Brenda Goodman’s Fearless Self-Portraits

Brenda Goodman, “Self-Portrait 4” (1994), oil on panel, 64 x 60 inches (all images © Brenda Goodman, courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York)

Brenda Goodman has been defining a singular path in painting at least since 1973, when she had her first exhibition in Detroit. From the paintings done around this time, it is immediately evident that Goodman was uninterested in either aligning herself with any of the styles going on around her or in making polite, palatable views. That early testimony to her fearlessness — which is still going strong — is apparent in the eight works done between 1974 and 2006 in the exhibition Brenda Goodman: Self-Portraits at Sikkema Jenkins & Co. (January 11 – February 12, 2022). 

While I have seen these and related self-portraits numerous times, as well as previously written about Goodman’s pursuit of this subject, the unlikely combination of raw pathos and tenderness always stops me in my tracks. The other thing that brings me up short is Goodman’s preoccupation with the body in tandem with her audacious rejection of portraiture based on likeness and the face.

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