Because I find some of the most striking visual art when prowling through people’s Instagram posts.
Troy Brooks always paints elegantl, extremely elongated, idealized, beautiful and frightening women. One of the things I most like about his art is that I like it in spite of myself. By that I mean that it’s not my cup of tea, or something I’d ever do myself, but it’s a damned fine brew.
If you imagine the woman’s whole body, she must be 8 feet tall, and is as angular as an insect. Her head is impossible. Just look at how long her nose is.
The most dramatic and mysterious detail of the painting is the shadow over her forehead. It might be caused by the rim of a ceiling light, but could be some other object blocking the light that otherwise brightly illumines her face. If you follow her eyes, she’s not looking at us, but glares lizard-like up at the light, or whatever is casting the shadow. Her jaw is set, and her expression registers anticipation and defiance.
Her brightly colored lips are the visual focus of the painting. Not only is the contrast between the darkness of the lips and the luminous flesh the most pronounced in the image, her mouth is sharply articulated while her jaw line softly blurs into the background. The lips represent sensuality, but are not inherently so. Is the woman supposed to be alluring? The reference to femme fatales and classic film noir indicates she is, in which case she is psychologically, but this sort of woman in the flesh would be an untantalizing freakazoid.
When I first saw Brooks’ work I wondered at his fixation, fascination, obsession or fetishization of these extremely tall and aloof women. In an interview Francis Bacon said that his portraits were really self portraits because a painting is always a statement about the artist. What statement do these images make, and what do they say about their creator? Does he peer out from behind their eyes? Is he the looming, threatening figure? Is she an ideal, fantastical woman, or human? Is she an elusive object of love? Is she a fetishized sex object? Is she the heroine or the antagonist? Let me know what you think in the comments, if inclined.
The only thing I’m sure of is that she is beautiful, and the artist is a connoisseur of visual beauty. The soft pastel circles of the cityscape are lovingly painted. There are wonderful details such as the burning cigarette poised on the edge of the ashtray; the smoke curling above it; the reflections of the ashtray on the window sill; and the twisted stem of the cocktail glass.
Behind her magenta-gloved hand, which would work for a lizard, is a bas relief sculpture of a female angel with a sword battling a devil. Finally, she has one hand behind her back. Perhaps she has a gun, or a knife, or is crossing her fingers.
At first this painting might seem like a facile illustration for a woman’s magazine, but it is more beautiful and mysterious when you give it time. Outside of the immediate content within the window of the painting, I am still gnawing on how it reflects on the artist, and how it is intended to impact viewers.
The painting is a bit like the blue drink she guides us to — a peculiar intoxicant that forces us to see the world through a modified lens, distorted and tragic, dangerous, alluring, and beautiful.
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