For over four decades, Stanley has utilized narrative motifs culled from early Western Art History’s primary subjects –– Greek mythology and Christianity –– to create scathingly humorous indictments of gender inequity, sexual politics, economic disparity, and everyday instances of bad behavior.
Stanley’s pointed criticisms are couched in her absurdist take on storytelling and figuration. Her affinity for satire, visual puns, and the outrageous is rooted in her time as a student at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts). Stanley, who relocated to the Bay Area from Southern California in 1965, was an early participant in the movement that would come to be known as “Bad Painting” –– named for the landmark 1978 New Museum exhibition of the same title. Like Judith Linhares, Jim Nutt, Charles Garabedian, and Robert Colescott, Stanley embraces “[Bad Painting’s] disregard for accurate representation and its rejection of conventional attitudes about art.” (Marcia Tucker, New Museum, 1978)
Influenced by classical antiquity, underground comics, outsider art, and American kitsch in equal measure, Stanley’s paintings joyfully dispense with preconceived notions of what constitutes “good” and “bad” taste. Moreover, no saint, muse, god, or mythic hero is exempt from the human foibles and modern problems that plague us all.
Garage Sale (1996) is one such work that demonstrates Stanley’s populist approach to art historical iconography. Here, she has outfitted a modest stucco bungalow with a Grecian pediment and populated the scene with a sleeping Pope Innocent X and various bargain-hunting saints. Relics are laid out on a folding table, severed breasts and hands scattered among used bibles, crosses, and assorted indulgences. She writes, “Inspired by Giotto’s Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, this image pays homage to a California pastime and offers a solution to the glut accumulated by successive Popes.”
With recent gouaches, Comeuppance and Bad Bankers (2018), Stanley creates her own versions of illuminated manuscript pages that speak to pressing political realities. Drawing from time spent pouring over 15th Century manuscripts as an assistant at the Rare Books Collection at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, Stanley’s manuscripts deftly allude to the moralizing tone of her source material. Handbag-weilding vigilantes and Lady Justice are depicted righting egregious wrongs committed by men who have habitually abused their power. Spankings and purse-wallopings become comically polite punishments for large-scale tax fraud schemes and gross sexual misconduct.These scenes are accompanied by brief texts that read like choice quotations from the New York Times –– while Stanley’s words are not direct quotes, it is not difficult to imagine them being uttered by Elizabeth Warren or Harvey Weinstein.
M. Louise Stanley holds a BA from La Verne College, BFA and MFA from the California College of Arts and Crafts, and is a longtime fixture of the Bay Area arts community.
M. Louise Stanley: Epic Tales
Exhibition Dates: November 14 – December 21, 2019
Opening Reception: Saturday, November 16, 2019 from 4pm – 7pm
Anglim Gilbert Gallery
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA 94107