I love the paintings by Elisa Johns’ in Bout of Excess for their colors, flirtatiousness, and femininity. I am definitely drawn to works that portray two women, or women flaunting their sexuality in a playful, bashful or innocent manner. (I’ll have to scan my postcard collection of such paintings for you.)
Stephanie Walker, who owns Walker Contemporary and curated the show, points out that the two women in Johns’ “Rape of the Daughters of Leucippus” (the third one here) aren’t necessarily in a sexual relationship. I think that’s what I am responding to; they could be lovers, but maybe they are close friends, or sisters. There’s an intimacy with just a hint of sexuality; a promise, perhaps.
When I showed my husband the images, he asked of “English Rose” (the second one here), “Why is there a vagina in the sky?” I see that now. And I had just thought, “What a pretty, rosy sun.”
When I asked Stephanie what attracted her to the artist and these works in particular, she cited the way the artist handles the paint, that she uses oil paint in so many ways. And, although the images are obviously based on historical stories, she points out “they’re so L.A., contemporary and of-the-moment.”
One of my favorites is “Daphne and the Laurel Tree” (the last image), which, at 72 x 48 inches, is relatively large work. I’d love to hang it in the living room at our house on the Cape. I love the colors, and how the tree creates angel wings. She’s so Nadja Auermann at the apex of the ’80s, but warmer and more fun. More like Nadja Auermann meets Stephanie Seymour meets Kate Moss.
She said Cate McQuaid, a critic from the Boston Globe, found them to be sort of “Project Runway” gone awry. But Stephanie sees women that are “playing with fashion, while snubbing what they’re portraying, and pushing boundaries.”
Either way, let them eat cake!
On view at Walker Contemporary, 450 Harrison Avenue, Boston until the end of March.