an artist you should know: Lisa Yuskavage




I've always--well, since college, anyway--liked Lisa Yuskavage (say it yus-CAH-vitch). Something about the lurid colors and the obvious porniness of them appeal to me. She has been described, in the introduction to her Small Paintings book, written by director Tamara Jenkins, as "one of those 'bad girl' painters." It's kind of a simplistic title to be sure, but there is a rebellious quality that I like about her work. It's the pastel colors, I think, all those awful, seventies-porno kinds of turquoises and peaches and pinks, the twisting of the classical nude into a twentieth-century pinup, and the willful distortion, bordering on the perverse, of the female form; they're not even like human beings after a point, they're like these strange, alien female creatures borne out of some subconscious childhood sexual fantasy. That sounds pretty pervy, doesn't it? But, come on, look at Wrist Corsage's butt. Her work walks several fine lines, between cute and frightening, between high and low art, between sexual and psychological, between exploitative and celebratory.

To create these girlie creatures, Yuskavage first created small ceramic figurines called maquettes so she could study the movement of light over the human(ish) form. Everything I attempt to make out of clay ends up looking like a tumor, so I find this incredibly impressive. I've also been a longtime fan of the study of beauty and sexuality in the female form, particularly when it's studied by a female, and goes into the darker, more uncomfortable aspects of it. And maybe the most important reason I like Lisa? She's fun. Her paintings make me smile. And maybe that's what ultimately counts.

Top to bottom: Couch, 1997-98; The Smoker, 2007; Fleshpot; Wrist Corsage, 1996; Redhead, Blonde and Brunette, 1995.