Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s

Solo en Inglès

Joyce Pensato, Untitled, 1992. Oil on linen, 36 × 36in. (91.4 × 91.4 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Promised gift of Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner P.2011.308 © Joyce Pensato

Joyce Pensato: Mickey was very important to me.

Narrator: Joyce Pensato.

Joyce Pensato: You know, to own it. To make it my own. Even though it’s a familiar face, or familiar shape. I love—it started with, I love the form of it as an abstraction. And I wanted to make it not like a cartoon, so to give it more—I think of it like Edvard Munch or something, it’s very expressive, and it has a lot of emotion in it, rather than a happy Mickey. 

Narrator: This was one of Pensato’s first paintings of Mickey Mouse. She’s become best known for these rough, stark paintings of cartoon characters—and she says they helped her find her path as an artist. 

Joyce Pensato: Before, my drawings were these cartoon guys, and the paintings went abstract, because I couldn’t hold onto it. The paintings looked like everybody else’s abstract painting at that time. It didn’t have a personal touch. It was—when I did that Mickey it was really exciting for me, I discovered something. I just wanted to do tons of Mickeys at that point. And to take the images that I loved doing and try to accept who I was, rather than trying to be this painter.