An independent day school serving grades K-12 | St. Paul, MN

Isabelle McCormick '10


Born just after the launch of the World Wide Web, I paint as a way to digest digital zeitgeist through the handmade. Still, I question whether modern technologies have ushered in an era of empowered self-expression for women, or reinforce patriarchal motifs. I am struck by the centrality of the Venus figure throughout the complicated history of Western art. The influence of the Venus pudica tradition endures even today across the landscape of social media, where selfhood operates as currency. In the age of the nude #selfie, I revisit the bathing goddess’s gestures and the implicit presence of the voyeuristic gaze. A hollow, standalone avatar emerges across my paintings. Plastic and malleable, seductively painted. She is glued to the screen, her iPhone a phantom limb. I look to women artists critical of societal pressures to put your best face forward, from Orlan’s performances of plastic surgery to Cindy Sherman’s Instagram page. There is a reverence for “techne” in my formal approach, which seesaws between digital and painterly. I paint to slow down, filter the flood of online spectacle, and consider what it means to be a woman and artist in our hyperbolic world of retouching apps and reality TV.

After Frida, oil on canvas with gold leaf and Swarovski crystal rhinestones, 52x42x2in, 2020

Farnesina Filter, oil on canvas, 120x100x2cm, 2018

Banana in Repose, oil on canvas with gold leaf and Swarovski crystal rhinestones, 38x40x1.25in, 2020

Luke, oil on canvas, 10x10x1.25in, 2019