Sunday, December 11, 2005

Alice Neel @ NMWA

It's such a weird building, the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Very... pink. The lobby, anyway. The collection seems very eclectic.

The Alice Neel exhibition is worth seeing. Very intense portraits of women, never idealized, but never showing flaws just for the sake of flaws, either. Some of the paintings almost border on caricature. I love that Neel painted such a variety of sitters, from intellects to maids. And I love how you can see some of the women's discomfort at the scrutiny of portraiture. From the website:
Selecting her subjects based on outward attributes that revealed inner selves, these images remain unfailingly, and often disconcertingly, honest.
Many of the bodies are twisted and awkward, even (maybe especially) the pregnant women. Her pregnant women are probably the most interesting to me. In one of the captions Neel is quoted saying she thinks that artists have shied away from painting pregnant women because they're "sissies." (The artists, of course, not the women!) I think Alice Neel must have been quite a character to know.


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