Ceci n’est pas un portrait
When Alice Neel painted Andy Warhol, she did it scars and all. Warhol is shown sitting with his shirt off, revealing the obvious traces of the open-chest massage that was needed to revive him after he was shot by a disgruntled actress in 1968. “It’s a very amazing portrait, where she tapped into an incredible vulnerability, and that’s what floats to the surface,” said art educator and writer Diane Armitage, who presents a program about Neel (1900-1984) at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 9.
This is the final installment in the seven-part More Than Mary Cassatt lecture series sponsored by the Center for Contemporary Arts and the New Mexico Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The lecture is presented at CCA, 1050 Old Pecos Trail.
“Alice Neel basically was a portrait painter, say through the 1930s and 1940s,” Armitage said. “But once you get into Abstract Expressionism, people wondered, Who was this kook painting portraits? She really kind of went into obscurity, struggling financially against unbelievable odds. But she never stopped working and held onto her vision. In the 1960s, people began to look at her work again.
“I really don’t consider her as a portrait painter, because her paintings are like psychological landscapes,” Armitage said. “Her work is extraordinarily gritty. She really got to the core of whoever was sitting in front of her. The other thing is that there are a lot of very abstract passages in her paintings. The way she would work the background could stand alone as an abstract painting.”