In Richly Patterned Portraits, Ruby Sky Stiler Dismantles Art History’s Most Persistent Archetypes


Source Colossal  

“Artist with Muse” (2022), acrylic, acrylic resin, paper, glue, and graphite on panel, 60 x 50 inches. All images © Ruby Stiler, shared with permission courtesy of Nicelle Beauchene Gallery, New York

Throughout the history of Western art, certain tropes occur again and again in painting and sculpture. The motif of mother and child has been reflected throughout the centuries in the likeness of the Holy Virgin and infant Christ or in domestic family portraiture, like in the works of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt, who specialized in the theme. The archetype of the female muse dates back to ancient Greek mythology and religion, when goddesses like Calliope or Melpomene were considered the source of creativity and knowledge. Brooklyn-based artist Ruby Sky Stiler challenges these preconceptions and archetypes in her ongoing series of Relief Paintings.

Stiler’s works play with gender conventions by turning the male subject into a muse for the female artist or representing parenthood through an image of a father with his children. In “Old Woman (Blue),” she taps into society’s lingering taboo of aging, especially for women. “I’ve recently been exploring the trope of the ‘muse’ and placing the male figure as object. And also in the role of parent, which is strikingly uncommon (in contrast to the abundant depictions of mother and child),” she tells Colossal. “I’ve also re-positioned the female figure in the empowered role as The Artist.”

In bold, geometric patterns, Stiler’s subjects are human-scaled and gaze directly at the viewer. Black-and-white, tile-like patterns provide the background for abstracted figures that nod to Cubism—a movement practically synonymous with masculine figures like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Stiler dismantles the “male gaze,” or the lens through which women are depicted as objects of desire for men in visual culture. She explores the notion of the gaze further in the way that the paintings are experienced by the viewer; from far away the outlines of the figures are easy to see, but the closer one gets, the more the fractal-like patterns distort the image.

A monograph of Stiler’s work is scheduled for publication in the spring in collaboration with her representing gallery Nicelle Beachene, and a solo exhibition of her work will open in March 2023 at Nina Johnson Gallery in Miami. You can find more of her work on her website and Instagram.

 

“Cat Sitter” (2022), acrylic paint, acrylic resin, paper, glue, and graphite on panel, 32 x 25 inches

“Father and Children” (2022), acrylic paint, acrylic resin, paper, glue, and graphite on panel, 60 x 50 inches

Detail of “Father and Children”

“Generational Portrait” (2022), acrylic paint, acrylic resin, paper, and glue, 60 x 50 inches

Left: “Old Woman (Blue)” (2022), acrylic paint, acrylic resin, paper, and glue, 18 x 15.5 inches. Right: Detail of “Artist with Muse”

“Seated Woman (Facing Left)” (2018), mixed media, 50 x 60 inches

“No Title (Father and Boy” (2020), acrylic paint, acrylic resin, graphite, and paper, 44 x 50 inches

“Women in Gold” (2022), acrylic paint, acrylic resin, paper, glue, and graphite on panel, 32 x 25 inches

Detail of “Cat Sitter”

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