Marlene Dumas- Painting


Like last week’s featured artist, Marlene Dumas also uses painting as her primary form of media. She was born in Cape Town, south Africa in 1953, but moved to Netherlands in the late 70s where she later found success as a painter.

Her images largely focus on humanity, and oftentimes highlight the female form. A lot of her works are very bleak and disturbing, as Dumas’s work is described as “intense and psychologically charged.”  Her pieces examine a broad range of human nature, from sexuality to death.

Dumas’s style of painting has been compared to the early 20th century form of Expressionism, with her loose strokes and unexpected colors. An example of an expressionist painting is the well-known piece, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. Pictured below, the strokes are long, and freeform, and Munch has clearly taken liberties in his color choice. The entire image creates a very disturbing effect.


When look at Dumas’s pieces, I get a similar disturbed feeling. Though I can appreciate the message and intent behind her paintings, something about them– their colors, their misshapen depiction of the human form– really leaves me feeling, well, creeped out. But, I don’t see that as a bad thing. Like all artists, Dumas is trying to make the viewer think and feel things, no matter how strange, when they look at her pieces.


Purple pose

I think this is a good example of her paintings that just kind of leave the viewer puzzled. The color scheme is very bleak and unexciting (certainly not purple at all, as the title suggests), and the female figure is clearly not realistic. Her proportions are exaggerated, making her look odd and gangly. With the way she is standing, every aspect of her body is entirely visible– the pose is suggestive, almost pornographic. Though I don’t know exactly what Dumas wants to convey here, I’d imagine it’s a commentary on the reality of female sexuality.

Like Elizabeth Peyton, Dumas has also produced images of celebrities. I suppose this isn’t all that strange for contemporary artists, since these figures play such a huge role in our society, for better or for worse. After Amy Winehouse’s sudden death in 2011, Dumas made a beautiful and somber portrait commemorating her.


I like how Dumas varies her portrayal of people– in the painting above, Amy is very beautiful, and looks quite serene. In a lot of her other works, however, like the one mentioned above and the self-portrait below, Dumas can create an ugly, jarring image of humanity.


As I mentioned above, this is a self-portrait of the artist. I honestly laughed when I saw this, because it’s so strange-looking. I think it’s really brave and honest of Dumas to portray herself in this way, instead of glamorizing herself. She is a very interesting artist and I hope to see where her career takes her.


Elizabeth Peyton- Painting


Elizabeth Peyton

Recently, I feel like I’ve only been covering the types of artists we automatically think of when we hear the term “contemporary art.” You know, the artists who create outlandish and nontraditional kinds of pieces, like huge public installations. But, there are a lot of modern artists who choose to use a more classic medium. Elizabeth Peyton, a portrait painter, is just one example.

Born in Connecticut in 1965, Peyton attended art school and cultivated her love of painting, and enjoyed making portraits of her close friends. Her work became popular in the 1990s, when there was a movement back to contemporary painting. She has been compared to Andy Warhol in her graphic, colorful style. Like Warhol, she often depicts celebrities and other famous people in her paintings.

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As you can probably tell from the two paintings above, Peyton likes to painting a huge range of people. She features modern celebrities, historical figures such as Napoleon Bonaparte, and even recreates some classic paintings. I think the range of her subject matter is really interesting, especially when combined with her tell-tale style of painting.

In some of her paintings, it’s almost as if she makes the subjects look quite similar, even if they look nothing alike in real life. This is because she has an affinity for the “idealized, feminized, androgynous male,” which you can certainly see in some of her more stylized works.

I also think it’s interesting how much Peyton unabashedly embraces pop culture. I don’t think many artists today would find themselves wanting to immortalize people like Justin Bieber or Eminem, but Peyton completely embraces these figures in a positive light.

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Never Say Never, 2013 and Kanye West, 2010

These are two of Peyton’s more famous paintings, probably because they are centered on two mega-celebrities. It’s so interesting to me to see such modern, popular figures depicted using such a classic medium, like painting. Whether or not Peyton genuinely admires these celebrities, or perhaps is just trying to make some sort of social statement, I can’t really tell. Her paintings are always quite zoomed in on people’s faces, and I like the loose brushstrokes she sees. This is particularly evident in the Kanye portrait, in which some areas of the canvas are left blank.

For anyone who says modern art doesn’t take any real artistic talent, I would respond by showing them people like Elizabeth Peyton. She uses painting so delicately to portray a vast array of people– from Kurt Cobain, to Frida Kahlo, to Justin Bieber. Even if you aren’t a fan of modern pop culture, there is no denying that her pieces are compelling and beautiful.