Joan Semmel: Interview

Joan Semmel, Purple Diagonal, 1980 (courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York
Joan Semmel, Purple Diagonal, 1980 (courtesy Alexander Gray Associates, New York, © 2015 Joan Semmel / Artists Rights Society [ARS], New York)

Susan Silas interviews painter Joan Semmel. Across Fives Decades, a retrospective of Semmel's work is on view at Alexander Gray Associates, New York, through May 16, 2015.

Semmel comments: "I never thought of myself, when I switched over, as a 'figurative painter.' Never. I never made the break. I was never figural. What I was looking for were images that were iconic. I was looking for ways of making images that women would see as sexual for them, and so I wanted those images to register, and that is part of why I left the abstraction behind — because the abstract images are more diffuse... I knew that in taking that step I was isolating myself more and more from the mainstream of painting, and I was trying to find the bridge to connect to the mainstream also. So, by using both ways of working, I was hoping to establish that bridge. So for me, the abstraction was the external... The abstraction was the connection to the culture. And the image was an internal expression of what I was feeling."