Woman, I
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jtucker's picture


In Woman, I Willem de Kooning has captured what I look like after a late night filled with far too many Jello shots.

Just the thought of that gives me a headache, but probably not as massive a migraine as the one de Kooning got while trying to create this piece. This painting took him over a year and a half to make, and some of his friends claim he created over eighty versions on this canvas before he finally landed on the one you see today. No wonder it looks like a battlefield, the man truly fought to get it done.

De Kooning had been working abstractly for quite a while and this painting was his first attempt to get back in the swing of representational art. The figure is a blend of female archetypes throughout history from a Paleolithic fertility goddess to the 1950’s pin up girl. We're supposed to feel veneration and fear of this powerful female figure. Mommy issues much?

De Kooning’s woman series has created quite a controversy. People cant seem to figure out if this is an image of misogyny or empowerment for the female gender. Those who lean more towards the pessimistic reading see it as violent and completely degrading towards women. Her bug eyes, toothy grin, and lopsided boobs along with the expressive application of paint has left these naysayers feeling that de Kooning was a bit of a chauvinist. It's like he stabbed her with his paintbrush. Being part of the ultra-macho Abstract Expressionist scene did not help him shake these labels. On the other hand, people have also read the work as a strong, sexual female and perhaps the precursor to the sexy, pornographic images we can so easily enjoy today.

No matter which side of the argument you sway to, I think we can all agree that this is one fugly broad. But I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which really leaves us with the question: what the heck was going on in the mind of Willem de Kooning?