Art & Art History ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-13-1974


The Venus image has been described as the presentation of the obsessive, unreasonable nature of physical desire in a form that ceases to be vulgar and becomes "celestial". This characterization is similar to the major pictorial content of my paintings which deals with the repression of desire for a subtly appealing figure. This study explains and brings into perspective this dominant theme in my work through a description of the pictorial and formal aspects of my paintings and a comparison of my work to the work of four contemporary American painters who have dealt with the female figure in their paintings.

Choosing Willem de Kooning, Tom Wessleman, Phillip Pearlstein, and Wayne Thiebaud as exemplary of a broad range of stylistic and aesthetic approaches to figure painting, I find particular similarities· and differences to all of them. The figure in de Kooning's work becomes part of a personal mythology derived from his own urban environment. In this aspect our work is similar, but in the broader context of de Kooning's work the figure takes on religious implications which I cannot see in my own work. Wessleman's "Great American Nude" mirrors the collective sexual fantasies of middle America. There is a common interest in the sexual connotations of the figure, but his banal approach is rejected in favor of a more subtle desirability. Pearlstein presents an antithesis to my position since he "uses" the figure and consciously applies a set of formal conventions to it, whereas the formal and pictorial elements are integrally related in my work. Thiebaud sees an internal, individual "energy" in the subject of his portraits. I feel this "internal" energy is similar to the visual tension I see in my work.

In all of these painters' representations of the figure, and the female figure in particular, I see an implication beyond the presentation of the body for its own sake: for de Kooning she becomes a public goddess or icon of his aesthetic; for Wessleman she becomes the mirror of collective sexual fantasy; for Pearlstein her representation is made to embody the idea of unidealized perception; and for Thiebaud she has as an attribute an individual essence. Derived from my own sources, my Venus becomes an actress in a subtle, sexual drama.

Document Type


Degree Name


Level of Degree


Department Name

UNM Department of Art and Art History

First Committee Member (Chair)


Second Committee Member

Peter Walch

Third Committee Member

Robert M. Ellis

Fourth Committee Member


Included in

Painting Commons