Women Portraying Women: Mixed Media Messages of Female Empowerment

Four Artspan artists discuss the motivations behind their focus on the feminine.

Marie Loparco Dancing
Dancing, Marie LoParco

Featured in this article are four of Artspan’s female mixed media artists who share the motivations and techniques behind the messages of empowerment, strength and spirituality channeled through portrayals of women on canvas.

Fiction writer-turned-artist Penelope Przekop considers portraying women in her vibrant mixed media works incredibly important. Instead of focusing on the outward appearance of her female subjects, the adventurous artist makes what’s on the inside count. “I prefer to focus on what is real within women” says Przekop, whose work hangs in galleries in Italy, the US and South America. Przekop uses a variety of materials such as acrylic, pastel and ink to create her textured pieces. She paints primarily with her fingers and pallet knives.

The Resilient

The Resilient (Wounded but not Broken), Penelope Przekop

Her large work The Resilient (wounded but not broken) speaks to the differentiation between “being okay externally, versus being okay internally” Przekop explained. “The women in this piece are considered beautiful by cultural standards, yet each are flawed. For example, one has no head, two are blind, two have abnormal faces, yet they all exhibit strong, deliberate posture,” said Przekop. “I like how at first glance, the work may appear to be a colorful, pretty picture but if one takes a deeper look, the emotional complexity can be easily found.”

Deborah Stevenson creates seamless collages, which often feature women. While at first glance, many of the carefully placed juxtapositions can come off as tongue-in-cheek, Stevenson intends to send a deeper message of female empowerment. “I am very concerned with the ways in which the feminine principle is suppressed, warped, and thwarted” explained the Brooklyn-based artist.

Conversation Piece Deborah Stevens
Conversation Piece, Deborah Stevenson

According to Stevenson, the collage Conversation Piece expresses the way in which women are objectified by men, and culture in general. “I suppose it's self-explanatory, but I hope it also promotes again the idea of a woman at ease with her body and herself, and the encroachment upon that freedom that the male gaze represents” said Stevens. “The men are clothed, while she is not; they represent 'decency' and 'propriety' of society, vs. the undeniable grace and beauty of nature and woman” said Stevenson.

Deborah Stevenson Mother Love
(M)other Love, Deborah Stevenson

(M)other Love takes the familiar image of the Madonna and Child, and transforms Mary into the voluptuous Gina Lollobrigida. “I'm challenging the notion of a sexless woman, says Stevens. “Instead of a meek, virginal matron, Mary is re-imagined as a proud, self-possessed, sensual woman. It's a way to reclaim the essential power of the Feminine.”

Like Stevenson, mixed media artist Marie LoParco also takes inspiration from religious icons. Her work focuses on women as symbols of spirituality and is largely influenced by her studies of female archetypes depicted throughout the history of art, particularly in during the Renaissance and Midieval periods. “I feel that there is much these archetypes can teach us by inspiring in us specific qualities so needed in our time” said LoParco. “These qualities include our potential for compassion, wisdom, strength, courage, singleness of purpose and fierce love.”

Marie LoParco Floating Angel
Floating Angel, Marie LoParco

LoParco’s Floating Angel employs materials ranging from decorative paper to fabric. The piece exemplifies the artist’s fondness for using symbolism. “The leaf she holds represents women’s role as nurturer and protector of the earth, as well as her regard for the sacredness of all life” she explained. Recently, LoParco has been expanding her repertoire of decorative papers by experimenting with various printing techniques including linocuts for relief printing and monoprinting to create colorful designs.

Holly Manneck's mixed media collages typically feature well-groomed women found in magazines from the 1950’s and 60’s. “In my art I try to capture the human spirit as universal” says Manneck. “I do this from a female point of view because that is what I am and what I know best." The artist features women from this time period to “give them a voice of empowerment, which they didn’t necessarily have at the time” she explained. “By incorporating my own photography and using contemporary techniques, which create a bold contrast with the images of the past, I hope to give these women the strong voice we have today.”   

Holly Manneck
Beach Runners, Holly Manneck

Manneck’s painting of the iconic Marilyn Monroe Perfectly Imperfect is one of many vibrant pieces featuring the late actress. “I see Marilyn as a person that went through much adversity in life, yet kept striving to learn and grow despite her struggles” said Manneck. “We women have such great strength of spirit, and I try and reflect that in my art."

 

Penelope Przekop: www.penelopeprzekop.com

Deborah Stevenson: www.deborahstevenson.com

Marie LoParco: marieloparco.artspan.com

Holly Manneck: manneckart.artspan.com

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