Sunday, April 05, 2015

The Courage of the Pioneer

“I am a painter and my paintings are all I can contribute to this world."
Janet Lippincott

From telling the larger than life American World War Two general George S Patton to sit down and shut up to determining that 10 days of marriage was more than enough, American artist Janet Lippincott was a determined woman unafraid to follow her own path or speak her mind. Her long time dealer Karen Ruhlen described Lippincott as being "a little on the ornery side," but "Janet was an artist to the core. Making art was like breathing - it was her way of talking and expressing emotions."

In the early 1930’s as a young teen living in Paris, Lippincott discovered the aesthetic innovations of Picasso and Matisse, a life determining event that set her on the course to become a painter herself and an influence that remained with her for the rest of her life even after she embraced abstract expressionism. Lippincott’s return to New York saw the 15 year old enroll at the New York Art Students League.

After recovering from a broken back sustained whilst working under the command of General Eisenhower during the London Blitz Lippincott drove to Taos, New Mexico to attend Emil Bisttram’s School of Art. Upon her arrival Lippincott was told by the founder that she didn’t have what it takes to be an artist. She replied that the GI Bill was paying and she would stay. Twenty three years later Bisttram wrote a glowing review of a 1972 exhibition of her work.

But with her arrival in the 1950’s she was in the vanguard of abstract expressionism’s expansion into the United States South Western states. As she reportedly said "After the war, I came out here, and no one was doing any modern painting. Here I came with my screwball ideas and shook everybody up." To which she has elaborated "Abstract painting is an intellectual process. To be a modern painter and to make a truthful statement is the sum total of all I am and what I am continually striving to create.”

As the Santa Fean magazine wrote in 2011, four years after her death, “Compositionally akin to Matisse and Picasso, but with softer contrasts and kinder hues, and an innately more fluid if gauzy way with lines and shapes, Lippincott ended up an artist’s artist, and created lasting images of the female form and abstract arrangements of emotionally rich and inviting shapes.”

A selection of Lippincott’s works will be included in the NEW LANGUAGE, NEW VISTAS: Women Artists of New Mexico exhibition at Santa Fe’s Matthews Gallery from the 8th to the 31st of May.

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