“I enjoy being a woman painting woman. It’s a strange self-reflective exercise of being both the examiner and the examinee. And I particularly enjoy riffing on the works of old masters, shifting the viewer’s perception.”
Native French, Brooklyn-based artist Julie Curtiss is celebrated for her beguiling paintings of women, still lifes and mannered landscapes in a highly-saturated, cartoonish, post-Imagist style. Indeed, it’s important to consider Curtiss’s work as a continuum of a specific aesthetic ancestry: the enigmatic, quintessential Chicago artist Cristina Ramberg, whose modestly scaled and delicately rendered paintings of women’s tightly cropped torsos clearly prefigure her own. Where Curtiss departs from Ramberg is her considerably brighter, conspicuously millennial palette: a spectrum of bubblegum pinks, sky blues and golden yellows. When darker hues are deployed—to depict hair, for example—they are velvety and rich, like icing on a pastry; fittingly, the artist’s first job in New York was selling macaroons in a café. Redfaced is an outstanding example of the artist’s signature approach to portraiture. Shown in profile, her features hidden behind a disturbingly gnarly hand with blood red nails, Curtiss’s subject is all tumbling brown hair and flushed pink skin, her neck and wrists cinched with frills. Curiously, the profile casts a hard-edged and close shadow, as though the subject is sizzling against a wall under the glare of a camera flash. This effect creates a visually satisfying rhyme with the points of her nails, and ties together the thoughtfully bizarre composition.