July 17, 2015 / 1:55pm
I really can’t get How to Remain Human artist Mary Ann Aitken's Self-Portrait (1983) out of my mind. The artist floats in a rough black field, a turbulent void. She wears her red painting robe, donned in the studio to protect her clothes from paint. In the painting, it protects her from the void. Compact and raw, her features are indistinct (two merged, bluish dots, a glob of dirty blonde) but her presence and energy are strongly felt. On the right, loose robe-hued brush strokes are casually placed, as if she were using the background itself as a palette (does painting have a fourth wall to break?). Every mark reflects and reveals the self. Aitken, an extremely private person, was hesitant to share her paintings while she was alive. Perhaps this was for the very reason that they disclosed so much of her in their intense, material sincerity.