“Difficult Women” features portraits of women Scherman admires, including Margaret Thatcher and Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner. In interviews, Scherman has said that he uses beauty—specifically, the technical beauty of his paintings—as an entrance point into complex themes. There is an Old Master
quality to these paintings, with their dark, painterly surfaces and facial features sculptured out of light and shadow. Scherman’s palette is earthy and muted, and the waxy material at times looks faded and muddled, as though these works are far older than they really are. That aged quality lends these women a sense of gravitas that other forms of representation don’t necessarily possess. In Serena Williams
(2014–15), the tennis champion appears in profile, peering out of the painting with a sense of caution that borders on suspicion. An elegant looking blonde in profile in The Unknown Suffragette
(2014–15) looks both powerful, with her chin raised, and vulnerable in that she’s unable to return our gaze.