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Ripeness is All: Lustmord Portrayed in Oil
November 30, 2007 4:48 PM   Subscribe

New York artist Ashley Hope's Ripeness is All exhibit at the Tilton Gallery recreates crime scene photographs of murdered women from the 1910s through the 1990s as oil paintings on huge 4' x 6' canvasses. [some nsfw art]

Hope states that her goal is the "re-subjectification of a scene that had been totally objectified by the forensic camera." She chooses the crime scenes of "Lustmord" (or "lust murders") — "these incomprehensible crimes are more sublime; they exemplify a reality that betrays our expectations, a reality that so often takes us outside of our understanding." ArtDaily.com, who made Hope their Nov. 2007 featured artist, comments: "Man is valued for his interior qualities ... woman is valued for her exterior attributes ... Hope's work — images of women reduced to a body — underscores this dichotomy, thus challenging these reductive tendencies."
posted by WCityMike (48 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also on display will be a series of smaller works based on ladies’ panty advertisements. These close-ups of vaginal mounds reiterate the artist’s interest in our ability to know of something immense, while not having direct access to it as a visual target. In this way, the veiled pubis in the Panties series replaces the knowable-yet-unknowable nature of the universe as represented in her crime scene images. While the Panties series is a more humorous approach, both bodies of work create a two-fold inquiry into the weight of sex and death on self-definition—female in particular.

This is very intriguing. Wish there were more images to see.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:53 PM on November 30, 2007


Pompous bullshit artist statements. Nuthin' sells like crotches and death.
posted by 45moore45 at 5:02 PM on November 30, 2007


For those who care about NSFW, almost all links contain a photorealistic representation of a dead woman's naked ass.
posted by dersins at 5:03 PM on November 30, 2007


I looked at this when it was posted on Boing Boing today. It is an interesting concept, but left me with an uneasy feeling.

A comment on the Boing Boing comment board made an impression... has it come to the point that you have to stipulate in your will that an artist may not profit from your death without your permission..?

Were these paintings of a loved one, I would have some issues with them being exhibited, sold, and posted on the net..

I can't speak for the quality of the art... not in my area of expertise...
posted by HuronBob at 5:07 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


How, precisely, does this series "challenge [the] reductive tendencies" of the man=mind, woman=body dichotomy? Because she says so?

The women were already reduced to bodies by the perpetrators. The dichotomy has already been underscored. I think it's disrespectful to them, not to mention redundant, to do it all over again on a canvas.

The Panties thing, maybe.
posted by tentacle at 5:17 PM on November 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


This IS art, but I do have a problem with the morality of it. If she hadn't used crime scene photos but had created her own scenes I would have less of a problem with it. (Mind you, not my cup of tea regarding subject matter, but still.)

As it is she is profiting off these deaths, and if I were a surviving relative I'd be tempted to do something about that.
posted by konolia at 5:18 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Were these paintings of a loved one, I would have some issues with them being exhibited, sold, and posted on the net..


Good point, though I find the concept intriguing. And maybe a mod could add a NSFW to the post?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:18 PM on November 30, 2007


"How, precisely, does this series "challenge [the] reductive tendencies" of the man=mind, woman=body dichotomy? Because she says so?"

That was exactly the point that I came in here with. There's a mistake in thinking that just because something is brought to attention (with arguable success) that it's challenged or overcome.

Obviously, much of the impact of these works will be in their scale, which is impossible to understand on the web, but these thumbnails don't seem tremendously compelling, even with her trying-too-hard pomo statement.
posted by klangklangston at 5:31 PM on November 30, 2007


And no, you nervous Nellies, if this is NSFW you shouldn't be looking at the web while at work. Jeez.
posted by klangklangston at 5:32 PM on November 30, 2007


Absolutely rank, base, shite with nothing going for it but shock value. I hope the families of the victims don't ever see these cheap day-glo paintings from the school of 1970's Jehova's Witness pamphlet illustration.
posted by fire&wings at 5:33 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wish artists would stop explaining everything. Most of the time they are wrong on why their works are even interesting. You create the work, and I'll give it meaning.

As the Wilco song goes: "Half of it's you / Half is me."
posted by basicchannel at 5:34 PM on November 30, 2007 [3 favorites]


if this is NSFW you shouldn't be looking at the web while at work.

I don't want to start that debate (although klangklangston seems to want to do so), but real or photorealistic nudity, "artistic" or otherwise, is pretty much the definition of NSFW as commonly accepted.
posted by dersins at 5:35 PM on November 30, 2007


Clarification: I wish they'd stop explaining everything about their works. "Explaining" everything, except their own works, is what artists ARE for.
posted by basicchannel at 5:36 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Though I'm sure she does genuinely care about the issues of subjectivity and humanity that she talks about, everything about her work and her site makes me think that her understanding of what her work actually communicates is just as soft-edged, literal, and unimaginative as the way she paints. She doesn't paint in "viscereal yet pristine detail" -- just look at the hair or the eyes. The style is deader than the subjects on which she's inflicted it. Pay attention to her drawings and you'll see the developed but never sophisticated style of a mediocre art student. As for the controversial nature of the work, it's been done before and done far better -- if stirring controversy and prodding the public to question its voyeristic participation in violence is a measure of success (for example the portrait of Myra Hindley, painted using children's handprints, in the famous Sensation exhibition). There is nothing in this work that could support her statement if it were presented without the knowledge that the artist was a woman or someone with her intentions. The claim that her work "underscores this dichotomy, thus challenging these reductive tendencies" is, if you bother to pay attention to it, incredibly ambitious and contradictory. In short, it takes art to amplify something without promoting it and challenge it at the same time, and her work is absent of anything like that. And, in any case, to art geeks this kind of thing sounds something like a claim that "this program downloads information across phone lines from one computer to another" would sound to regular geeks. This work will be successful because it is literal, easy to grasp, and gets attention. Always ignore work like that, don't tell other people about it, and pay attention to unique, complex, and direct talent.
posted by nímwunnan at 5:40 PM on November 30, 2007 [7 favorites]


Artist statements often do not illuminate the work at all and you can blame art school and the gallery system for that. Artists are not encouraged to speak simply about their work, they are encouraged to use Big Art Words that are in the end meaningless. Truly good art doesn't need a two page narrative to introduce it. Bad art tries to cover its ass with overblown craptastic statements that do nothing but alienate a viewer from the work.
posted by 45moore45 at 5:53 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Although there is a layer of separation provided by oil and brush, this still makes me very sad.
posted by CynicalKnight at 6:00 PM on November 30, 2007


Paintings of sexy half-naked dead women are OK when a woman does it, amirite?
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 6:06 PM on November 30, 2007 [6 favorites]


I'm wondering about the website. First came to attention that images are loading quite slowly and yes, they're 2500*2000 pixels, resized by img tags. Next thing was that non-antialiased Times new roman which is quite difficult thing to achieve in Safari, unless.. All of those texts are images. Cv, artist's statement, press release, all transparent gifs on brown background. Maybe this choice gives the artist a full control of how her message will be transmitted to viewer's ocular surfaces, or something.

If we can agree that paintings are low-mediocre, artist's statements do not connect with her works and the web site sucks, maybe we can move to ascii art-section of the thread? There have been interesting developments on the field.
posted by Free word order! at 6:12 PM on November 30, 2007


Oh, okay here's more images. Kinda had to dig deeper from where the links went.

All of your responses to the work are interesting. I think her mission to revive subjectivity is a success, but also what makes her paintings profane. Her subjectivity is lurid and objectifying. The way she talks about empathy is patently false, and revolting. She claims that these murders are uniquely incomprehensible and sublime. Bullfuckingshit. She's says she's doing something or other to the crime scene photo as fetish object, but by obliterating the purpose of the crime scene phots: justice, she's reenacting the love/control impetus of the murders.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:16 PM on November 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


And no, you nervous Nellies, if this is NSFW you shouldn't be looking at the web while at work. Jeez.

"Nervous Nelly" here. And where exactly do you work that your boss can come up behind you, see a naked woman in a bathtub, and pat you on the back?
posted by Avenger50 at 6:32 PM on November 30, 2007


"she's reenacting the love/control impetus of the murders."

While I think this arguably contradicts your declaration of the success of reviving subjectivity in her work, I think it's both intelligent and right.
posted by klangklangston at 6:33 PM on November 30, 2007


Her Mary Engelbreit-esque aesthetic is just repellent. These look like the greeting cards that people send each other in Hell.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 6:34 PM on November 30, 2007 [2 favorites]


see... this is the kind of discussion and commentary that caused me to fork over the $5 a few years ago... good for you mefites... you teach, you share, you open eyes....

thanks to all for the comments.... thought provoking and interesting...
posted by HuronBob at 6:41 PM on November 30, 2007


(Contradicts subjectivity because I'm not sure that Hope is aware of this, or able to articulate it, which is kinda the sine qua non, for me, of arguing for intention regarding the use of the audience's subjectivity. Otherwise, it asks for the audience to imagine themselves as the artist creating the work in order to have a strong subjective interaction with the subject, and I kind of feel like that means that she's failed as a painter. Again, I think that scale would mitigate some of this complaint—monumentalism is a good way to bring a viewer in, and envelope, but I think that pulling it off requires either skill she doesn't have as a realistic painter, or an abstraction that recalls photography, like Gerhard Richter).
posted by klangklangston at 6:43 PM on November 30, 2007


Aww, shucks, guys. I really became almost entranced by these paintings. I liked her statement, too. I guess I might be in the minority here. I really enjoy what she's done, but then I do tend to veer towards the more morbid side of things. I also wish there was more info on the source materials and photos, but I guess that would be beside the point she's trying to make. Forensics+pretty paintings+artsy pretense= fine by moi.
posted by wowbobwow at 6:44 PM on November 30, 2007


freshwater_pr0n writes "These look like the greeting cards that people send each other in Hell."

Nice line.
posted by mr_roboto at 6:53 PM on November 30, 2007


and where exactly do you work that your boss can come up behind you, see a naked woman in a bathtub, and pat you on the back?

Well, despite the fact that I disagree with klangklangston on this, in his defense, he does work at a porn magazine.
posted by dersins at 6:55 PM on November 30, 2007


Klangklangston: Interestingly enough, one of my first thoughts was to imagine myself as the artist, but I think that was more because I was imaging how difficult it would be to spend that much time with the original photographs, and to invest the kind of emotional and creative energy it takes to create works of that scale on something that horrifying.

As others have noted, there is a jarring disconnect between what she says she's trying to accomplish in her statement and the actual experience she gives the viewer. She's treading into very delicate territory, and unfortunately doesn't have the chops to pull it off. Despite her intentions, the works look like illustration and come off more as lurid entertainment than thoughtful social commentary, which is the absolutely LAST thing one wants to do when dealing with real violence and death.
posted by louche mustachio at 7:01 PM on November 30, 2007


wowbobwow: I like any art that creates response like this. There's some great objectionable art out there. I guess that makes my subjectivity lurid too! ;)

klang, you've got a good point about whose subjectivity she means, it was only hers which I took her to speak for, which, when creating... ugh I hesitate to share the word "detournement" with this schlock, but... detournements, is unremarkable. She's "breathed life" into procedural photos intended to be objective, but by decontextualizing this content this way, from policeman's ledger to gallery via her brush, traded the righteous pursuit of justice of their intent for egoistic expression and aesthetic exercise. No wonder she needs to express such personal apologism, and too bad she botched it.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 7:13 PM on November 30, 2007


I added a nsfw link. Upon first glance these remind me of that Greg Iles thriller Dead Sleep. The premise has to do with this really popular painter who paints "sleeping" women and the photos achieve cult status because it gets out that the models are really all dead etc. I don't recommend the book as great reading but the whole premise of thes epaintings being culty and irresistable because of the a) deadness of the woman and the b) ownability of her deadness was an interesting subplot.

What I gather from the artist's statement -- enticingly titled New Page 1 -- I find surprise that she says that these murders "lack motive" That they're sublime because we don't understand them, or specifically "They exemplify a reality that betrays our expectations, a reality that so often takes us outside of our understanding." as stated above. You know I don't get that. This seems typical, exactly expected, depressingly prosaic (though beautifully painted). Oh look, art that's looking at women as objects! How transformative? I don't get the challenging part.
posted by jessamyn at 7:50 PM on November 30, 2007


As it is she is profiting off these deaths, and if I were a surviving relative I'd be tempted to do something about that.

CNN profits all day off this shit. You can bet its street legal.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:56 PM on November 30, 2007


I think she should create a paint-by-numbers kit. You know, if you're going to push the irony thing....
posted by jmcneilly at 8:14 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's disturbing.
That's what art is for.
There is a conversation about how people coming from differents angles are disturbed by these images.

So, basically, it's successful.

Personally, I couldn't have such a painting in my living room: they are too disturbing. I guess I am even more disturbed at the idea of people buying these paintings and hanging them in their home. Yuck and eek.

It means it's good.
Maybe not great - I don't know - but good, certainly.
posted by bru at 8:37 PM on November 30, 2007


I might have got further with her Artist's Statement if she hadn't misspelled Emily Dickinson's name in the epigraph.
posted by jokeefe at 8:44 PM on November 30, 2007


Also, "the ownability of her deadness" is a great phrase.
posted by jokeefe at 8:48 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


No, I think you can say the idea is...maybe..something to explore (crime scene photos are a weird combination of voyeurism and strict forensics), but that the execution is shite.

The dead beautiful woman is such a deeply entrenched cliche that an artist is going to have to work hard to get below our surface reactions to the subject. She has not done that.

And as for lots of discussion=good work, ha. Slacktivist has been doing a chapter-by-chapter deconstruction of the first Left Behind book for over a year. Fred's posts, and the commentary they inspire (including a sort of anti-fan-fic site reusing the books in subversive ways) are wonderful and interesting. But the source material remains shoddy and worthless.
posted by emjaybee at 8:53 PM on November 30, 2007


Oh look, art that's looking at women as objects! How transformative? I don't get the challenging part.

Me neither, and as others have said, the truly painful mumbo-jumbo of her artist's statement only worsens it. (Why won't they just stop! I went looking for a parody of artist statements throughout the ages but couldn't find one -- surely someone has given it a whirl? Jasper Johns: With "Flag" I seek to upend the dominant discourse by painting an exact simulacrum of a "flag" so that the very symbology of "flagness" itself is challenged -- if this is not a "flag", the thing-in-itself, what has it become? If one were to burn it, would it be an act of consecration or rebellion? Not to mention that my partner Robert thinks that red white and blue bring out flattering peachy undertones in my complexion.)

If Ashley Hope wants to transform victims of sexual crime from objects to subjects as opposed to making a quick name off them, that is admirable of her. She could start by coming up with something better than wretched coinages like "lustmord" (so emo, blech) or images of such exact literalism. Here's just one thought: don't copy line by line those images of them dead and debased. Imagine them alive instead. Do some research and use it to create a scene faithful to their era. Paint them about to go to work, to the party, to their bath -- to the moments before their lives were stolen. Imagine how those empty faces might have looked smiling or laughing or pensive or in tears. If she actually wants to alter these women, she has a stick in her hand she can use to do just that, instead of adding yet more exploitative images of pretty victims to the world's overflowing store of same.
posted by melissa may at 10:44 PM on November 30, 2007 [1 favorite]


Actually, more thought provoking would have been paintings of the crime scenes as they appeared before the crime took place, a reminder that the bath wasn't a place of relaxation and meditation for this one woman, or that the sofa wasn't a place to kick back with a book for another. I dunno. Maybe that's shit, too, but it's not exploitative shit.
posted by maxwelton at 11:27 PM on November 30, 2007


Of all things, this...kind of puts me in mind of the Rob Liefeld thread. Seriously. Everyone there agrees that Greg Land is a hack because all he does is trace photos, and he draws fuckin' superhero comic books. Isn't the bar supposed to be set a little bit higher for fine art? I think this is exploitation, but it's not an inherently exploitative subject, if such a thing even exists. It's exploitation because all she's doing is taking what's already there and painting an uninspired picture of it. If she's bringing anything to the project, I couldn't tell you what it is. I find the work depressing, but not for any reason Hope intended.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 12:26 AM on December 1, 2007


I went looking for a parody of artist statements throughout the ages but couldn't find one -- surely someone has given it a whirl?

Funny you should ask, melissa may. I'm in the middle of a dissertation at Glasgow School of Art on the use of verbal descriptions about visual art in academia that started out as a history of the artists' statement. My research moved away from statements specifically before it got deep enough to draw many conclusions but I did notice a few things that hold up so far:

- There is no history or parody of a history of artists' statements. There are plenty of anthologies of artists' writings, and probably Modern Arts Criticism, edited by Joann Prosyniuk, comes closest to that sort of thing. But the writing that non-academics most often read from artists, statements that accompany the work in a commercial or publicizing context like this paragon of bullshit that we're discussing here, has been systematically ignored by "the establishment." This includes the statements written by students at art schools as part of their cirriculum. This kind of writing seems to be treated as purely functional, as something meant to influence an audience's reception of visual art. It's rarely, if ever, retained as a critical statement for posterity. (The only entry in all of Art in Theory that was originally presented in a commercial context is Jackson Pollack's letter to the Guggenheim.)

- The more established an artist is, the less likely you are to find a statement explaining something more than an individual piece presented immediately beside their work. Inversely, the less established an artist is, the more available their statement will be (and it will probably be longer).

- Guides to writing artists' statements are, without exception, painfully unaware of the issues of communication and interpretation involved with explaining your work in (often rediculous) words on a sheet of paper next to the actual work. They give advice to help artists sell.

- Artists don't like writing them, gallery owners don't like reading them. They're for the customers and the media.

It's not a history, but here's a pretty fun artist's statement generator if you want to make your very own.

Artists didn't always pin up confusing and unlikely essays next to their visual art. The reasons they do now have much more to do with the market (and, by extention, schools) than they do with art-making. The line separating theory and the market, though, is badly blurred and mighty porous. If you're still interested after reading my two mini-essays on here, or if you have even more than a passing interest in contemporary art, I can't reccomend these two books too highly: Why Art Cannot Be Taught and Art Incorporated: The Story of Contemporary Art.
posted by nímwunnan at 4:59 AM on December 1, 2007 [5 favorites]


Jackson Pollack

Ah, the storied leader of the Blue Poles movement.
posted by Wolof at 5:04 AM on December 1, 2007


Jackson Pollack

Ah, the storied leader of the Blue Poles movement.


Whoopsie... well, at least I'm mostly Polish (the Mitchkovskis were the only other artist in the family)
posted by nímwunnan at 5:54 AM on December 1, 2007


it's exploitation because all she's doing is taking what's already there and painting an uninspired picture of it. If she's bringing anything to the project, I couldn't tell you what it is. I find the work depressing, but not for any reason Hope intended.

I think this is sort of the problem... it's easier to make an Edgy Art statement about something that inspires feelings in people -- in this case half-naked dead women -- by allowing the thing to both be the thing and also simultaneously (and allegedly) making a statement about the thing. So in this case she's using the sort of shock value of the dead woman and the fact that it inspires a reaction to have us think about the "reductive tendencies" of our own capacities for looking at women as objects or "women reduced to a body" However it's a cheat, to me, because she's also letting us, hey!, reduce the woman to a body and it's a longer jump to get the weird dichotomy out of these photos than it is to take them in the culturally obvious "oh look T&A, dead T&A!" In this case particularly, there's no real hint that these might not be anything other than pseudotortureporn.

Anyhow, I used to think about this a lot when I used to see Consolidated play. They were one of those progressive vegan cutural re-appropriator dance bands that would make strong statements about meat eating, how women are treated and other social issues. They were a bunch of dudes so it was a sort of interesting thing to hear them talk about feminism. I liked some of their music. However, when I went to see them they also had a sound/light show, lots of images projected on to walls, classic PETA stuff among other things. And there were a lot of porny shots of women among all the stuff, not really juxtaposed with anything, just your standard things.

I know Consolidated and I know this was their way of making a statement about the way society sees women and how envisioning them in their underwear all the time is sort of low and sloppy compared to more equal, deep and interesting things. But you know, I just saw a lot of porny pictures of women in their underwear. And I'm sure lots of other people did too. So maybe if you were someone with "reductive tendencies" there's an outside chance this made you think about the way the media uses images of women as window dressing for other sorts of conspicuous consumption. At the same time Consolidated got to use this to their advantage by making their show a little more tittillating even as they were saying in their lyrics that people who do that without all the liberal-arts-education-fueled irony are doing it "wrong" Its a pretty classic art trope and while, again, I like people trying to do things with art and I don't even mind looking at good paintings, it just seems sort of simple compared to making a statement about the woman-as-body without resorting to, you know, using the woman-as-body.
posted by jessamyn at 6:37 AM on December 1, 2007


It's like the controversy when that Chelsea gallery that showed paintings of the murder scene of Kennewick man. Really, doesn't some sort of statue of limitations apply on offense?

Anyways, since we're on crime scenes: Chinese crime stories, staged, and photographed.
posted by iamck at 6:41 AM on December 1, 2007


These would look great on a wall in my livingroom. They fit with my post modern, ironic approach to home furnishings.
posted by cogneuro at 6:58 AM on December 1, 2007


Weird. When this floated to the top at boingboing I was really attracted to it, then read the comments, which were all poe-faced and disapproving. Really didn't expect the same reaction over here... starting to wonder if I really am missing something.

For what it's worth, I didn't read the artist's statement, and I saw this as simple pornography - prurient, superficially attractive, self-serving, lush, commercial. But that certainly doesn't discount it as "Art" in my eyes.
posted by Leon at 7:01 AM on December 1, 2007


BTW, if you're interested in crime scenes and art, the dioramas of Frances Glessner Lee are worth a look. I wish modern dolls' house hobbyists were more aware of her.
posted by Leon at 7:11 AM on December 1, 2007


"At the same time Consolidated got to use this to their advantage by making their show a little more tittillating even as they were saying in their lyrics that people who do that without all the liberal-arts-education-fueled irony are doing it "wrong" Its a pretty classic art trope and while, again, I like people trying to do things with art and I don't even mind looking at good paintings, it just seems sort of simple compared to making a statement about the woman-as-body without resorting to, you know, using the woman-as-body."

I'd hit it.

(Too soon?)

I'd really like Hope to come here and defend her work.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on December 1, 2007


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