Betty Tompkins' life story reads like a movie plot: a feminist artist—denied by many feminists—who championed explicit sexual imagery long before it became a thing, consequent censorship, near obscurity and recent “rediscovery.” It illustrates not even ever shifting margins of art perception, as how far we, as a society, came since 1960s, when Tompkins rendered her first canvases. From sexual oppression to celebrating female sexuality. From the legalization of pornography to modeling our behavior on it. From raise of gender equality movements to women holding key positions in business, politics, media and culture.
Yet, even within the context of all these changes, her work stubbornly refuses to be pigeonholed. Tompkins doesn't give you much to hang on to. Down to the titles, her mostly monochromatic, large scale paintings are purposely stripped off any gimmicks. Unapologetically direct, they have an effect of Rorschach test—your outtake is more you than what it is, a reflection of your own upbringing, beliefs and moral values. In equal parts provocative, abstract, conceptual or none of the above.
For this feature the artist chose to do a small retrospective of her work accompanied by her own notes.