The edgy ambivalence that runs through Audrey Frank Anastasi's paintings
pinpoints, among other issues, the unresolved sexual and generational conflicts
that haunt women today.
The voluptuous body of most of her female subjects are displayed in various
states of undress, but the manner in which they are painted, as well as their
cheerless or uneasy expressions, implies their sexuality has tethered rather
than liberated them. The sense of entrapment is apparent in Eclipse, in which a
woman, clad in a revealing leotard, reclines under a table and clutches its legs
as if they were some sort of barricade. We have no idea if she has been placed
there because she is in need of protection or because she is playing an
enjoyable game of sexual hide and seek. In Hooked, Anastasi depicts the female
who's black and white skirt and naked back, accented wih splashes of red,
reiterates the colors of the fabric of the sofa on which she is seated. Though
clearly defined as a separate entity, she is reminiscent of those Vuillard women
who appear to be one with the wallpaper. Like Hooked, paintings, such as Red
Season and Bitten, provide only fragmented images. These close-ups evoke a
world of claustrophobic limitations which make feminine mind and body
integration an impossibility.
A clue to a source of the disunity with their physical and psychic selves
manifested by the subjects can be found in Dream Gate. In this painting, a woman
is separated from a young child by the posts of a brass bed. These posts,
resembling prison bars, can be interpreted as visual equivalents of the barriers
that keep members of different generations from becoming fully connected with
one another. Anastasi's portrait of her mother entitled Psycho-Drama Mama is
particularly evocative of the frequent strife that exists between parents and
their offspring, especially mothers and daughters. In this extraordinary
painting, a large, imposing, completely clothed older woman, with a forbidding
expression and arms planted determinedly across her chest, dominates the canvas.
Her daughter, also in the picture, is represented only as a small reflected
image in a mirror which makes up part of the background.
Anastasi's bold depiction of her mother as a looming and intimidating authority
figure is daring. She is also courageous in using her skills as a gifted
representational artist to tackle the ongoing thorny issue of women's conflicted
attitudes toward their own sexuality.
Eclipse, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”. Private collection.
Hooked, oil on canvas, 40” x 30”.
Red Season, oil on canvas, 30” x 40”
Dream Gate, oil on canvas, 48” x 36”
Psycho-Drama Mama, oil on canvas, 60” x 48”
No Mercy, oil on canvas, 48” x 60”
Leaving, oil on canvas, 48” x 36”
Open Season, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”
Waiting, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”
Adrrift, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”
Kitchen Muse, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”
Parlor Games, oil on canvas, 60” x 48”
Armoir, oil on canvas, 60” x 48”
Balthusian, oil on canvas, 48” x 60”
Gift, oil on canvas, 48” x 36”
After the Fall, oil on canvas, 24” x 28”
I Rise, oil on canvas, 60” x 48”
Leather Girl, oil on canvas, 60” x 48”
Pygmalion, oil on canvas, 60” x 48”
Bamboo Redhead, oil on canvas, 48” x 36”. Collection: Mehrnoz Aghili.
Red Rug Landscape, oil on canvas, 40” x 30”
After Hours, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”
As a feminist artist painting other women, I believe that domestic scenes can reveal all sorts of psychological truths. Clearly my subjects have as strong an inner life, as they do a physical presence.
These paintings were all created in the presence of a live model, working quickly, in oil straight to canvas, during sessions ranging 3-5 hours in length. Speed adds a sense of freshness and honesty, and the domestic environment suggests a narrative that circumvents an "academic" genre. Almost all of my subjects are women, usually rendered larger than life size. Working from a live model and in 'real time,' the subjects first confront my, and then your (the viewer's) gaze, begging questions even as they assert individual personalities with (perhaps mysterious?) pasts.
And, as with all my paintings since 1990, in my quest to discover and reveal what is most essential, these works were painted with my non-dominant left hand.
Bella Donna, oil on canvas, 30” x 40””
Shadow Watcher, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”
Keyhole Chair, oil on canvas, 48” x 36”
ShoeTtrees, oil on canvas, 36” x 48”
Skull Scarf, oil on canvas, 48” x 36”
Audrey Frank Anastasi