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stephen linsteadt

Of Sky and Earth #39  l Stephen Linsteadt

Of Sky and Earth #39 (Astronaut), oil on canvas, 193 x 212 cm, 2020

This painting started out with sunflowers and a blue sky; about as banal as possible. Van Gogh ruined sunflowers as a subject, not because they are trite, but because no one can paint sunflowers like van Gogh. I decided to take out the sunflowers and follow the impulses of the underpainting-my subconscious. This led to the figures of women in various sexual positions with each other. I found an etching of the women in a book titled "The Aphrodites" (1793) by Andréa de Nerciat. While the male author's intention was erotic, I wanted to explore the possibility that the illustration was really one of the Feminine reclaiming her authentic self and personal power without the need of men. It fit the painting because Nature is feminine, and it is the feminine we need to reconnect with if we want to save the planet. Concerned about being misunderstood, I tried to make the women less representational à la Cecily Brown with fragmented shapes in indistinguishable forms. The result started to feel forced and foreign, and then I heard that small voice: "That's because this world is foreign." That prompted me to cover up the body parts altogether with foliage like an Adam and Eve painting. And I'm certain there is something psychologically significant with that act as well. I wanted to emphasize a post environmental collapse/dystopian world by adding the atmosphere of Mars. The astronaut pushed his way into the painting because he's the masculine and imbalanced element in the saga about the clash between the masculine and the feminine. And then there is the irony of sunflowers and their persistence as they reappeared.

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