07 December, 2006

Elaine de Kooning

Elaine de Kooning, Portraiture, and the Politics of Sexuality

What is the viewer to think of de Kooning, a woman artist, who was a central figure within the male-dominated Abstract Expressionist movement, creating a sexually suggestive portrait of her friend and fellow painter Fairfield Porter?

Perhaps de Kooning's remark in 1987 makes it perfectly clear what we, the viewers, are to think:

"...women painted women: Vigée-Lebrun, Mary Cassatt, and so forth. And I thought, men always painted the opposite sex, and I wanted to paint men as sex objects"

(Gibson, 135).

...De Kooning's portraits of men are fascinating because she reverses the standard male artist/female model dynamic and in many of her portraits she captures the sexual power of her subjects, challenging the male privilege of looking and female role of object to be looked at.

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