lethal beauties

Artist's Statement

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She was called the "Lethal Beauty" by the media of her day on account of her husband murdering another man over her. Having entered the public eye at a young age, Evelyn Nesbit became a beauty icon as the Gibson Girl, and attracted many people, many with ill intent. But the story they didn't know was of her being controlled and sexually assaulted by those same men who professed to love and want to protect her. She was followed by the shadow of that scandal her entire life, becoming an alcoholic and unable to find work on account of her association with scandal. Eventually, she left the east coast and became a ceramics teacher in California, where she took back control of her narrative over her past.

 

Portrait of Evelyn Nesbit 

9x12 oval, oil on board

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Cleopatra VII Philopater craved power and took it , and was a powerful ruler in a time when her world was changing due to the growth of the Roman Empire. She was cunning and clever and did her best to secure her power by aligning herself with other powerful rulers of her day. Most of what we know about her today was probably fabricated or over-exaggerated by the later Roman historians who didn't believe a woman could be a ruler by her own merit, but in their opinion, had to seduce power from powerful men. I chose to base this portrait on the only known contemporary portraits of her when she was alive- Egyptian coins. There is none of the sexual symbolism, started by the Romans, and perpetuated by Hollywood, just a simple Greek style portrait solidifying her place in history.

Portrait of Cleopatra

9x12 oval, oil on board

Lethal Beauties is a series of portraits of women from history. The one thing that they have in common is their effort to stand out, make a difference, make an impact, seize power, or in other ways take control of their own narratives. Many of them failed, pushed down by the men in their lives, or the men who wrote the histories. It is my goal to help these long deceased women reclaim their narratives by sharing them here with you. Many of them succeeded, making this world a more equal and accepting place for people everywhere, and it is my goal to honor them. All of them left their own unique legacy on history, and the history of women in the world more specifically. This series is a growing and constantly changing group of paintings. I have always been fascinated by women from history who tried to stand out. These paintings are dedicated to all of them, the ones who succeeded and the ones who may have seemed to fail, but who still deserve to be recognized for their contributions to where women are today. I tried to remove any suggestion of sexual allure, because some of these women were only known for that during and after their lifetimes, and I personally want to focus on other aspects of their legacies besides that. If you know of any stories of amazing women from history who seized control of their narrative, please reach out to me and give me your suggestions. 

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One logical woman to include in this series is Eve. Whether you believe her story actually happened or not, you can't deny that religious blame for fallen man has been largely heaped upon her shoulders. Religious men throughout history have claimed that it is only because of women's weakness that she fell first. But without her decision we would not have the ability to grow and become more like God. Regardless of what you believe, you must be able to recognize how her narrative was controlled by others that came after her. As a symbol, we need to give Eve her narrative back, because she has been a spiritual scapegoat for centuries and deserves the benefit of the doubt. Weakness was not the reason she made her decision. 

Portrait of Eve
9x12 oval, oil on board

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Queen Lili'uokalani was the last monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She did her best to defend her people against those who wanted to exploit her beautiful and fertile islands. Pro-American groups in the islands overthrew her monarchy when she attempted to draft a new constitution that would restore more of her power and give more voting rights to those who currently didn't enjoy them. This event eventually led to the annexation of the Hawaiian islands to the United States. Lili'uokalani was placed under house arrest and then forced to abdicate on January 24, 1895. This was all enacted by American businessmen in the islands to protect American interests and not in the best interest of the native Hawaiians. In addition to being a monarch, Lili'uokalani was also a composer of great accomplishment, known 
for the mournful song "Aloha Oe".

Portrait of Queen Lili'uokalani
9x12 oval, oil on board

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MIriam Makeba, known by her nickname worldwide as Mama Africa, was a singer, songwriter, civil rights activist and actress. She was active throughout the 20th century and was among the very first African musicians popular worldwide, spreading the popularity of Afropop and worldwide music to a Western audience. When on tour in the United States, she attempted to return home to South Africa, but was prohibited by the South African government because of how often she spoke out against apartheid. From then on she used her music to spread awareness of her country's situation and even testified against the South African government at the United Nations. She wrote several songs about the plight of black africans in South Africa, and once apartheid was dismantled, she was able to return home. She was made a Goodwill ambassador in 1999 and worked to forward humanitarian efforts in her country and abroad.

Portrait of Miriam Makeba
9x12 oval, oil on board