New York

Eunice Golden

While for the most part distinctions between men’s and women’s art on the basis of sex are arbitrary, if not downright discriminatory, occasionally an artist through his or her choice of subject matter forces consideration of his or her sexual bias. To discuss Eunice Golden’s work, for example, without acknowledging her feminist stance would deny her deliberately erotic art much of its impact. There is after all a biological differentiation of the sexes, and it is perhaps largely because of this, combined with the historical predominance of men in the arts, that we have such a tradition of the female nude as a symbol of sensual desire. Certainly male artists have tended to eschew the voluptuousness of Eros in favor of Venus—an imbalance that Golden’s art consciously attempts to rectify.

Golden’s earlier paintings shown at Westbeth in 1973 used explicit descriptions of the male nude to provoke the viewer’s consciousness of sexuality. Even then, though, the drawing was subjective, evincing a personal involvement rather than the cool detachment of photo-Realism. More recent oils and pastels transform the specifics of male anatomy into a generalized, yet more sensually evocative phallic imagery. The suggestiveness of this imagery derives from its search for the root forms, the subconscious symbols, of human eroticism—one seems more easily able to distance oneself from realistic depictions which one can label as “pictures.” Parallels can easily be drawn both to Surrealism and to certain early Abstract Expressionist paintings, for, although reinterpreted from a feminist point of view, certain universal elements, accessible to both sexes, predominate. Indeed, the visual terms Golden uses are personal variations of an already established language. For instance, the biomorphic lyricism of Metamorphosis #10 results from an assimilation of Arp-like shapes into a landscape of the mind reminiscent in its somewhat narrative composition of a Miró fantasy. Layers of pastels are built up into a fleshy translucency which glows with a hallucinatory effect recalling to my mind the hypnotic power of Baziotes’ paintings, although not in a derivative way. Less directly dependent on Surrealist prototypes is the large totemic phallus isolated against a neutral background in Metamorphosis #12. The shimmer of the transparent washes of oil on fine canvas and the hanging rather than stretching of the canvas reinforce the iconic impact of the image, even given the failure to successfully resolve the figure-ground problem. In a way, this erect penis stands as a symbol for Golden’s search for the erotic and summarizes much of her earlier work.

Susan Heinemann