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She was a Sphinx

sphinxidea

Flick her tail, yawn all teeth.

Treasure pressed against her belly,

childish secrets and vision engines of glass and glitter.

I loved you, she said as she licked her paw.

Purrs and hisses amongst forbidden kisses in the shade.

Violent eyed with a forked tongue.

conceptdrawing_elevesque

Behold my sloppy concepting! Photoshop, photography, scissors and glue!

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Leonor Fini – Sphinxette

Artist Leonor Fini Portraits

My google searches and tumbling for artwork featuring Greek sphinxes keeps bringing me back to the work of Leonor Fini, a 20th century female surrealist, and I am left feeling ignorant because I have never read about her, heard her mentioned in a class or viewed her work before. Of course I am not an art historian and my education has been far from exhaustive, so I shouldn’t be surprised, but yet I am.

She was incredibly prolific and multi talented(stage designer, painter, illustrator, writer), but I am drawn more to photographs of her than her own work. There is so much theater and poise, much like her sphinxes. Much like her cats. Even her paintings that feature herself tend to appeal to me the most, which is odd. I feel very uncomfortable, almost annoyed, when looking at a female artists work that tends to concentrate on the artists own image. It has more to do with me than the artist, I’m sure. I think I am uneasy about the fact that women are taught to be looked at, to want to be looked at, to share their face and appearance for others pleasure, and to take pleasure in others pleasure in their image. It’s an exercise in culturally taught narcissism. It’s beautiful and sick. I’m part of it too, though I don’t often paint myself. Perhaps I would too if I thought my image would appeal to the art buying public. A prettier way to interpret what I said above is that women are socialized to want to share themselves, be it their thoughts, feelings or face, with others, and that the narrative self portrait is a natural step.

Leonor Fini Paintings

Off hand I immediately am reminded of William Blake, Bosch and in the colors and allegory some Klimt. She was a contemporary of the better known, and male, surrealists. She was not one of their wives or sisters and seemed to be an extremely independent and strong willed artist. In fact she didn’t identify as one of them(surrealist), but art history needs to categorize things and that is where she falls. There is sexuality in her paintings, but it feels remote and not necessarily for the male gaze. Many of her figures are sculptural yet also ghostlike. They have both the solidity and coolness of a marble sculpture, yet look like they could float away like a spirit, or they are operating on a different plane than us, and we can only see them shimmering momentarily(specifically her lithographs). Wow. I should stop there before I embarrass myself.

See more Leonor Fini works at CFM Gallery, Spaightwood Gallery and Minsky Gallery.

You can read an informative essay about her here and find more work from her on the Wurzelforum.

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The Symbolist Sphinx

The Symbolist Sphinx

1. Fernand_Khnopff – The Caress, 2. Sphinx , 3. bernard1, 4. the sphinx by Von Stuck

Not much to say, just pretty things to see.

I really wish I knew more about the lower left image. Supposedly it’s a black and white image of a painting by William Sargeant Kendall, and is called The Sphinx. This is kinda believable and kinda not. If you look at other black and white images of his work, you can see some similarities, but this work was supposedly done at a time when photography was new and also when similar images were taken of actress Theda Bara, as Suzanne of Wurzeltod points out to me here. Perhaps Kendall had seen those images and was also inspired by other symbolist sphinx works by Knopf, Von Stuck and other artists.

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