I didn’t set out to reference “The Scream” by Norwegian Expressionist Edvard Munch; in fact, “Ruff Collar #25” went through a lot of very different evolutionary stages before I stopped here. This is often the way it goes and one of the great things about painting (the way I paint).
I suppose that until an artist says if a painting is about something specific, it’s a matter of speculation — granted, some speculation is more informed than assumptions made by general viewers. I figure most artists aren’t terribly stuck on various interpretations of their work.
My painting is an addition to the “Ruff Collar” series I began in 2018, in which there aspects of fashion, history, class, and theatre — and against this backdrop, the ever-present knowledge that I am a feminist. That is to say, I bring along the historical context of my work as a cultural activist of the feminist variety, and that tends to be understood because I primarily exhibit my work here on FB, where you know me (or can get to know me). When I paint a woman it is not a man painting a woman.
As an older person who has been making art since the 70s (the portrait series began in 1973), I’ve found that the intensity of context (production and reaction over time) can’t be neatly summed up in an artist statement. So I tend not to write them. Let the young people wrestle with them. Let the Art World deal with them.
A sense of context is also what I consider to be fundamental in contemporary art which I tend to find a bit contrived and too clever, yet I sometimes surprise myself and enjoy the fact that I’ve created something within an existing genre.
It seems to me that contemporary portraiture is a combination of historically recognizable styles and techniques within one piece that push forward the recognition of a face in one of those styles because of the other styles. Recognition of the human face (not a specific person) relies on the profusion of faces (RL, paintings and photos) that the brain has previously processed. An example of this would be “No Hat #560” (above) — the painting I did yesterday. The position of the features (eyes, nostrils and mouth) are almost photographic, yet semi-obscured (eyes, nostril) and garishly over-painted (lips), but it’s the weird contrast of four simple strokes for the bangs (and several framing the face) that push the face to a strange realism.
Back to “Ruff Collar #25” and how it relates to “The Scream” which, without going back to look or research further, I interpret as a man screaming and I can’t say as I am too curious what he’s screaming about. Looks like fear. Just my impression.
The face in “Ruff Collar #25” is similar to “No Hat #560” in that the layer obscuring the features hints at a realism because of surrounding style — in this case the ruff collar, which is squeezing the face, giving it the shape of “The Scream” yet the mouth is pressed shut in a way that women are very familiar with. The constrictive nature of the collar — and by association fashion, history, class, and the general oppression of women — brings a sense of realism the the face (the woman) obscured beneath the thin layer of paint which represents make-up or a mask which refers to the way women are expected to behave.
Screaming is frowned upon.