Pretty / Dirty Indeed

Some exhibits make me anxious, even before I see them.

Occasionally an art exhibit shows up in a magazine or in a social media feed that worries me. And not for the reason you might think. I get anxious because I might not get around to seeing it. The exhibit is temporary, and in a city far away. And with no plans to visit said city, my chances of experiencing a show I really want to see seems bleak.  Such was the case with Marilyn Minter.

Marilyn Minter is one of a handful of artists that I actively look for.  Her work is always more spectacular when seen live. And it's surprisingly hard to find her paintings in museums and galleries.  Plus, she's a woman. And I feel like women artists still get the shaft when it comes to big retrospective exhibitions. So I'm all for making an extra effort to see a show by a woman.

And there's the Living Painter Game. As a totally nerdy Art fan, I like to play little art world mind games.  One of my favorites I call the Living Painter Game.  The rules of the game are simple: if money were no object, who would be the five living painters you would choose to own, listed in order of preference.  On my list, Marilyn Minter is number two.  

So it's no surprise that when a business trip had me in New York City late on a Thursday, I decided to stay the weekend, take in a few Broadway shows, and make the trek to the Brooklyn Museum to see Marilyn Minter: Pretty/Dirty. Ms. Minter and the Brooklyn curators made it well worth the effort.  Here are a few of the reasons why.

Marilyn Minter is a feminist voice like few others. Minter's explorations of the way "women view, mask, and display" themselves have often gotten her into trouble with the general art world as well as with feminists. For example, some feminists found her porn paintings "traitorous."  But Minter wondered, "Why can't we make sexual images for our own production? It's a way to own power."

This is a technically spectacular show. One of the reasons I like to play the Living Painter Game is because great painting is incomprehensible to me.  And these paintings are particularly perplexing. The paint is applied with such skill and artistry it's mind boggling. The emotionally and intellectually charged results are spectacular. Their licking and dripping mouths, their flawed yet flawless shoes, and their unsettlingly jeweled views of women, create images that are fascinating. I could easily live with one or two of these paintings for the rest of my life and never fully unravel their mysteries.

Understanding an artist's process makes the work more intriguing. I love that this exhibit featured so much of Minter's early work.  I love the photos of her mother that were the result of an undergraduate assignment.  It's obvious that Minter had strong thoughts about the portrayal of women from very early in her career. And some of her early, photo-realistic paintings of sinks and linoleum offered interesting insight into her later style of painting.

Enough of me yammering on.  The images are far more intriguing. And while these photos make for a dramatic online gallery, they can't come close to generating the emotional energy the original paintings spark. This exhibit made me anxious in a different a way as well. A way that was much more exciting.

Creative director and art nerd contemplating travel, books, theater, and art.