Sylvia Sleigh

Milwaukee Art Museum

These 19 paintings done since 1971 demonstrate the fertile if restricted nature of Sylvia Sleigh’s vision. At the core of Sleigh’s work is her canny ability to reanimate the most traditional formats of Western painting with new and charged meanings. In the ’70s her variants on the odalisque, in which she substituted a male model for the ubiquitous harem girl, were important salvos in the development of a feminist voice in painting. Utilizing precisely the pictorial voice they aim to subvert, works like Imperial Nude: Paul Rosano, 1976, turned the tables and functioned as willful correctives.

Sleigh employs various artistic genres, including single and group portraiture, mythological and religious narrative, the nude, the seraglio, and even a kind of contemporary history painting. She does not always eschew the dictates of these traditions, but approaches them obliquely, sometimes subversively

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