Having been deprived of ‘live’ art and culture over the past couple of years, a recent visit to the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum was a very emotional experience. To be surrounded by, and to have a whole day to spend with, all the wonderful paintings was joyful but to see a an outstanding collection of works by Alice Neel was off the scale of exciting. I have loved her work for a long time and the exhibition curated by the Guggenheim did not disappoint.
Titled ‘ People Come First’, this collection of Neel’s paintings demonstrated her distinctive style and passion when painting people in real life situations, particularly the people of New York with whom she interacted daily.
A pioneer for female artists, she helped to break down stereo types and barriers for women showing how they can express themselves and to have pride in their naked bodies whatever their shape. But her passion was for humanity and had a voice for all genders, race, and sexual orientations.
After seeing this exhibition I began to consider my own work differently and painted ‘Elenka’ in the style of Neel using her technique of dark outlined under painting followed by thick brush strokes and a limited colour palette.
Elenka is a striking and intelligent woman whose identity was pondered upon for a long time however Susan Felleman, art historian, speculates that Elenka is actually the great experimental filmmaker Maya Deren. She is gorgeous who ever she is, don’t you agree?
If you want to know more about Alice Neel and her work, the website https://www.aliceneel.com can give you more juicy insights, along with YouTube videos.