Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Alice In Wonderland

Angst much, Alice?
Alice Neel: Self-Portrait

This weekend I rented a documentary about the legendary portraitist Alice Neel. With extensive interviews of her sons, the fruits of her genius and neglect, the film seemed to be a parade of Alice's extraordinarily affected portraits set to the soundtrack of her sons' actively arguing and reworking their own narratives. For the woman who said that "whether I'm painting or not, I have this overweening interest in humanity. Even if I'm not working, I'm still analyzing people," she seems to have thoroughly confused her children in the process. And then there's the allusion to the daughter left behind in Cuba, who as an adult killed herself. Interviews with Alice reveal that she was fascinated by her children as subjects, but she seemed so focused, absorbing the essence of those immediately in front of her easel (which she did, beautifully) that you have to wonder what was missed as a result of her myopic focus, or what any artist misses, squirreled away working on their art? Is the artistic sacrifice honorable, and whose humanity are they furthering? Alice was hailed as a ground-breaking feminist artist, through she shrugged the title. I wonder why.

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