Tom Wesselmann’s career was one of exploration and vision. He sought to give form to his own personal discoveries of what was beautiful and exciting to him. Here we focus on an overarching theme in his work, the celebration of female allure. Amongst Wesselmann’s striking large scale shaped canvases and freestanding paintings, I introduce another compositional layer through the provocative shades from the Nars Audacious Lipstick Collection. To me these works convey Wesselmann’s genius of composition and distinct ability to reinvigorate intimate objects through their portrayal at a grandiose scale. Representing the evolution of his work following his Great American Nude Series and collages incorporating advertising ephemera in the 1960s for which he became known as one of the founders of the American Pop Art Movement, Wesselmann’s work supersedes the term “Pop Art.” Truly unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced before is Wesselmann’s, Bedroom Painting #32, shown above. Continuing to explore the ideas and media that fascinated him in the sixties, the seventies marked his creation of these large multi-paneled works. Consisting of five freestanding canvases, the paintings move into sculptural space spurring a new level of interaction and contemplation with such elements that could be found on your nightstand, a striped vase and picture frame containing the artist himself. A rare beautiful moment allowed me to step into the composition as if in a surrealist dream, like a fallen petal in my red velvet Rosie Assoulin dress and dramatic Nars lipstick in Vivien. Once again conveying Wesselmann’s ability to represent a still life composition with a twist of abstraction is Black Bra and Green Shoes, playing on the intimacy of these two objects intertwined, I chose a 3.1 Philip Lim slip dress and a sweep of Nars lipstick in Julie. The experience I had here in the presence of the great artist’s work was a gift that relayed the importance of process and growth, one that caused me to reevaluate the conceptual underpinnings and evolution of my own work. This push I think can be seen directly in the realization of these portraits, where a new subtle emphasis is placed on elements of my own form, here a visually expressive attention to lip color through the super saturated rich matte shades of the Nars Audacious Lipstick Collection. I have to express my deep thanks to The Wesselmann Family for allowing me this transformative experience and to Greg Allen-Muller for providing deeper insight and in turn reinvigorating my own work. A must see retrospective of Wesselmann’s innovative body of work opens at the Cincinnati Art Museum on October 31st.
Cincinnati Art Museum, Beyond Pop Art: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective, October 31, 2014 — January 18, 2015
Hair by Cosma De Marinis, Makeup by Samantha Dametta, Photographs by Tylor Hou