Betty Tompkins

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Betty Tompkins’s ‘Green Dicks’ Is No Limp Attempt at Smushing the Patriarchy

(Photo courtesy of Fortnight Institute)

(Photo courtesy of Fortnight Institute)

A new art show at the Fortnight Institute is flipping the script on a persistent imbalance in the art world. While men still dominate the major museums, massive retrospectives, and money-makers of the art market, most of the weens found at DICKS (on view now through December 4) are actually nailed to the wall.

All but one of the eight participating artists are women, and each artwork included in the show (paintings, photography, and sculpture) is strikingly phallocentric and jarringly figurative. DICKS is so literal in its approach to the ding-dong (arguably the most hilarious feature associated with the male anatomy) that the show was announced without explanation. The title, and a glimpse of Betty Tompkins’s contribution, Dick Painting #3, said it all.

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Seven Badass Things Said By ‘Fuck Paintings’ Artist Betty Tompkins

"Word Paintings" by Betty Tompkins, on view at FLAG (Photo: Nicole Disser)

“Word Paintings” by Betty Tompkins, on view at FLAG (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Since we last caught up with Betty Tompkins– the downtown artist best known for her “Fuck Paintings,” she’s been doing what an established artist should be doing, showing her work at art shows and galleries galore. But for most of her career, as we learned, Tompkins was subject to censorship, sexism, and flat-out rejection not just from gallerists and the art world, but from first- and second-wave feminists too. Nevertheless, Tompkins kept painting nether regions and money shots, all of it sourced from porn. “The problem is, I’m a slut for painting,” she said.

We heard all this and more at “A Woman’s Greatest Weapon is Her Tongue,” a Q&A held in conjunction with Tompkins’s new solo exhibition of “Word Paintings,” which depict some of the “awfully familiar” words used to describe women. (“WOMEN Words Phrases Stories” is on view at the FLAG Art Foundation through May 14).

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How the ‘Fuck Paintings’ of Betty Tompkins Landed in Art Jail

"Ersatz Kiss #1" by Betty Tompkins (Photo: Nicole Disser)

left, “Ersatz Kiss #1” and right, “Masturbation Painting #9” by Betty Tompkins (Photo: Nicole Disser)

Betty Tompkins spent decades working as, in her own words, “your typical rejected artist.” On and off again since 1969, she’s painted up-close-and-personal images of sex– literally, contact between nether regions, penetration, and other intimate moments. But it wasn’t until more than 30 years later that her work, more specifically her “fuck paintings,” began getting more attention than shame. Recently, the artist has revived the subject that inspired her the most and continues to evolve her process, as seen in her latest work now on view at BHQFU‘s project space and gallery FUG (Foundation University Gallery) in the East Village, as part of Tompkins’ solo show, Real Ersatz. 

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