RIP : Hommegirl Helen Frankenthaler

27 December 2011

Dear Judith Bernstock,

You were one of my favorite Art History professors at Cornell. Mainly because until I took your class, all the art history I’d studied consisted of staring at Greek vases and memorizing their date and place of origin. Art history, while fascinating and necessary, can be totally boring. How many flashcards can one look at before he goes totally berserk? I have fond memories of  taking Art History 360: FDR to Reagan, where we got to study modern art. One key figure in this movement was an abstract expressionist named Helen Frankenthaler, who passed away yesterday. She made huge, gorgeous paintings, influenced by other abstract artists of the time including Jackson Pollock. Most people who aren’t part of the art community have no idea how dominated it is by straight men (shocker: it’s way less gay than you’d expect). Thus, she was kind of a trailblazer even though she never considered herself a feminist. In fact, she said this:

“For me, being a ‘lady painter’ was never an issue. I don’t resent being a female painter. I don’t exploit it. I paint.” (Source)

In my humble opinion, there is nothing more glamourous than photographs of artists in their studios.

Here are some images of her beautiful work.

More gorgeous vintage photographs of Frankenthaler in her studio.

Painting with her feet! Go girl.

This makes me want to make a huge painting. Lovely.

Thanks for all the beauty you created, Helen Frankenthaler. I’m certainly thankful for your work!


7 Comment

  1. this post got to me in different ways: first of all you write it to your teacher (I’m a teacher, and it just so heartwarming to hear from a student how your work has impacted their lives far beyond your time in the classroom)…art history has been my guide ever since I started painting as an afterschool activity and reading artist’s biographies…art awakens our sensibilities through the observation, enjoyment and admiration of what is an expression (the painting itself) of someone else’s experiences…Your homage to Helen Frankenthaler is beautiful…TODAY YOU HAVE TAUGHT ME SOMETHING NEW ABOUT ART

  2. tess says:

    lovely post, I love her work, read someplace that she used unprimed canvases, love the soaked in dreamy watery quality

    yup, men dominate lots of stuff, classroom discussions as well as fields of work, saw a movie Stones of Summer (?) about discovery of brilliant novelist, conversation by male writers drowned out sole female participant, might as well have been a lumberjack convention

    thanks so much for your post

  3. Sweet, sweet words you speak. We lost one of the greats.

  4. Maggie O. says:

    love your posts on art. Thank you for remembering Frankenthaler – beautiful images of art and studio.

  5. thanks for your post. What a privilege to study with such an icon. I will spend more time looking at and reading about her work. I’ve always found her work appealing and her use of color and simple, natural shapes are so easy to take in as my eyes move around the work. Looking forward to discovering more about her. Thanks for bringing her to my attention–there are so many inspirational artists out there is is difficult to find time to review them all–but I will make time for Helen. Thanks.

  6. jeannette says:

    you’re the only other person i know besides me who made a blog post on this. i knew i liked you.

  7. a mesmerizing post about a remarkable artist…thanks so much…it lives on!

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