Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Alice Neel: Annie Sprinkle (1982)

By Stephanie Santos

This is a piece Alice Neel created in 1982 with oil on a canvas. This is a painting of a woman by the name of Annie Sprinkle. She is posing in a specific way so that the viewer can see every bit of her (I assume).  I assume she is dressed like a prostitute because she is painted in stiletto heels, has a lot of makeup on and is in an outfit made of leather. She is wearing a black feathery accent on top of her curled blonde hair. She also seems to be wearing expensive jewelry; a diamond necklace, ring, earrings and bracelet. I do not know where she is posed because the background is painted white with accents of shadow.  Her breasts and vagina are also exposed and there seems to be a piercing attached.  I know this was meant to represent Annie Sprinkle because I researched her and saw the resemblance.  Annie looks as though she has nothing to be ashamed of while posing nude, which goes to show how confident she is in her own skin. She also seems very relaxed in this painting by the way her arms lay across her thighs in a sensitive fashion.

This piece is of Annie Sprinkle, a prostitute/porn star turned artist/sexologist. She has been dedicated to exploring the world of sexuality for 36 years.  She enjoys sharing her experiences through teaching, art and sex films especially. She knows how it is to work in the so-called “glamorous” life of a paid porn star and how it is on the not so glamorous streets. “She is also an internationally acclaimed artist who tours theater pieces, and shows visual art, about her life in sex and love.” (Sprinkle)

Not only does Annie travel the world sharing intimate details of her life as a prostitute, but she has also “long championed sex worker rights and health care. She was one of the pivotal players in the 80’s “sex positive feminist movement”.” (Sprinkle)  Something I also found interesting was that she was the first porn star to get her Ph.D. in Human anatomy.  I did not initially think this portrait was of a real woman because it is not often that I see women posed in outfits such as these.  Neel decided to paint this portrait because she was interesting in painting very strong people who portray themselves as comfortable with their sexuality in the 80’s. She especially liked to paint women because their comfort in sexuality generally shocks the public. She shows her power through the dominatrix outfit she is wearing as well as the smile on her face. (Buhmann )

I feel that issues of class and gender play into this artwork because although she is a white woman, Annie Sprinkle is a prostitute that would seem to be trying to glorify her status to the public. This piece could possibly have been seen as controversial because she was breaking binaries of how women should act and what they should wear. This is definitely a piece of feminist art because Annie Sprinkle is a feminist herself.  I feel this is especially a feminist piece of art because it explores sexuality in women without them having to be ashamed of their bodies.  I also thought this was a good representation of a woman in general because she did not have perfect skin, nor did she seem extremely skinny.  Annie was portrayed as a very busty yet thick woman in her late 30’s possible 40’s.

I would say this piece of art reminding me of the reading “Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations” Adrienne Rich in that Alice Neel felt she needed to make a statement through her paintings as Rich does. Although Alice Neel did not reject an award for her work, she was still like Adrienne in that her work was her main goal and she wanted to be able to express her emotions through it regardless of any judgments of her work.

I would say the tone of this work is very light-hearted because Alice seems somewhat playful in her pose while she has a smile on her face.  I also feel like the white painted around her left room for interpretation when considering what environment she was in.  I never thought of this picture as seductive, mostly empowering to women who feel free in their sexuality.  I also noticed that Neel did not paint any other women dressed like Annie Sprinkle, so I realized she only painted her because of the strong message of confidence Annie showed.

I personally liked and chose to discuss this piece of artwork because of the way Annie was portrayed in this painting, not as just a scantily clad woman, but a woman in charge of her situation and especially her sexual appetite.  I also found the research I did on Annie Sprinkle very interesting because it gave a lot of background as to why she was chosen and painted the way she was by Alice Neel.


Works cited:
Buhmann, Stephanie. "Alice Neel at David Zwirner and Zwirner & Wirth ." Artcritical: the online
magazine of art and ideas. 01 07 2009: n. page. Web. 14 May. 2012.

Rich, Adrienne. Arts of the Possible: Essays and Conversations. New York: W.W.Norton &
Company, 2001. 89-105. Print.

Sprinkle, Annie. "Mini Biography." Anniesprinkle.org(asm). Annie Sprinkle, n. d. Web. 14 May.
2012. <http://anniesprinkle.org/about-annie/mini-biography/>.

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