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Ladies of Influence


Self portrait Along the Borderline Between the US and Mexico, 1932

Frieda Kahlo

Oil on metal

March is Women’s History Month which is also the focus of this month’s post. The contributions of women in the arts are way too vast a terrain to map out in a brief little blog post. Having said that, I will humbly stay in my lane and tell you about some of the women artists/painters that have influenced me and my work.


Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first. To say Frida Kahlo is an influence on my work is kind of an understatement. Her life was the gold standard of the tortured artist who turned every hardship into art. Her life was documented on beautifully composed canvas for all the world to see as a prime example of “you can’t have a painting without pain”. Her surreal approach to narrative storytelling is the basis for how I communicate through painting.


Adieu Ammenotep, 1960

Leonora Carrington

Oil on canvas


Jack be Nimble, Jack be Quick, 1970

Leonora Carrington

Oil on canvas


Another surrealist woman that has had great influence on my work is Leonora Carrington. She created dreamlike landscapes with symbols, biomorphic forms, and architectural patterns. She would explore the innermost parts of herself and her psychology by creating theaters for moments and feelings to perform within a canvas.


War, 2003

Paula Rego

Oil on canvas


Celestina's House, 2001

Paula Rego

Oil on canvas


Paula Rego also made an impact on me early in my artistic development. She had unique sensibilities to the human figure along with a blend of classic Renaissance composition and a dash of surrealist temperament to depict specific moments of life. She used this recipe for documenting, not just the moments in her life, but also social and political climate of her time.


Tree of Life

Ana Mendieta

Performance still


Death is not a Metaphore

Ana Mendieta

Performance still


Creek

Ana Mendieta

Performance still


Ana Mendieta from Cuba would use her very own body as the instrument for her art. While she wasn’t known for painting, she still had an artistic influence on me. She was primarily a performance artist who explored facets of female identity and her sense of belonging in the world. Her Earth and Body performances during the 1970’s and early 80’s was groundbreaking. The key aspect for me in studying her work was how deeply connected we are to the core elements of the earth. Much of her photography and sculpture was based on Ana being one with those elements. She was the tree, the wind, the mud, and the water; she existed within those earthly forces as they existed within her.


My time in Baltimore, attending MICA, was single handedly the most influential years of my artistic life. Not before, and never since, has there been a time where I was so completely emersed in the art community. Every facet of my life was touched by art and painting. For that time, my chief function was to develop my creative voice. Not just me, but everyone around me was doing the same. Geographically, I had access to numerous galleries and exhibitions with nearby New York City, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia as east coast locations for worldwide shows.


Heaven and Hell II, 1991

Carmen Lomas Garza

Alkyds and oil on canvas, 36" x 48"



Camas para Suenos (Bed for Dreams), 1993

Carmen Lomas Garza

Eight color lothograph on paper, 30" x 21"



It was at one such show in 1997 at the Museum of Women’s Art in Washington, D.C., I found another jewel in the scepter of influence. The show was highlighting women in contemporary Latin American art and Carmen Lomas Garza was one of the featured artists. Her artistic storytelling blended a folk-art sensibility with an honest sincerity of her Mexican heritage. Smaller scale works put the viewer in a closer and more intimate space. Little windows into Garza’s memories and dreams. She had a way of condensing life’s special moments into sweet and colorful little paintings. Despite a relatively simple approach and technique, her paintings represent the cultural significance of her Hispanic heritage and tradition. It taught me that you could make a painting small and “pack it” with lots of meaningful thoughts and feelings and use of a lot of symbols and other visual devices to convey those feelings should be simple and very much relatable to the viewer.


Ravencrest, 1969

Grace Hartigan

Oil on canvas


Bread Sculpture, 1977

Grace Hartigan

Oil on canvas



Inclement Weather, 1970

Grace Hartigan

Acrylic on canvas



Finally, if I’m going to talk about women who have had great influence on my work, this post wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Grace Hartigan. I had the privilege of studying painting with one of the 20th century’s greatest abstractionists. She was part of the original School of Abstract Expressionists that came out of New York in the 1950’s and 60’s. Alongside her counterparts, other giants like Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell, she shaped one of the most influential periods in modern art. As a mentor, she never made any of her students feel beneath her. She’d speak to you and about your art as if you were her colleague. She would sit down next to you and talk about your palette choices and carefully point out “moments within a painting shouldn’t be hidden by color but built by it”. That has been something that has stuck with me every time I render a painting. One of most enduring comments Grace had for me in my last critique of my graduating exhibition was,


“The structure and tone of a painting can be a statement that

confuses the viewer, or it can be a poem of your soul’s voice.

You have made your paintings sing!”


Now, maybe she said that 1000 times and to many students, but what those words did that day to a fledgling artist was immeasurable. It made me feel that my work meant something, that it had something to say, or sing. 25 years later, it’s no coincidence that I’m working on a series titled Lyrically Painted.


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