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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Lisa Yuskavage

You know you've "made it" when the iconic painter, Chuck Close, struggles with his handicap to show up and praise your work on opening night.
How does an artist know when he or she has become a "success?" For many struggling artist, their lives seem to be "feast or famine." That is, once they've finished their formal schooling and make up their minds to become a professional artist, at what point in their careers can they truly say they have "made it." Perhaps the first indication is the day the land representation in an important art gallery. Another milestone might be their first one-man(woman) show at that gallery; perhaps that first big sale; or a well attended opening night followed by their first positive published review from an important art critic. It might be the winning of a major art competition. The realization might come when the artist is able to move into their own loft studio in the "arty" part of the city. It might be any one of these, all of these, or none of these. Sometime success comes so gradually over such a long period of time that the artist is only vaguely aware of their own success. For the American figural painter, Lisa Yuskavage, it was the latter.

Portraits by self and others. Babie 1, 1996-97, Lisa Yuskavage

Babie 1, 1996-97, Lisa Yuskavage
Unlike many artists, Lisa began her studies abroad, in Rome, in 1982. She got her B.F.A. four years later at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia, with an M.F.A. from Yale to follow two years later in 1986. Although she was featured in several magazine articles, it was another four years, 1990, before she had her first solo exhibition at a major gallery, the Pamela Auch-incloss Gallery, in New York. From that point on, solo or group shows followed at the rate of one or two a year along with entry into various international competitions around the world. Lisa Yuskavage's first museum solo show came in 2000 at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Univer-sity of Pennsylvania.
Half Family, 2003, Lisa Yuskavage
Pie Face, 2007, Lisa Yuskavage
Lisa Yuskavage was born in 1962, growing up in Philadelphia, Penn-sylvania. Her career as an artist is notable if for no other reason than the fact she is one of the few women artist whose subject matter is limited almost exclusively to the female nude. Her movement in that direction came gradually, as seen in her Babie 1 (above, left) from 1996-97 to her Pie Face (right) from ten years later. Only in the last few years has she depicted men and even then, not the studly male renderings so common today from artists of both genders. Her The Dude That Looks Like Jesus (below), from 2014 is far from a sexualized male figure, much more along the line, of an eerie, guru, quite the opposite of her erotic fantasy figures such as Half Family (above), which have long formed the core of her work.

The Dude Who Looks Like Jesus, 2014, Lisa Yuskavage
Yuskavage has shaped her own genre of the female nude into a voluptuous, erotic, angelic, yet cartoonish young women. She envelops them in an often monochromatic landscape that appears to be fictional, yet real, almost surreal. Her figures are contemporary, psychologically complex, often appearing cinematic in scope. Critics have used phrases such as "mixed subliminal" and "deliciously artificial" in describing the powerful sexuality of Yuskavage's work. She even manages to instill within her figures of pregnant women a certain erotic quality as seen in her Small Morning (below) from 2005, which might seem rather strange to men. Her poses vary from discretely demure to explicitly pornographic (sorry, no examples of that here).

Small Morning, 2005, Lisa Yuskavage . 

  Snowman, 2008, Lisa Yuskavage
--another example of her male nudes

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