Vanitas / DELIA BROWN
MARCH 19 - 27, 2022
Weekends: Noon – 5 pm / Monday - Friday: Noon - 3 pm
And By Appointment: 323.420.7330
The artist will be painting on the veranda throughout the exhibition.
Jennifer Lehr and Oxford House Projects are pleased to present Vanitas, an exhibition of self-portrait boudoir paintings by Delia Brown that explore the shelf life of a woman’s desirability in a youth-obsessed culture.
Both middle-aged and mid-career, with over twenty solo shows behind her, Vanitas marks Brown’s return to painting herself after a 12-year hiatus. Draped in nothing but sheer peignoirs as she lounges amidst velvet cushions and luxe fabrics, Brown renders herself both vulnerable and defiant. Staring unflinchingly at the viewer, she dares us to tell her what we think. Do we find her seductive and beautiful? Or, perhaps, pathetic and desperate? Does she care?
“Because I believed no one would want to look at me.”
Twenty-two years ago, Brown bounded into the art world, featuring herself in paintings of “faux-hedonistic soirées…set in the trash-chic mise-en-scène of a Brett East Ellis novel,” as Charles LaBelle aptly described them in Frieze. Brown continued to insert herself into her audacious explorations of class, lifestyle and feminine masquerade until, at 40, she disappeared from her work. A decade later, her sister finally asked her why. With a mix of shame and sadness, the lifelong feminist admitted, “Because I believed no one would want to look at me.” It’s a feeling, Brown explains, that only intensified after she went through early menopause following treatment (including a total hysterectomy) for cervical and uterine cancers.
Now she’s back — and exposed as never before. Barely dressed in looks inspired by the love interests in her favorite Peter Sellers films with nods to 19th Century odalisque paintings, Brown complicates the boudoir genre by taking on the role of both artist and model — albeit one that many might consider “past her prime.” In the spirit of 17th-Century vanitas still lifes that included an hourglass or skull to symbolize the brevity of our existence alongside frivolous objects and trophies of achievement, Brown offers up her aging body in aspirational settings to underscore the transitory nature of our lives.
Deepening the theme of mortality, Vanitas includes a portrait of Margo Leavin, the doyenne of the Los Angeles art world for over forty years, based on a snapshot Brown took during their last visit together just weeks before she died in October 2021. Sitting in her living room surrounded by the work of Yves Klein, John Chamberlain and Picasso, Leavin appears frail yet self-possessed. An important figure in Brown’s life, Leavin hosted an exhibition of Brown’s paintings that portrayed the two women in a mother-daughter relationship (No Place Like Home, 2001).
Oxford House Projects is located in the Los Feliz home of Jennifer Lehr, the setting for many of the paintings. Throughout the nine-day exhibition, the artist will be painting on the veranda where guests are welcome to enjoy coffee, tea or cocktails.
Delia Brown (b. Berkeley, CA, 1969) has held one-person shows at D’Amelio Terras and Tibor de Nagy, New York; Margo Leavin Gallery, Los Angeles; Baldwin Gallery, Aspen; Gallery Hyundai, Seoul; and Il Capricorno, Venice, Italy among others. Her self-portraits were the focus of a solo exhibition at The John Michael Koehler Arts Center. Her work is Included in museums collections including Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Berkeley Art Museum and Film Archives. Brown received her MFA from UCLA in 2000.