Kathe Burkhart is an artist and writer who uses images and text to, in her words, “articulate a radical female subject.” She considers this confrontational, sensual work, entitled Fuck You: From The Liz Taylor Series (After Bert Stern) (1984), to be the first fully realized canvas in this series, which has been ongoing since 1982. The large-scale, richly saturated paintings combine appropriated portraits of actress Elizabeth Taylor (here, in a shot of her as Cleopatra taken by Bert Stern for Vogue magazine in 1962) with profane language, shattering both female stereotypes and conventions of representation. Taylor was a controversial feminist figure throughout her career, conveying equal parts bravura, sexual power, and vulnerability. Burkhart — collapsing the genres of portraiture and self-portraiture — treated the actress as a figure for her own life in the diary-like narrative series.
Kathe Burkhart’s Prick: From the Liz Taylor Series (Suddenly Last Summer) (1987) is based on a scene from the 1959 film Suddenly Last Summer, starring Elizabeth Taylor. The artist has amassed an extensive archive of film stills of Taylor, which she uses for an ongoing series based on the actress’s image — works she sees as self-portraits related to her own life through the choice of image and text. For Burkhart, Taylor represents an important and iconic early feminist:
“Liz Taylor as an actress was often gender nonconforming, and unlike Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland and other Hollywood victims, she survived.
Photographed as Part of Fast Forward: Painting From The 1980s at the Whitney Museum of Americana Art, on Exhibit Through May 14th, 2017.