Monday, November 17, 2014

Audrey Flack

Audrey Flack Is the next artist on the list of artists who's work was shown in the WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution show in 2007.  Flack is a New York based artist and started out much like any artist painting what and how you might expect.  She also did some abstract painting early in her career.  I especially like this painting:
©Audrey Flack - Still Life with Grapefruits
She then began a journey with photorealism and is probably best known for that.  Her artwork has always been heavily endowed with symbolism and meaning, even her earlier work.  This painting done from a photograph of Kennedy just before his motorcade made it's journey on the day he was shot is an example of that.  The shadow falling on Kennedy is foreshadowing his death, the hand of the man in the front seat is somewhat sinister.
©Audrey Flack - Kennedy Motorcade
I loved her story in an interview I read (Oral history interview with Audrey Flack, 2009 Feb. 16, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution) about the painting, World War II :
"Oh, conflict and contrast is consistently presented in World War II, and that was intentional. I went to Lichtman's Bakery [New York, New York] to get the finest petit fours I could find to contrast them with the starving prisoners, for which I got criticized. How could she paint the starving people next to these rich petit fours? How could she do that? Well, I was eventually redeemed. By the way, I went to Lichtman's Bakery on Eighty-sixth Street and spent an inordinate amount of time selecting the pastries. "I want that one," I said, but there's a little dent in the chocolate. So finally I was so fussy, Mr. Lichtman came out and said, "What do you want?" I said, "I'm making a painting about World War II. And I really need perfect petit fours." . . . .He went in the back and got me the most perfect petit fours that ever came out. . . .  those petit fours, exposed a tremendous conflict. . . . I have a demitasse cup, a silver demitasse cup. A burning red candle, cello music, and a beautiful quote from Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav. . . ."
©Audrey Flack - World War II
"So every review is saying greedy. How unfeeling I am. How could I do this? Right? - the pain of a horrible review is cutting. Ten years - and I'm miserable because I thought that was one of my best paintings . . . .the point is that often what is most ahead of its time, or what is most outside its time, eventually comes around. . . .  let me tell you my about redemption. It was ten years later. Nobody would touch the painting. It didn't sell. The Jewish Museum [New York, New York] didn't want it. Nobody! Then ten years later the Jewish Museum was doing some group show on the subject. And they asked - . . . . to borrow a World War II. . . . I felt so strongly about this painting. I didn't want to die until it was placed somewhere. So they borrowed the painting. A week after the exhibition opened, I got a call from the museum saying The Tel CHai Hadassah, a Jewish women's group, had voted my painting the one that they felt best, and they wanted to give me an award. . . .  I felt great! Well, they were having a luncheon at the museum and invited me. . . . I remember peach-colored tablecloths. These women were elegant. Adolfo suits. Their hair was coiffed in French knots. Their nails were done. But there was something weird in the atmosphere. Nobody paid attention to me. I was ushered to a table where I sat all alone. . . . Somebody from the museum sat down next to me, and I said, "Who are these people?" The reply was that they were all Holocaust survivors. I suddenly understood. Never again would they be in the rags that they had to wear. They were really coiffed and obviously well to do. They had survived. The outside world meant nothing to them. Even me, who they had selected to award. . . . After the luncheon, 350 women, that means 600, 700 high-heeled shoes clumped down the stairs, and gathered in front of my painting. . . . . they were in the Holocaust. And now I'm scared because of all the reviews that I got with how could you do these petit fours in front of these starving people? . . . .I was not in the Holocaust.. They were. So I was about to open my mouth, when Yeta or another woman who raised her hand - And I said, "Yes?" And she said, "I want to talk about those pastries." And I thought, oh, God! Here it comes. She said, "How did you know? How did you know to paint sweet pastries? I was starving. I had a crumb of bread and a glass of water. And the only thing that kept me alive was to imagine eating those pastries." . . . .anytime I've lectured, anyone who had been in the Holocaust had the same reaction. Apparently I touched on a basic human reaction. Then another woman, said, "Yes! Yes! Me too. How did you know to put the silver demitasse cup and tray?" I didn't, you know. I just needed silver, I needed a blue, and then I needed the red for the candle. She said, "What kept me alive was my silver tray that I polished every Friday night for the Sabbath to put my challah on. And that's what kept me alive. How did you know to put that in the painting?" Well then, another woman said, "What about the candle? You know Sabbath candles are white. Why is this candle red?" So I explained to them that white would have receded, and the red came forward, and red is symbolic of blood especially when the three drops of wax spilled. They thought about it and talked among themselves. . . ."
I read this and thought about the way art taps into universal consciousness and this story tells me that sometimes it taps into a very specific consciousness too.  And how interesting it is that objects play such an important role in our psyches - how much meaning they can have.

Anyway - I thought that was such a wonderful story and it helps all artists to hear stories like that one.  Our profession can make us feel isolated and knowing that what we do touches people in ways we can never imagine is a very important thing for us all to hold in our hearts.

Audrey Flack has also done a great deal of teaching over the years and has left her mark on the world of art that way too. 

These days she has been sculpting - still using symbolism to speak to anyone who views her work.
©Audrey Flack - Medusa

Wishing you a fabulous Monday.  And know that whatever art you create in whatever way you create it is touching the life of people in ways you could never imagine.

'Til tomorrow!