The Second Coming of Betty Tompkins

LOS ANGELES — Sweetie. Pushy Broad. Sheela Na Gig. Queen. Sapphic Poon Hustler. These are just a few of the thousand or so terms used to describe women featured in Betty Tompkins’s sprawling painting installation, WOMEN Words, Phrases, and Stories on view at Gavlak Gallery in Hollywood — it is her first solo show on the West Coast.

Looking Around Miami Basel: Where Did All the Bodies Go?

MIAMI — There are many stories about the origins of art: ancient Greek historian Pliny suggested art was born when a Corinthian maiden traced the outline of her lover’s shadow on a wall, while an Asian legend tells of a young man who could not paint the Buddha because of his enlightened glow, and so was forced to paint his reflection in a pool of water. What these two stories share is the emphasis on the rendering of people as a foundational element of art. Fast-forward many millenia, when the story of high-priced contemporary art is vastly different from those origin stories, and walking through the latest incarnation of Art Basel Miami Beach, I was struck by the marginalization of the human form in the blue-chip work on display. What happened?

Fuck Paintings #NSFW …As If You Needed to Know That

Sex is fundamental to our existence, but expressing it always involves some pussyfooting around — otherwise we’d have to come to grips with gonads and gestation, when fulfilling our biological purpose is the last thing on our mind. Even the word “sex” is often too straightforward, so we rely on euphemism and innuendo to obfuscate the obvious for the sake of modesty. There has always been one haven, however, for letting it all hang out: art, from antiquity on, has made disrobed humans look more like demigods than animals.

Female Artists, Female Bodies

I was standing with a female painter friend in the Metropolitan Museum recently, in front of work by Van Gogh, when she said, “There are no rules.” Then, after a beat, she added, “Or he was hallucinating all the time and painted exactly what he saw.” For women, rules define a set of social expectations that are meant to keep them under control. In the arts, purportedly so much more liberal than the rest of society, this problem is acutely magnified, since culture tells us who we are, both literally and imaginatively.