"Looking At Men” Published in 2000 by Miller-Havens Art - Two Decades Later the Same Question Still Resonates
"Gentleman From St Louis" Mike Matheny by Susan Miller-Havens; Oil on Canvas Matheny Collection
It is okay for men to stare at women. It is not okay for women to stare at men. Psychology tells us this double standard occurs because there are men who are subject to fetishes or more simply because they feel they have the right to stare. In art men often represent women as objects. Some women artists have broken into that system. Given the history and complexity of male/female relationships it is not surprising that there are women artists who respond to their experiences by softening, politicizing, or castrating the male image. These reactions were perhaps no better presented than in the 1980 London I.C.A. show "Women's Images of Men" and the resulting collection of essays edited by Kent and Morreau in 1985.
As a feminist living in a world still without equality I have to ask myself, What are the conditions that make it possible to admire the beauty, prowess and sensitivity of certain men? Is it realistic to believe that in artistic representation there is an alternative to idolizing, bashing, or infantilizing men?
For almost a decade I used the images found in baseball, basketball, and football to record my reaction to the beauty and timelessness of athletic games. I believe that athletic competition in the United States has become the moral equivalent of war. The catchers' protective equipment in baseball, the helmets in football, and the physical height of the players in basketball recall the warriors, gladiators, and Vikings of years gone by, thus visually uniting the past with the present.
I try to place images in a time that is ambiguous, thus asking the viewer to imagine what will or has happened. I intend to paint facial expressions that evoke a response from the viewer that comes from both what is present in the image and what the image does to the viewer. This attempt to use images as a way to set up tension on the picture plane I owe to Tissot, Manet, Renoir, Pollock, and the art of photography.
I was taught and continue to learn from two distinctly different artists, James Wilson Rayen and Richard Yarde. Technically I remain challenged by the color white. The white of the uniforms of baseball, basketball, and football players readily lends itself to my fascination with its innate qualities. To represent light I use both traditional and modern techniques, either by brushing on layers of underpainting or applying pigment directly on the canvas with a palette knife. I am a colorist at heart, using color to create both psychological and geometrical depth. Delacroix, Goya, and Matisse are among my influences.
Taking then from both the representational and abstract schools of painting, I am attempting to set up artistic problems that combine images and painting techniques from the past with the present, that define space through unexpected uses of color and line, that generate for the viewer a sense of subtle psychological ambiguity and timelessness, and that comment on our human interactions.
I mean to paint the individual male as possessor of masculinity but also as possessor of a unique personality vulnerable to all of life's demands. I want to look at men not as objects nor still lifes as did Manet, but at their human connection to the viewer as Cassett looked at women and children.
For more additional information and to view galleries, please visit millerhavens.com