‘The Brood’: Contrasting realities of woman


The beautifully designed Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (CAM) opened at the corner of Spring Avenue and Washington Boulevard, in 2003. The museum cycles through numerous exhibitions annually, preserving its commitment to showcase relevant and meaningful artwork that is accessible to both the visitors and residents of St. Louis. CAM provides a spotlight for the emerging artists of today by refusing to sustain a permanent collection.

One exhibit in particular, “Lisa Yuskavage: The Brood,” comprises the Philadelphia-born artist’s past 25 years in painting and is on display in the main gallery. Yuskavage received her BFA from the Tyler School at Temple University and an MFA at Yale University. She currently lives and works in New York.

Yuskavage explores femininity and the human figure in a deeply provocative way. She presents her paintings in triptychs, diptychs, and singular portraits. The consistent whimsical portrayal of the female form draws the viewer into a fantastical world ruled by the complexity, beauty, and vulnerability of the human body.

Yuskavage addresses both the physicality and the psyche of her subjects by creating a connectedness in posture and expression. Her execution of color is brilliant; each piece is consumed by intense, saturated color. Figures are brought to life in every curve of their abstracted nude bodies, and often in the eerily cartoon-like black eyes that confront the viewer in mutual curiosity.

One of the centerpieces of the exhibition is “Brood (2005-2006)”, which displays a pregnant woman with an indistinguishable face, by a white cloth-covered surface. The painting is enveloped in soft, yet powerful, whites and pinks with additional hints of color in the fruit and flowers that sit on the front surface of the figure. She is almost entirely unclothed, and her female features are wholly exaggerated and emphasized, drawing attention directly to her breasts and pregnant belly.

“Brood” explores the themes Yuskavage uses throughout her entire body of work, creating an entanglement of innocence and impurity in her subjects and their environments. In the ever-expanding world of contemporary art, Yuskavage uniquely extends an intimate invitation to her audience. As her figures exist within the constraints of the astonishing world she creates, they are interrupted by the contrasting taboos and realities of womanhood.

Yuskavage’s recognition has not come without controversy, and was especially subject to criticism during her work in the ‘90s. In a recent interview with “Lenny,” Yuskavage states, “ I understand that people are not used to hearing my voice. At first it probably sounded really bad, and I just kept on going. I’ve had people say that they used to hate it and now they’re addicted to it.” Her work has remained the same, but opinions have progressed into a profound recognition and appreciation for her evocative body of work. The exhibit is running until Apr. 3.