Linda Stark's Body Parts – Linda Stark和第039身体部位

Feature - 30 May 2018

Linda Stark's Body Parts

Meticulous, gently humorous paintings isolate a deeply personal encounter with the obdurate structures of society and culture

By Jonathan Griffin

Hanging in Linda Stark’s studio, earlier this year, were four square oil paintings of cats. Only one painting showed the entire animal; in the other three, feline heads floated disembodied, like portentous apparitions. In Self-Portrait with Ray (2017), the eponymous grey tabby’s head appears life-sized, inside a pink disc located at the precise centre of the canvas and also at the centre of the artist’s forehead, like a third eye. Both Ray and Stark look straight at us; Stark’s eyes are rimmed with white tears.


Linda Stark's Body Parts - Linda Stark和第039身体部位

Linda Stark, Self-Portrait with Ray, 2017, oil on canvas over panel, 91 × 91 × 8 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Brian Forrest

All these paintings, though charming and gently humorous, derive from intense grief. Each of these cats is dead. By painting them, Stark professes to work through her loss, to ‘open a portal into their presence’. That might explain why, in Bastet (2016) and Tesla (2017), as with their progenitor Samantha (2005), the cat heads appear at the centres of luminous flowers. Or why the salmon-coloured orb containing Ray (2017) emanates a rippling black surface that took Stark months to build up into a thick crust using fine brushes. The wizened Bastet, like her ancient Egyptian goddess namesake, wears a gold ring in one ear. Throughout history, and across cultures, cats have been symbols  and avatars: in Egypt, Bastet was associated with women’s fertility, childbirth and the protection of the home. In contemporary America, the stereotypical ‘cat lady’ is presumed to be elderly and single, while kittens are supposedly the preserve of little girls.

Since the mid 1980s, Stark has been making meticulous drawings and paintings that incorporate clichés and symbols in an attempt to isolate a deeply personal, even autobiographical, encounter with the obdurate structures of society and culture. Her paintings are, in various senses, about a meeting of the soft and the hard. Sharp-edged, graphic forms encase realist renderings and vaporous gradients, and flawlessly flat fields contrast with textures so heavily built up that they assume the presence of sculptural reliefs. Alongside the cat paintings in Stark’s studio were three paintings of hearts: Stark considers Tell Tale Heart (2016), an upside-down red heart painted thickly onto camouflage fabric, to be an antiwar statement; beside it, Purple Heart (2018) is a faithful rendering of the medal given to wounded or killed US soldiers, but with tiny daisies embedded in the purple paint around George Washington’s profile – a subtle but significant subversion that recalls the emblem of 1960s and ’70s flower power pacifism. 

Stark was only 13 years old in the heady summer of 1969, so we can assume that she regards the flower symbol with some degree of detachment. She rarely shows her hand when it comes to her private relationship to the often-provocative content in her paintings. In Stigmata (2011), for instance, a relief map of the artist’s palm has been branded with the word ‘feminist’. More than a declaration of allegiance, the work feels like the revelation of a wound: something necessary but borne regretfully, painfully. (It is probably coincidental that the lines on her palm bear an uncanny resemblance to a map of the major freeways in Los Angeles – the city where Stark has lived since the late 1980s.) Another painting, Ruins (2008), depicts Stonehenge beneath a sickly pink sky and a fat, low moon; the site of  ancient metaphysical power is reduced to a logo, which Stark combines with a heavy carved wooden necklace, slung from the top of the canvas. The resulting assemblage occurred to the artist when one day she wore a vintage Stonehenge blouse with some tacky pink beads, probably made for the Mexican tourist market. 


Linda Stark's Body Parts - Linda Stark和第039身体部位

Linda Stark, Fixed Wave, 2011, oil on canvas over panel, 41 × 41 × 5 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Brian Forrest

It feels inappropriate to sniff for irony in Stark’s paintings, not because they don’t contain plenty of self-effacing humour and hedged meaning, but because their intensely worked surfaces and shameless beauty seem to speak more of belief, even hopefulness, than bitter scepticism. In 2007, Stark made a series of ‘Potion Paintings and Drawings’, based on spells she drew from various occult traditions. Each painting is nine inches square and features the actual ingredients for the potion (mistletoe, clover, quartz, valerian root, frankincense and so on) embalmed beneath glutinous ribbons of paint laid over each other in a careful rotation. The works recall previous paintings made in a similar manner, except that in this particular series, diagrammatic keys for the ingredients, and their supposed effects, are provided as pendants to each painting. Stark cannot tell you whether Egyptian Love Spell or Leprechaun’s Gold Formula or Gypsy Love Potion (all 2007) will have any effect if you hang them in your house. But neither can she tell you that they will not.

Practical magic, in Los Angeles, is part of daily experience in a way I’ve seldom encountered anywhere else in the Western world. Throughout the city, psychics dispense their services next to off-licences and cafes. Not only in botánicas but also in most convenience stores, you can buy Santería candles with spells printed on their glass jars. Sage smudge sticks and crystals are available in my nearest supermarket next to the toothpaste section. Even though magic is by no means practised by the majority, it is generally accepted without judgement or cynicism as a fact of life.

Stark has studied widely the traditions and methodologies of practical magic. When she set out to teach herself palmistry, she discovered that the literature on the method is highly contradictory. She concluded that in order to practise the technique successfully, you would have to be clairvoyant. There is no doubt, however, that Stark performs a kind of sorcery within her art, transmogrifying paint on canvas into a panoply of other substances: skin, wax, amber, ribbon, thread, blood, rippling water, tears. Her technique is not to be mistaken for illusory representation; instead, the material of paint itself appears alchemically altered, or transubstantiated. With minimal additives, she weaves it in thick bands, or stipples it into a surface resembling skin or leather. Sometimes her paintings have raised nipples or a bellybutton. Most unnervingly, as in Fountain I (1992), paint gushes from her paintings in torrents, coagulating in drips on the canvases’ lowest edges.


Linda Stark's Body Parts - Linda Stark和第039身体部位

Linda Stark, Spectacled Cobra, 2005, oil on canvas over panel, 91 × 91 × 8 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Brian Forrest

To say that, in Stark’s work, the painting is a (gendered)  body and the paint its skin is to admit that bodies can also be signs or symbols. This we know from the visual art of diverse religious faiths, especially from the legacy of Orthodox Christian icon painting, a sacred hieratic tradition that haunts many of Stark’s pictures. Icon painting, which developed in an age before most congregants could read scripture, was intended to be deciphered as an arrangement of signs. The bodies of Christ and the saints are abstracted into essentialized forms, identifiable by particular symbols (such as weeping stigmata), while the very finest examples also project a vivid realism.

Stark’s work orchestrates a comparable collision  of the universal and the specific, the symbolic and the  autobiographic, the abstract and the realist, culture and nature. The female reproductive system – or, rather,  its instantly recognizable outline – appears in several of her pictures,like a universal logo for a host of women’s issues. (Stark’s first version of this motif derived from a diagram in the 1973 feminist handbook Our Bodies, Ourselves.) In the painting Fixed Wave (2011), the embossed uterus commands the centre of a painting of a woman’s groin. While her skin is turquoise and her wavy pubic hair lilac-blue, contoured ridges over the woman’s legs and belly lend the painting a sense of immediacy and intimate specificity. This is not just any body; it’s somebody.


Linda Stark's Body Parts - Linda Stark和第039身体部位

Linda Stark, Bastet, 2016, oil on canvas over panel, 91 × 91 × 5 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Brian Forrest

The painting is funny, too. Stark told me that, in order for a painting to be successful, it needs to laugh at her. This muted but persistent quality in her work is perhaps easiest to understand as a consequence of the inevitable doubt, or mystery, that attends each painted statement – and which, crucially, undermines her work’s sense of precision, commitment and mastery. My favourite painting by Stark is also one of her funniest: a raised, textured form on a sky-blue ground that resembles a yellow strawberry with a tail. At first, it appears that the artist has painted onto it a maniacal smiley face, in black and white, like a clown’s makeup. The work’s title clues us in: Spectacled Cobra (2005) is, in fact, the back of a serpent’s flared hood. Google Image Search helps too; the spectacled cobra does indeed have defensive markings that preposterously resemble a smiley face. (How did evolution conclude that an emoji was the most effective method for deterring predators?)

Spectacled Cobra is an object lesson in the way that the anthropocentric world of signs is interlaced with – and inevitably confounded by – the so-called ‘natural world’ of non-human phenomena. Animals, plants, even the sun and the moon, all ultimately shrug off the codes and symbolic meanings that are imposed on them by human culture. A sunset may be a cliché, but the sun doesn’t care. Neither does a cat. The question of whether a human body can similarly transcend the constraints of codification is one that has more immediate and troubling ramifications for all of us, one that Stark’s work leaves tantalizingly unanswered.

Linda Stark is an artist based in Los Angeles, USA. In 2017, she had a solo exhibition at Jenny’s, Los Angeles, and was included in group exhibitions at Karma International, Los Angeles, the Orange County Museum of Art, Newport Beach, USA, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, USA, and the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery. This summer, her work will be featured in ‘Made in L.A.’ at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. 

This article appears in the print edition of frieze, June/July/August 2018, issue 196, with the title 'Swept Up'.

Main image: Linda Stark, Stigmata, 2011, oil on canvas over panel, 91 × 91 × 8 cm. Courtesy: the artist; photograph: Brian Forrest

Jonathan Griffin

Jonathan Griffin is a contributing editor of frieze and a freelance writer living in Los Angeles.

Linda Stark
Hammer Museum
Altered States
Jonathan Griffin

Issue 196

First published in Issue 196

June - August 2018

2018年5月30日琳达斯塔克和039岁的身体部位细致、温和幽默的绘画与Jonathan Griffin Han的社会和文化的冷酷结构隔绝。在Linda Stark的工作室,今年早些时候,有四平方米的猫的油画。只有一幅画展示了整个动物;在另外三幅作品中,猫头鹰飘浮着,像幽灵般的幻象。在与瑞(2017)的自画像中,同名的灰斑纹的头部看上去像一个粉红色的圆盘,位于一个粉红色的圆盘内,位于画布的精确中心,也位于艺术家的前额中心,就像一只第三只眼睛。瑞和斯塔克都直视着我们,斯塔克的眼睛里满是白眼泪。WEB-L STARK自画像-Ray-CMYK.JPG Linda Stark's Body Parts - Linda Stark和第039身体部位 Linda Stark,自画像与瑞,2017,油画布上的面板,91×91×8厘米。礼貌:艺术家,照片:Brian Forrest所有这些画,虽然迷人和温和幽默,源自强烈的悲痛。每只猫都死了。通过画它们,Stark声称要通过她的损失来工作,“打开门户进入他们的存在”。这可能解释为什么,在BaStt(2016)和特斯拉(2017)中,与它们的祖先萨曼莎(2005)一样,猫头出现在发光花的中心。或者为什么含有瑞(2017)的鲑鱼色球体散发出一个波状的黑色表面,花了几个月的时间,用细刷子把它做成一个厚厚的外壳。像她古老的埃及女神一样,一个耳朵里戴着金戒指。纵观历史,在不同的文化背景下,猫一直是象征和化身:在埃及,巴斯特与妇女的生育能力、生育和家庭保护有关。在当代美国,传统的“猫女”被认为是老人和单身,而小猫据说是小女孩的保护。自20世纪80年代中期以来,斯塔克一直在精心制作绘画和绘画,其中包含了陈词滥调和符号,试图将一种深刻的个人甚至自传与社会和文化的顽固结构隔绝开来。她的画在不同的意义上是关于一个软与硬的相遇。锐利的边缘,图形形式包围现实主义渲染和蒸汽梯度,完美的平场对比纹理如此沉重的建立,他们假设存在雕塑浮雕。斯塔克工作室的猫画旁边有三幅心画:斯塔克认为“故事的心”(2016),一个倒置的红心,厚在迷彩织物上,是一个反战宣言;旁边,紫色心(2018)是一个忠实的渲染给伤口的勋章。ED或杀死美国士兵,但在乔治·华盛顿的轮廓中镶嵌着紫色的小雏菊——这是一个微妙而有意义的颠覆,它再现了20世纪60年代和70年代的花权力和平主义的象征。斯塔克在1969的令人兴奋的夏天只有13岁,所以我们可以假设她认为花象征有某种程度的超脱。她很少看到她的手,当谈到她的私人关系往往是挑衅性的内容在她的绘画。例如,在《圣痕》(2011)中,艺术家手掌的浮雕地图被标有“女权主义”一词。不仅仅是宣誓效忠,这项工作就像是伤口的启示:必要的东西,但遗憾地,痛苦地承受着。(很可能巧合的是,她手掌上的线条与洛杉矶的主要高速公路——一个从20世纪80年代末以来斯塔克居住过的城市有着惊人的相似之处。)另一幅画《废墟》(2008)描绘了一个病态的粉色天空和一个又矮又矮的月亮下面的巨车阵。古形而上学的力量被还原成一个标志,它与一个沉重的雕刻的木制项链结合在一起,悬挂在画布的顶端。一天,她穿着一件老式巨车阵女式衬衫,上面有一些粉色的粉红色珠子,很可能是墨西哥旅游市场的产物。WebYLL Stask-FieldWay-CMYK.JPG Linda Stark's Body Parts - Linda Stark和第039身体部位 Linda Stark,固定波,2011,油O。N帆布在面板上,41×41×5厘米。礼貌:艺术家;照片:Brian Forrest在Stark的绘画中嗅到反讽是不合适的,不是因为它们不包含大量的自我谦虚的幽默和含糊的意思,而是因为他们强烈的工作表面和无耻的美似乎更多。信仰,甚至希望,胜过痛苦的怀疑。在2007,Stark制作了一系列的“药水画和画”,基于咒语她从各种神秘的传统中汲取。每幅画有九英寸的正方形,其特征是药水(槲寄生、三叶草、石英、缬草根、乳香等)的实际成分。作品回顾了以前的绘画以类似的方式,除了在这个特定系列,图解键的成分,以及它们的假设效果,作为吊坠提供给每幅画。斯塔克不能告诉你埃及爱神或妖精的黄金配方或吉普赛爱情药水(2007者)是否会有任何效果,如果你把它们挂在你的房子里。但她也不能告诉你,他们不会。在洛杉矶,实用魔术是日常生活中的一部分,在西方世界我很少遇到这种情况。在整个城市里,心理医生在戒酒和咖啡馆旁边分配他们的服务。不仅在BATA NICAS,而且在大多数便利店,你可以买到Santer的蜡烛,上面印有玻璃瓶上的咒语。鼠尾草污垢棒和晶体可在我最近的超市旁边的牙膏部分。即使魔法绝大多数都没有被实践,它通常被接受,而不是判断或愤世嫉俗作为生活的事实。Stark广泛研究了实用魔术的传统和方法。当她开始教自己的手相术时,她发现该方法的文献是高度矛盾的。她总结说,为了成功地练习这项技术,你必须要有洞察力。然而,毫无疑问,斯塔克在她的艺术中进行了一种巫术,将画布上的油漆变成了其他物质的一层:皮肤、蜡、琥珀、丝带、丝线、鲜血、涟漪水、泪水。她的技巧不应被误认为是虚幻的表现;相反,油漆本身的材料会发生化学性的改变,或被转化。用最少的添加剂,她把它织成厚厚的带子,或者把它点缀成类似皮肤或皮革的表面。有时她的画有乳头或肚脐。最令人不安的是,如喷泉I(1992),油漆涌出从她的绘画在山洪中,凝结在滴在画布的最低边缘。WebLay-Stay-Kaul-BCOBRA-CMYK.JPG WPA60260602IMG Linda Stark,Spectacled Cobra,2005,帆布上油,91×91×8厘米。礼貌:艺术家;照片:Brian Forrest说,在Stark的作品中,绘画是一种(性别化的)身体,绘画的皮肤是承认身体也可以是符号或符号。这是我们从各种宗教信仰的视觉艺术中所知道的,尤其是从正统基督教偶像绘画的遗产,这是一个神圣的圣徒传统,困扰着斯塔克的许多图片。在大多数会众能读圣经之前的一个时代,图标绘画被设计为符号的破译。基督和圣徒的身体被抽象成本质的形式,可以通过特定的符号(如哭泣的耻辱)来识别,而最优秀的例子也表现出生动的现实主义。Stark的作品编排了宇宙与特定、象征与自传、抽象与现实主义、文化与自然的可比碰撞。女性生殖系统,或者说,它的即时识别轮廓出现在她的几张照片中,就像一个女性问题的通用标志。(Stark的第一个版本是从1973个女权主义者手册中的一个图表中得出的,我们自己的身体。)在绘画固定波(2011)中,压花的子宫是女人腹股沟画的中心。虽然她的皮肤是绿松石和她的波浪状阴毛淡紫色,在女人的腿和腹部上有轮廓的脊使绘画具有即时性和亲密的特异性。这不仅仅是一个身体,而是一个人。WebLasList-BASTET-CMYK.JPG WPA6024602IMG Linda Stark,BaStt,2016,油画布上的面板,91×91×5厘米。礼貌:艺术家;照片:Brian Forrest,这幅画也很有趣。Stark告诉我,为了使一幅画成功,它需要嘲笑她。在她的作品中,这种静默但持久的品质也许是最容易理解的,这是不可避免的疑问或神秘感,伴随着每一个绘画的陈述——而这一点,最关键的是,损害了她的作品的精确性、承诺性和精通性。我最喜欢的Stark画也是她最有趣的作品之一:一种在天空蓝色的地面上升起的、有纹理的形状,就像一个黄色的草莓尾巴。起初,艺术家似乎画了一个疯狂的笑脸,在黑色和白色,像小丑的化妆。这项工作的标题提示我们:眼镜蛇(2005)实际上是蛇的火焰罩的背面。谷歌图像搜索也有帮助;眼镜蛇确实有防御标记,类似于笑脸。(进化论如何得出一个表情是阻止捕食者的最有效的方法?)Spectacled Cobra是以人类为中心的符号世界交织在一起的一个客观的教训,而且不可避免地被非人类现象所谓的“自然世界”所迷惑。


Comments are closed.