Laura Owens

Solo en Inglès

painting of two sailors on a boat

Laura Owens, Untitled, 2006. Acrylic, oil, wood, yarn, and linen cut-outs on linen, 12 1/4 x 10 in. (31.1 x 25.4 cm). Collection of Allison & Warren Kanders. © Laura Owens

Narrator: As you look around this room, you’ll see that it’s full of figures—human and animal. For much of her early career, Owens avoided depicting any kind of figure. But as you look around the room, you’ll see that she eventually took on everything from love scenes and pirates to magical creatures.

Kirsty Bell: For me, it's quite important in this body of work that these paintings were made shortly after she had first baby.

Narrator: Kirsty Bell is a Berlin-based writer, and friends with the artist.

Kirsty Bell: That real fact and change of her own life and her personal situation was then brought into the paintings. And there's these wonderful bucolic scenes of naked men and women and babies frolicking amongst falling leaves.

At this time, female artists are not actually really supposed to talk about their family. It was still kind of a taboo and I felt like it was really admirable that she actually chose to make this the center, this experience that she was having in her life, to make this the central subject matter for her body of work.

I think it is a feminist gesture because it has to do with the real facts of life and how you can bring these things that are supposedly peripheral. But why should having a baby be peripheral, be peripheral to your life as an artist?

But I have to say at the time when she made those paintings and showed them, a lot of people had problems with them and were wishing that she was making conceptual abstraction again because it's more difficult to find a critical position with that kind of emotionally-laden subject matter.