entrapment.
RFW: Absolutely. This new body of work is more exploration of mixed media and feels freer to me, even from a medium standpoint as I’m using oil instead of acrylic. For example, in the painting of the woman eating salad, I’m looking at the ability of having desires from a female perspective. Like why is this woman eating salad and feeling so sexual about it? She has eroticized salad, because nobody has ever told a woman that salad isn’t good for her. Look at how things are marketed to women. Men are constantly being sold sex. Women have other desires according to marketers, safe things that they can desire without being naughty.
MB: Things are changing - look how many sex toys, body-positive information and female-oriented websites that aren’t porn but are all about pleasure, like OMGYes.com, are being offered to us every day, in a way that actually looks inviting and sexy.
RFW: Yes but what hasn’t changed yet is why are female artists not succeeding as much in the art world? Why are the prices for women artists' works not as high as men? Desire and ambition in women are not received with the same amount of respect than with men. Wanting too much is still not considered attractive on women, at least not professionally.
MB: If we look back at women in general and women artists in particular in the past 50 years, they never thought that they could have it all: like having kids, and/or a husband or partner (of any gender) and a career. But now artists and every other woman are doing it because women believe that they can have it all.
RFW: It is coming but it is very slow.
MB: About 65% of what I’m excited to look at right now are from women artists. All of us women should always fight for equality and help each other succeed. And whatever isn’t exactly equal, in my opinion, is that side that is feminine and maternal, nurturing, softer and vulnerable. That is a side that should also be respected, because that is what makes us who we are as a gender and as, I dare to say, spiritual forces that hold the world together. These aren’t handicaps but things that should be celebrated. But I want to know, where does the inspiration for the painting of the black woman comes from?
I looked at ads from the 70s that were composed like old paintings. A lot of figures and filling out this rectangle following the art history of how to put a woman in a rectangle (or a box for that matter). She was a black woman in a cigarette ad dressed a bit like [Vermeer’s] “Girl in the Pearl Earring” and the copy in the ad said, “Your Good Taste is Showing” and that is the title of the painting and the name of my upcoming solo show at PPOW.
MB: I think she looks Gaugin-ish, but from our times, and she is so defying, one cigarette in each hand, as if flipping both fingers to everyone.
RFW: I wanted to take that line of the ad and expand it to include other things. This specific ad was the one I found that covered the aspects I wanted to tackle and explore: class, race, desire and sexuality. I was looking at hundreds of cigarettes ads from the 70s and I couldn’t find any black woman, in fact, in any ad. I really was focused on cigarette ads because they ranged the whole spectrum with all sorts of dynamics with men and women: some were in parties, others were free-spirited; in some, women were behind the men who were smoking. And in my painting, there is some Gaugin but there is a reference to Balthus’s composition, in reverse - the cat in his painting is looking at you, here it's looking at the woman.
MB: What about all these Playgirl magazines that you’ve been researching, were they feminist?
RFW: No! They aren’t even arousing for anybody. They are so awkward. Women could not have possibly been present in those photoshoots or in the creative side of it.
MB: What made you paint that girl in that canvas with the fluorescent vagina? Because that is the focal point of that painting.
RFW: I was thinking about Courbet’s painting “The Origin of the World” but I was also thinking about Andrea Mantegna's painting "The Lamentation of Christ" which was finished around 1501 and one of the things that the viewer sees first is the feet of Jesus on the cross. The woman I painted was having a nice time, sunbathing and minding her own business, and someone is looking at her from that angle, so she just tilted the head as if saying “don’t bother me!” but she’s just always confronted by this ever-present male gaze. Like life is.