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View of “Helène Aylon,” 2019. From left: Drifting Pink, 1970; Whirling White, 1971; Brazen White, 1972; Laden White, 1970. Photo: Jeffrey Sturges.

Helène Aylon

Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects

In 1963, two years after Helène Fisch (née Greenfield) became widowed at age thirty, she was painting a mural for a community center when a newspaper reporter asked for her name. Spontaneously, she replied, “Helène Aylon,” offering a shortened Hebraic version of her first name for her last. This creation story is untold in the artist’s various exhibition reviews from the 1960s and ’70s, but I find it central to her often self-mythologizing work. Also essential: In those high and hard times, Aylon was raising her two children alone, struggling to be both an artist and a mother. But by 1970 she had been “rescued” by feminist philosophers and writers including Maya Angelou, Mary Daly, Andrea Dworkin, and Adrienne Rich. Reading them lifted her up. “I realized,” she noted, “that these role models did not tremble in their lives the way I did in my splattered smock.”

Aylon’s “Elusive Silver”

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