Score: 93/100 (9.3 out of 10)
This haunting, nightmarish work of acrylic art by feminist artist Kristan Ryan packs a ton of punch in just one static image! If art is evaluated solely on shear beauty, then it can be said that this painting is no Mona Lisa—but that's not the point. Art can also be evaluated by one simple but crucial question: how much can an artist say without saying anything (written or spoken)?
There's not much more you can say with one image than this.
Let's look at the woman in the painting first as she's the center of our focus. Take note of her wrinkles, particularly the ones on her head and cheeks. These wrinkles tell us that she is quite old or even elderly, at least past middle-age. By extension, this also tells us that she has been holding these thoughts, feelings, and frustrations in for a long time. Furthermore, look at her size. She's not a small lady, in fact she's quite overweight or even obese (perhaps over 220 pounds). We can take away from this that she has A LOT of pent up thoughts, feelings, and frustration inside of her.
We may be able to take away from the fact that she still wears makeup (apparently rouge on her cheeks and possibly red lipstick) that she has been covering up her natural appearance (or feelings), concealing her symbolic wrinkles and frown. Similarly, she clearly must dye her hair at that age, further concealing herself. Like her wrinkles, her hair seems to ripple, wave, and flare out and away from the center point from which the birds (or words) are leaving her mouth—almost like shockwaves from an explosion or from a strong gust of wind. It's an incredible release of force and fury!
Observe the colors. The red, orange, and simmering yellow are the colors of fire—flames burning. The flames appear hotter on her right than on her left, and she is also facing toward the right, possibly implying that her ideas are coming from a Left-leaning socio-political ideology toward those on the Right.
Her hand positioning and gesture suggest she is choking or has been choking, but they also indicate where her words are coming from (her heart). Her hands may be disproportionately small. Also, her breasts seem too low on her body (almost to the mid-point). This is not a hyper-realistic painting, we understand. Her right arm is clearly smaller than her left which may play along with the idea that she is Left-leaning politically.
Now to break down the birds in the painting. The bird on the right (the woman's left) appears like it's going to join the “fire” or the background. Or perhaps, more importantly, its going to tell others about the woman's ideas. The blue one and the brown one both seem happy to have escaped.
The brown one seems curious about where the blue one is going or is perhaps happy for it. Are these analogous or symbolic for different groups of people or different ideologies?
While initially we thought the expression of the woman to be of anger or fury, it might actually be an expression of shock and/or surprise. Perhaps it's a combination of both or many of these emotions. That's a whole range of emotions in one little picture!
Check out more of artist Kristan Ryan's art at: