Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Image Surfacing: An Example of Lee Krasner's Nonfeminist Art


A constant struggle for women artists throughout history has been the question of their sex: does a woman have the same capacity to create art as men? Does subject matter differ between men and women? At what point is a line drawn where gender is no longer a consideration in the evaluation of an artwork and the full focus lies on the artwork itself? During the Modern Era of Art, there were two groups with very strong opinions: the Separatists, who held very anti-patriarchy/pro-matriarchy views and expressed extreme favoritism for female and feminine subject matter, and the Nonfeminists who simply wanted to be accepted artists without the modifiers of “woman” or “female” in relation to their capability or criticism. Abstract Expressionist painter Lee Krasner belonged to the latter of the two groups.

Lee Krasner began her career as an artist studying at The Copper Union, Art Students League, and the National Academy of Design. She began working for the Public Works of Art Project in 1934, and met her husband, famed painter Jackson Pollock, at an Artist's Union party in 1936. Her relationship with Pollock and her fascination with his art style allowed her own art to lean more towards abstraction and away from her prior rigid, Formalist approach. While not exactly a dependency, Pollock's influence brought about some of her best work, a fact that she was openly credential about. This alone constitutes a very Nonfeminist ideology in Krasner and her work.

Krasner's paintings have been praised as quintessential of the Abstract Expressionist movement, and not just because of the physical style she painted in. Her subject matter, described as “the struggle to establish the self in the act of painting” holds very true to the values of this movement. These same values place Krasner inside of the bubble of Nonfeminism; she doesn't depict her horrid treatment by the patriarchal society or a glorification of the female genitalia. Instead, she paints her journey of personal reflection and searching for herself. Throughout her career, Krasner's style changed, usually varying from one series or project to another. Some of her most famous pieces are her Little Images, however great consideration has also been paid to her Image Surfacing. This oil on linen painting includes a sense of “heightened drama created by [her] spontaneously applied brushstrokes.” Image Surfacing includes a variety of soft pastels and fluid geometric shapes, the brushstrokes clearly visible and serving as an aid or the viewer's eyes to follow throughout the cycle of the piece. Image Surfacing was created during her period of “gray slabs,” most of which were relatively unremarkable due to an overkill on layering image after image until all that was left was a caked-on gray mess. However, Image Surfacing retained not only varying color, but a sense of form and movement, making it an early example of Krasner's prominence in Abstract Expressionism.

Lee Krasner's recognition in the art world makes her a huge success, especially in terms of women artists. She took a very Nonfeminist approach to her craft, paying little to no special consideration of her sex when it concerned her work, and taking heavy influence from her husband, one of her own counterparts in the art world of her time.

2Gibson, Ann. "Lee Krasner and Women's Innovations in American Abstract Painting."Woman's Art Journal 28, no. 2
(Fall2007 2007): 11-II. Art Source, EBSCOhost(accessed May 14, 2016).
3 Hobbs, Robert. "Lee Krasner's Skepticism and her Emergent Postmodernism." Woman's Art Journal 28, no. 2 (Fall2007):
3-10, Insi. Art Source, EBSCOhost(accessed May 14, 2016).
4Robert Hobbs, Lee Krasner (New York: Abbeville, 1993), 37

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