Laila Pedro interviews painter Joan Semmel whose works were recently on view at at Alexander Gray Associates, New York.
Semmel remarks: “I talk about [political and cultural] issues because they’re motivational. But I want the work to be seen as my painting, and the painting has been an essential and complete involvement for me, all the way through. I started as an Abstract Expressionist. I had a whole career as an Abstract Expressionist. That was my first joy: working abstractly with just pure paint. The pure paint gradually evolved to more closed forms and I gradually went back more and more toward different kinds of structure in paintings. When I came back to New York, and came into the feminist movement, that was the change that triggered the figurative work. It wasn’t because I was a figurative painter or because I needed to make figures. It was because what was so complete in my life at that point was to be able to express certain ideas that had to do with my involvement politically, and I have maintained that ever since. But I was exploring painting itself, so that it was also about the unity of style and content.”