Painter Emily Mae Smith Explores Art History, Gender in ‘Feast of Totems’

by Andy SmithPosted on

With “Feast of Totems,” oil painter Emily Mae Smith examines and deconstructs motifs from art history, “claiming space for feminine subjectivity” and often featuring a multi-representational “Broom” character. The show kicks off on June 9 and runs through July 14 at the gallery Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin.


“The broom figure forms a kind of totem: an object imbued with a special power beyond its literal form,” a statement says. “Always contemplative, the broom alludes in turn to a paintbrush, a phallic symbol, a siren, an invisible laborer, and a mischievous interloper. These brooms are tools for new potentialities. Smith reimagines the gesture of the woman in William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s The Bather as the broom cleaning her bristles in The Gleaner. In Alien Shores, she draws upon the wistfulness of George Frederic Watts’ The Minotaur, investigating the psyche of this mythological creature in a strange new world. Each appropriation and interpretation toys with the viewer’s expectations of figurative painting and the role of the female in that space.”

See more of Smith’s work below.