Audrey Flack Visits UT

Published: Apr 15, 2004
As she crosses North Boulevard while walking to UT's Bailey Art Studios, the renowned artist Audrey Flack might easily be mistaken for a young professor. What belies her spry step is that the 73-year-old Flack has been an artistic force for decades.

Arriving on campus in early April, the New York native participated for nearly two weeks in the University's STUDIO-f visiting artist program. Together with master printer Carl Cowden, she produced a series of monotype prints based on her sculpture, Bella Apollonia, recently dedicated at the Tampa Museum of Art.

 

Having earned international acclaim for her photorealist paintings, Flack surprised the art world by venturing away from painting in 1982. Since then, she has created sculptures of women in strong, confident form. Such is the case with Bella Apollonia , a five-foot bronze figure depicting a feminine and powerful Art Muse holding brushes high as she steps forward.

"She's come back to deliver and reintroduce art, meaning, poetry and music. She's strong and triumphant," said Flack about Bella Apollonia . "She's holding her arm above her head, but she doesn't have a sword in it. She's got paint brushes!"

Speaking to an audience of nearly 100 listeners at the Scarfone/Hartley Galleries on April 14, Flack provided insight on her work, much of which resides in major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, Whitney and Guggenheim.

"True art puts you in touch with that part of yourself that knows the truth," said Flack, before discussing work such as Macarena of Miracles, a painting based on a 17th-century sculpture of an extravagant Spanish woman shedding tears.

Flack wants to offer her work in public places so that a female energy might provide balance for what she sees as the prevailing male view. She said that she has long tired of seeing statues of women looking up at generals on horses. Her goal is to create new mythological ideals of women, but for a universal audience.

 

"When I saw that statue of Saddam Hussein come down, I wondered what are they going to put up there? Another man? A mullah?" she asked. "I would love to put up a statue in place of Saddam Hussein of a beautiful, strong and intelligent female. Let them learn about that kind of a healing spirit."

 

A female perspective is for her, of course, inherent. But she said that she rarely produces consciously feminist work. Although Audrey Flack is a feminist, she does not want to be misunderstood by such a characterization.

 

"I think that anyone that believes in equality is a feminist," she says. "Yes, I'm a feminist. But it also depends on your definition — I happen to like men! But men need to be feminists. Maybe we should call it humanist ."

 

Emely Martinez, a junior art student at UT, said that she was grateful for the STUDIO-f visiting artist program and the opportunity to hear from well-known artists like Flack.

 

"It gives us a chance to meet new artists and really think outside our own horizons," said Martinez after talking briefly with Flack.

St. Petersburg artist Lisa Kirksey traveled to the University to learn from Flack, whom she considers heroic. She remembers her first exposure to Flack's work while an art student in the early '80s. Since then, she has been inspired by her art and ability to raise two children, one of whom has autism.

 

"The women she creates are introspective," said Kirksey. "They exist apart not from men, but apart from popular expectations. Audrey never followed the norm. That seems to be the underlying theme with great artists. I consider her to be a great artist."

 

As a group of young students from Tampa Prep viewed Bella Apollonia at the Tampa Museum of Art, thirteen-year-old Hannah Sheinberg lingered close to examine the figure with appreciation.

 

"A lot of people make statues of men," said Sheinberg. "Nowadays, women are starting to be recognized as powerful, too."

 

For more information on the STUDIO-f visiting artist program, contact Scarfone/Hartley Galleries Director Dorothy Cowden at (813) 253-6217 or dcowden@ut.edu .

Q&A with Audrey Flack

 
Your sculptures reveal a strong, feminine spirit that is confident and independent. Is that how you would describe yourself?I hope so. I hope I am, but sometimes I'm not so confident. Sometimes I look confident. Sometimes I feel confident, like all of us!

You've written that an artist has to leave the ego at the door and yet your sculptures are of very strong women. Is there a contradiction?No! I think that true strength doesn't depend on ego.

What do you think of the images of women presented today with icons such as Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears?
I think the women are great looking. I think they are getting stronger. I love their bodies and I love to look at their bodies. They are young. They are going through their paces. They will get in trouble. They'll have problems. They will grow up and they will become stronger. They are young, beautiful women that are testing themselves out in a way that women were never allowed to.

Bella Apollonia
appears to be in thought. What is she thinking about?
Well, she's stopping time because she has a Roman numeral clock in her left hand. I guess she's saying that you must be of the moment. You've got to look and see beauty. Hear beauty. Write beauty. Read beauty. And you don't fool around with her. She's telling you very strongly!


How would you describe the women you have created?
They are there to be dealt with. They are often kind and intelligent, but they are not just laying down for the titillation of the male gaze. They are not Playboy magazine images.


How have colleges changed from when you were in school and what you see at The
Universityof Tampa ?They weren't like this. I'm kind of amazed! You have a fabulous cafeteria. It's almost like a casino! You can get everything you want.


Are you creating new archetypes for women?
Yes, I hope so. Because the only ones that I had were the Greek statues that had no arms, right? And a woman with no arms is pretty helpless. The Greeks would never have shown Venus de Milo with arms. Never in a million years would they have done that.