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"Semmel was always articulate about what she intended. She was breaking the rules. She was trying to create visual material that spoke to women and to female desire. And she inhabits her skin in a remarkable and comfortable way. You can see that in every self-portrait she paints... Semmel: 'You have to realize that ...back in the early ’70s ... things were very different then. Sexuality now is an open book. The conditions today are quite different.'" http://hyperallergic.com/198526/on-sexual-paintings-and-shifting-images-an-interview-with-joan-semmel/
"...a painter who has centered her practice around issues of the body, from desire to aging, as well as those of identity and cultural imprinting....
In the 1970s, Semmel began her exploration of female sexuality with the Erotic Series, large scale depictions of highly sexual positions. Her reclaimed gaze of the female nude heralded a feminist approach to painting and representation in the 1970s. Produced at a pivotal moment in her practice and in the cultural landscape of First-wave Feminism, her Erotic Series depicts couples entwined in various coital positions rendered with expressive gesture, exemplifying her keen understanding of color and composition. In 1973, she makes a definitive formal shift from abstraction by fully embracing figuration. Using her own body as subject, she began depicting her nudeness on canvas, shifting the perspective from that of an observer to a personal point of view. During the mid-to-late-1970s, Semmel turned to photography to capture reflections of her own body onto mirrors as documented by the camera.
Recently, Semmel has meditated on the aging female physique; recent paintings continue the artist’s exploration of self-portraiture and female identity. These works represent the artist’s body, doubled, fragmented, and in-motion. Dissolving the space between artist and model, viewer and subject, the paintings are notable... http://www.alexandergray.com/artists/joan-semmel