In working with the human figure, artists take on numerous diverse approaches. In portraiture, artists focus on facial features, expression, pose, as well as various small details that give information on the subject’s character, personality and personal history. The figure can also be used symbolically as a tool, such as in landscape or cityscape paintings, as a comparison point to environmental vastness. In the genre of the heroic landscape painting, artists borrowed classical themes from images of grand historical subjects, and applied them to landscape imagery, often emphasizing or exaggerating an imposing scale within the composition through the use of the human figure. Artists Anna Kincaide and Jane Maxwell take on a different approach in their work. Both artists address the figure in terms of space, context and composition while leaving out details that would cement the work as portraiture. The absence of facial detail turn the eye to other focal points within the work, as Kincaide and Maxwell play upon our expectations.
The female body has long served as a muse in the arts, a lens through which the themes, issues and ongoing dialogue of the contemporary collective consciousness can be reflected. The work of Anna Kincaide and Jane Maxwell addresses this discourse through reflective interpretations of the feminine ideal through context, material and approach. Biting into societal and personal constructs of femininity both artists commit to an encompassing approach, resulting in work that both entices and provokes.
Working within her chosen medium of oil on canvas, Kincaide’s fantastical compositions place the figure into a surreal, photo studio-like context. Keeping the palette for the torso monochromatic, Kincaide creates bountiful, colorful, arrangements reminiscent of topiary or plumage that float, sprout and cascade down her subjects’ heads. The imagery is like a beautiful fever dream that transcends into reality, viscerally visible and tangible.
Jane Maxwell explores the complexities of the feminine ideal through the paper medium of current advertisements, brochures and original billboard papers. The work has a feel of the sculptural through the sheer physicality of this material, which is layered, cut and peeled into distinctive female silhouettes. Exploring the ubiquitous and inundating nature of the advertisements, as well as our perception of them, the work presents a complex commentary. Completely deconstructing the original intent of the source material, the artist clothes and forms the female body out of this aggregated ephemera, synthesizing the idealized imagery of the advertisements into something with entirely new meaning.