Portrait artist Mary Jane Ansell may dress up her female subjects in the traditional European fashions of men, but they evoke a strong femininity. Her near-hyper realistic oil paintings portray young girls who step into the roles of regents and soldiers, roles that women were not eligible for. Their clothing, such as the red coat, also takes on a modern connotation in fashion as being punk and fashionably forward. However, her subjects’ personalities are more refined than tomboyish, with a delicate beauty in the way she draws eyes and features. Ansell’s newer works mix such political elements with those of nature, such as flowers and animal skulls.
Some fans may recognize Ansell’s models from our previous coverage. The artist has been using recurring models for the past ten years, and their growth is a part of her characters’ narrative. It is also important to her as a woman, representing the bond between both characters, and artist and collaborator. Ansell has continually presented narratives about comradery in the spirit of friendship, something she now carries into her personal life as well. “These are all women of tremendous strength… Though presented via soft colors and moods. I quite often have the model looking directly at the viewer. This creates a real presence, almost a dialogue between the person looking at the painting and the subject who sat for it,” she shares. It’s a modern viewpoint that she presents in the US for the first time with her current exhibition “Liberty’s Arc” at Arcadia Gallery in New York. Her exhibition features sixteen new oil on aluminum panels, on view through July 10th.