Born and educated in San Francisco, Joan Brown was a prominent Bay Area Figurative painter. Her influence and that of other artists made California, and the Bay Area in particular, an important artistic center of the mid-twentieth century. Her first museum show was at the Whitney Museum in 1960, when she was only 22. People and Eye Trees in the Park in Madrid is typical of Brown’s early style: a brightly colored, thickly pigmented, and textural figurative tableau on a huge canvas. A nature scene with swaths of blazing pinks and blues, the painting features “eye trees” that seem to stare past the shaded figure in red to the nude figure—perhaps a bather in a park lake—who appears to “moon” the viewer.
As Brown matured as an artist, she focused on imagery that drew from her personal life, merging imagery of her home, studio, and beloved city with her interests in animals, dance, swimming, and the art and religion of other cultures. Over time, the lines between these interests began to blur. Hybrid figures and scenes crossed between reality and the imagined, the mundane and the spiritual, reflecting her introspective spiritual life. She travelled extensively in the 1970s, studying the different cultures that influenced her work, then returned to California in 1974 to teach at UC Berkeley. Brown was known to completely change her painting style when her work became routine. By the 1980s, she withdrew from painting altogether to concentrate on public sculpture with Egyptian and Hindu influences. Tragically, she was killed in India in 1990 while installing her last work, an obelisk, in a reflecting pool at the Heritage Museum, following the collapse of a concrete turret.
Artist: Joan Brown
Title: People and Eye Trees in the Park in Madrid
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimension: 72 1/8 x 96 in. (183.2 x 243.84 cm)
Collection: The Buck Collection at the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art
Copyright: © 8-3-2018 Noel Neri