Artists' Artists: Brian Calvin

Joan Brown, Self Portrait at Age 42, 1980

Joan Brown has been an important influence on me from the inception of my experience as a painter. I was an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, when I started painting. My first year painting was also Brown’s last year teaching at UCB. She tragically died while on sabbatical in 1990. Her influence has stayed with me and only grown over the years. The breadth of her work and her life in general have always inspired me. She was a strong and brave woman and this is reflected so poignantly in her painting.

Self-Portrait at Age 42 is an electric painting that calls out to the viewer. Somewhat more minimal than a lot of her paintings from the time, there is a proud humility to this stoic self-portrait. Brown depicts herself against a beautiful grey-blue field. Details are kept to a minimum, enhancing their importance. We see the artist in her work clothes – a paint-speckled sweatshirt. She also includes emblems of what I would call ‘self-care’: for example, a latex glove (brilliantly painted with a few economic white strokes) to protect her from toxins. Perhaps less obvious, but just as important, is the inclusion of her protective jewellery. Prayer beads, a charm of Nefertiti, a yin-yang symbol and a lotus charm all attest to Brown’s open-ended and wide-ranging spiritual beliefs. Instead of a direct gaze (as if staring into a mirror), the painted painter’s eyes are slightly averted, focusing on another world altogether. The reduction of form and colour freeze into an uncanny otherness: a portrait of a proud, beautiful, strong female artist at 42.
 

briancalvinweb.jpg

Joan Brown Self-Portrait at Age 42 1980. Enamel on canvas, 1.8 × 1.5 m. Courtesy: © The Estate of Joan Brown and George Adams Gallery, New York; photograph: Jay Oligny

Joan Brown Self-Portrait at Age 42 1980. Enamel on canvas, 1.8 × 1.5 m. Courtesy: © The Estate of Joan Brown and George Adams Gallery, New York; photograph: Jay Oligny

 

Brian Calvin lives in Los Angeles, USA. In early 2017, he had a solo show at Corvi-Mora, London, UK.

Issue 6

First published in Issue 6

October 2017

Most Read

The rapper and artist have thoughts about originality in art; Melania Trump tries graphic design – all the latest...
The dilapidated Nissen hut from which Rachel Whiteread will take a cast
Yorkshire residents complain that the concrete sculpture of a ‘Nissen hut’ will attract excrement, vandalism and litter
Poul Erik Tøjner pays tribute to Denmark’s most important artist since Asger Jorn
Toyin Ojih Odutola’s portraits of a fictional aristocratic Nigerian family push toward an expanded definition...
Photographer Dragana Jurisic says her account was deactivated after she uploaded an artwork depicting a partially naked...
In further news: open letter protests all-male shortlist for BelgianArtPrize; Arts Council of Ireland issues...
From Sol Calero’s playful clichés of Latin America to an homage to British modernist architect Alison Smithson
Everybody’s favourite underpaid, over-educated, raven-haired art critic, Rhonda Lieberman, is as relevant as ever
‘Prize & Prejudice’ at London's UCL Art Museum is a bittersweet celebration of female talent
The curators want to rectify the biennale’s ‘failure to question the hetero-normative production of space’; ‘poppers...
A fragment of the brutalist Robin Hood Gardens will go on show at the Venice Architecture Biennale
‘Women's role in shaping the history of contemporary art is being reappraised’
Three shows in Ireland celebrate the legendary polymath, artist and author of Inside the White Cube
The legendary performance artists will partner up again to detail their tumultuous relationship in a new book
An open letter signed by over 100 leading artists including 15 Turner prize-winners says that new UK education policy...
Naturists triumph at art gallery; soothing students with colouring books; Kanye’s architectural firm: your dose of art...
Avengers: Infinity War confirms the domination of mass culture by the franchise: what ever happened to narrative...
The agency’s founder talks about warfare in the age of post truth, deconstructing images and holding states and...
From hobnobbing with Oprah to championing new art centres, millennial crown prince Mohammed bin Salman is following a...
A juror for the award last year, Dan Fox on why the Turner Prize is and always will be political (whatever that means)
The argument that ancestral connection offers a natural grasp of the complex histories and aesthetics of African art is...
One of most iconic and controversial writers of the past 40 years, Tom Wolfe discusses writing, art and intellectual...

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

March 2018

frieze magazine

April 2018

frieze magazine

May 2018