As the title of this show at Flowers implies, Lucy Jones openly defies expectations in regard to who is ‘supposed’ to be shown on a canvas, the purpose for depicting a subject and even who is ‘entitled’ to create art. Inherent in the show is also a reflection on how potently affected we can be by the gaze of others and the extent to which the expectations of others to see the predictable and conforming might be able to inhibit our own actions and the gratification and liberation we should derive from life.
This not-to-be-missed exhibition presents self-portraits from Jones covering the last 25 years. Jones’ first show was in the 80s and her work was found to be so original, raw and engaging that the Metropolitan Museum immediately swooped up two paintings.
The eye catchers in this show for me involved Jones’ frank exploration of desire and sexuality. She suffers from cerebral palsy but the pieces are not about cerebral palsy or the act of physical suffering. The Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi profoundly explored issues of alienation and longing for emotional and physical contact arising from his inability to conform to the physical aesthetic of others, but Lucy Jones takes an even bolder step in a painting like “Flushed.” We see her wearing a frilly, sexy bra as she claims her right to experience sexual desire despite any overarching aesthetic conceptions of beauty currently adopted.
So the show invites a greater look at what exactly might be stopping us from fully exploring our inner lives and realities and what might be stopping each of us from taking a bold step forward and entering into a state of full and risky (and possibly transformative) experience. Perhaps Jones wants us to think about what it is outside of ourselves that is inhibiting our full human development – whether it be the demands and standards of parents or society to compete and succeed on a superficial or economic level or aspects of our physical selves that we are sure will bring scorn and reproach from others.
In these paintings Jones basically states that she, like everyone, has the right to experience the full gamut of the human experience and that the gaze of others will always be out there, but we don’t need to allow that gaze to penetrate in such a manner as to stop us from truly living. Initially I thought that Jones had to be a little aggressive to actually depict herself in the manner in which she does in these paintings, but now I think it’s not really aggression – it’s a type of liberation and self-acceptance that allows her to be free of the harsh judgments of others. Also, as in the case of Leopardi’s poetry, I sense a deep compassion and humanity (as well as a wry sense of humor) in Jones’ work. From her experiences Jones radiates, through her paintings, a deep love for each individual and a call for greater community and humanity and fellow-feeling in place of critical judgment and narrow standards.
How Did You Get on This Canvas?
April 9 – May 9, 2015
529 W. 20th Street
New York, NY 10011
Article by Daniel Gauss
Photography provided by the gallery and the artist