Yeffe Kimball, Fawn and Spirits, 1942, oil on canvas, 19 in x 29 in, Portland Art Museum, gift of Dr. William K. Livingston.
I recently fell in love with this painting at the Portland Art Museum. I tried to find more information about it on the internet but couldn't even locate an image. I eventually contacted the museum, who is permitting me to use this image for my post.
Information on the artist Yeffe Kimball (? - 1978) is scarce on the internet, but the little information I did find was fascinating and quite controversial. Kimball, who is a noted figure in the modern Native American arts community, is believed to have fabricated her ancestral connection to the Osage tribe. This raises a lot of questions for me on how an artist's personal life impacts our opinion of their work. Here we have an example of an artist whose artistic career greatly benefited from her cultural claims. Her works have hung in numerous museums and galleries, some dedicated solely to Native American art.
I would be lying if I were to say that this doesn't bother me. If Kimball doesn't have any Native American roots, then her work shouldn't be recognized as modern Native American art.
Jackson Pollock, Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist),1950, National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund, 1976.
I realize that a lot of great art comes with controversy, controversy related to the art itself and controversy pertaining to the individual artist. I watched the film Pollock for the first time just last week. I have always been a huge fan of Jackson Pollock's art, but, while watching the movie, I was reminded again of the details surrounding his tragic death. While drinking and driving, he killed himself and a passenger in his car. I struggle with the fact that his reckless actions took another life, and yet his painting, No. 5, 1948, sold for $140 million dollars in 2006- the highest price tag for a painting to date.
Art is not meant to be black and white, I get it. And, as much as we like to talk about "pretty" art, sometimes we need to ask the hard questions. So, what do you think? Should the details of an artist's personal life have any impact in our response to their art?