Maria Lassnig has a gallery showing at MoMA PS1 museum, and she is sharing her selfies. Lassnig was born in Kappel um Kapfeld, Carinthia in 1919. Throughout her life she lived in Paris, New York, and Berlin and now calls Vienna home. Her work most revolves around the body and the psyche. The expressionist has accepted many awards in her career. She was the first woman to win the Grand Austrian State Prize in 1988, and was awarded the Austrian Decoration for Science and Arts in 2005.
The gallery is a collection of self portraits. It also includes a sampling of her other works abstracting space, inanimate objects and the mind. Viewers can get lost in the winding hallways with images of haunting, spring-colored Lassnigs lining the walls, gasping for breath.
The paintings are based on a pallette that seems to have come from an Easter horror flick. She uses pale pinks, slate blues, bright oranges and toned-down yellows. The way she mixes the colors often contorts the lines of the body, blending it with the background of the image or an object in the frame. The colors strike the viewer as being feminine, but they have some eerie story of pain and confusion to tell. The paint on the canvas is having an identity crisis, “I am only pink, because that is what I was told to do.”
Lassnig’s faces all have a similar facial expression. Her face looks toward the viewer with deep, empty and cold eyes that gaze in no general direction. Her mouth is pulled open slightly in a downward facing triangle. In some paintings, she seems to be gasping, but in others she may be sighing. All of the faces seem to be struggling or fighting to find something.
The first room of the gallery focuses on her female form. She depicts herself only as a fully human form, however some body parts are more highlighted or shifted to different placements on the body. In one image, she replaced her mouth with a clitoris, and donned a vulva-turned-hood to protect her head from the elements. In the next room, she starts to play with objects. Her arm in a rolling-pin, her face covered in cellophane, and her head is a cheese grater. In these images she is equating femininity with these items and displaying their constricting nature.
These works all explore the artist’s explorations of her body from the inside out. To make these paintings, the artist reflected on how her body feels to her, or the conflicts of self-representation and stereotypes. These paintings explore the way that the painter interacts with the world. How she sees herself and how others view her. The selfies Lassnig shares are not like the ones seen on Instagram. Instead they present a view of the inner body.
It is refreshing to see this gallery in today’s culture. Mass media only likes to show the most beautiful and most “girly” women. The struggle that people face everyday with gender roles is often put on the sidelines, or limited to acceptable subjects, such as activities, clothing or hair style. Lassnig shared her selfies to show that there are many issues that women have yet to face to become more comfortable in their own skin, and with their feminine bodies.
By Joshua Shane