Joan Brown ( 1938 - 1990)
Self-Portrait with Fish and Cat
Oil enamel on board
Photography by Edward C. Robison III.
Contemporary Art Gallery
Description of Self-Portrait with Fish and Cat
NARRATOR: The painting you are in front of is entitled Self-Portrait with Fish and Cat and was created by Joan Brown in 1970 using oil enamel on board. It is 96 inches tall by 48 inches wide and is displayed in a thin, wooden frame. The framed painting spans from roughly four inches off the floor to about two feet above the tops of our heads.
The background of the painting is a rich, vibrant red. Against this background, we see Joan Brown, standing tall, stretching almost the entire length of the canvas. Her figure is positioned on the side of the canvas to our left. Beginning with the top of her head, we notice her short blonde hair, cropped just below her ears. Her skin is a thickly-layered mixture of white, pink and reddish-brown paint applied with smooth, broad strokes. Her pale aqua eyes gaze out toward us. She is dressed in a dark-colored, loose fitting top and pants that are heavily splattered with paint. Transparent, latex gloves cover her hands, and in the hand to our left, she is holding a paint brush with greenish-yellow paint on its tip. Her arm to our right is curved around a large fish that spans from the bottom of the artist’s chin all the way to her knees. The fish is a thickly layered mixture of green and yellow paint. Its long back is arched in a half-moon shape that curves around the artist’s arm.
Moving down the painting, we see the artist’s white shoes, also heavily splattered with paint. She is standing on a series of white square gridlines faintly outlined in black that cut through the vibrant red background in the bottom fourth of the painting. These gridlines form 4 inch squares stacked 5 ½ squares high by 12 squares wide. These squares seem to suggest a plane on which the artist could stand, but fall short of providing realistic depth or perspective, for the soles of her shoes are not flat against the grid’s surface. Instead, her toes are pointing straight down, as though her feet are not anchored solidly on any surface at all. Below the toes of her shoes is the dark, solid shadow of her feet and ankles, which reaches to the bottom of the canvas. In the bottom, right corner of the painting we see a black cat with white whiskers, its head pointed down and to our left. Its paws are in mid-step, as though walking. The dark shadow of the cat’s paws and body is also visible to the bottom of the canvas.
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