On my social media I often share posts about other artists who inspire me. I have decided to start a blog post series based on the same thing. Here is the first installment.
Suzanne Valadon has what might be the coolest biography anyone could hope for.
She was born named Marie-Clémentine Valadon in Montmartre district of Paris.
What is Montmartre? The site of the famous Moulin Rouge, and an incubator of art and culture. A partial list of artists who hung out there over the years include Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Degas, van Gogh, Raoul Dufy, Picasso, Les Nabis (Vuillard, Bonnard), Matisse, André Derain, and later Langston Hughes, Josephine Baker, and Django Reinhardt.
She started modeling for artists, such as Puvis de Chavannes, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec. During this time, she gained the nickname "Suzanne" after the biblical story of Susanna and the Elders (a story where dirty old men spy on a naked young woman).
Valadon’s work seems to be mostly post-impressionism, but she really stood out because of the subjects she was willing to handle.
Most female painters at that time, such as Cassatt and Morisot confined themselves to landscape, still life, and domestic scenes involving children and women. Valadon painted all these subjects, as well... but she also did nudes.
And she painted nude men, unheard of at that time, and one of the first and few examples of a man being seen through the “female gaze”.
At 18, Valadon had a son who also became a famous painter, Maurice Utrillo. She married twice, once to a wealthy banker, and then to a man 21 years younger than she, Andre Utter. She died of a stroke in 1938 at age 72.
To top off the world’s coolest biography, she also has a crater on Venus named after her. And an asteroid.
How cool is that?
March is Women's History month. During this time I am contemplating my position as a female artist, creating narrative art.
Part of the enduring fascination we have with noir is the inclusion of powerful female characters. The zenith of film noir was from the 1930’s-1950’s a time of extraordinary change for women, particularly during WWII, when they took up jobs vacated by men who were off at war. The war, plus the changing role of women in society, created nationwide anxiety, much like the anxiety evidenced in our own times.
In my own work I am wrestling with the issues of stereotypes- am I perpetuating them? Does the work I produce actually uphold my values? My use of nostalgia and depictions of a by-gone era seems to give me license to stay in my comfort zones and repeatedly depict figures that are young, slender, and largely white.
Here are the hotsheets with the sordid details, the true confessions, and the inside info on my artistic process. Learn how it all happens right here!