Joan Brown's self portraits

Joan Brown's self portraits convey a colourful playful interpretation of what influenced her during her life. She was a Bay Area portrait artist coming out of the post abstract expressionist era and what struck me about her work was her use of colour and symbolism, and her simplicity in painting. 

Rudick comments on her career in her article, An Endless Succession of Roles: Joan Brown's Self Portraits, saying that "Brown worked prolifically until her death, deepening her investigation into representing her inner life on the canvas — exploring the “animal” aspect of her consciousness, her relationships, and her interests. Her early work stands as evidence of the speed with which her own artistic language evolved and her fearless embrace of putting personal matters front and center in her art. “The exterior part of art is very, very fickle and very, very chancy,” she told Karlstrom in 1975, “so you concentrate on the interior elements.” This introspective yet intrepid artist felt compelled to show her “interior reasons” for creating a painting on canvas, and the two were inextricable: she was the art and art was her."

I found it interesting that Brown was so involved in portraying herself figuratively in her work, as similarly Freida Kahlo or contemporary artist Cindy Sherman did and do. But I believe that every painting is an expression of yourself, and it does not need to be representational or figurative. It is how you decide to convey that expression that becomes the content of your work. Even a simple abstract line can represent you and show where you are in your art. 

The most important thing I learned in art school was to paint, it didn't matter what I painted, but it was through the discipline of working that inspiration came about and my work developed. It is about opening that channel for creativity to come in, and through the process of working that series develop and you move through your practice towards a better expression of yourself.  


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