Sunday, August 2, 2009


"Nipped In The Bud"

© J. Licsko 09


oil on canvas

The painting shown here was painted as my response to a very disturbing subject. The painting itself looks mild mannered enough and it is unlikely that anyone would guess it's true inspiration without accompanying words. It's raison d'etre is that I saw something that disturbed me greatly, and have been bothered by it for a long time.

It is said that the painting Guernica was Picasso's response to the atrocities of war. In my youth, I said many times with mocking irreverence that Guernica did nothing to stop wars. I questioned whether art in general had any real influence that mattered. In truth, I must confess that I have never seen Guernica in person, and I have been told I should reserve my judgement until then. Good advice for any subject, but I feel now that I have come to understand Picasso's Guernica with the struggle over my painting "Nipped in the Bud".

For those familiar with my style, you may have noticed that I like to paint pretty subjects. They frequently have a suggestion of something deeper, occasionally even sinister, but always it is my desire to add beauty to the world, and not add to the pain. There is enough already.

With "Nipped In The Bud" I felt challenged to use the pain that I felt, and still feel for the subject, but doing so while remaining true to my own style. It took many months before my muse dropped it on me. It felt like that.

I searched for a venue that might be looking for the subject matter. I searched the competitions lists, fundraisers that might benefit the victims or subjects of the paintings. Nothing showed itself. In the end, I painted it for myself, and here is where the reference to Guernica comes. In no way, am I comparing myself to Picasso, but I now understand when an artist is tortured by something, painting it is the best way to calm the beast. A small peace comes from the expression of it. I never had any illusions that my painting will change the ugly practice that it speaks of, but I have been able to put the thoughts of it into perspective. I can live with them, and if perchance there is the possibility that even one person was influenced by it and stopped their cruel intentions...well, one can dream.

The finished painting hung in my studio for several months before I heard of a planned exhibition by the South Bay Area and Peninsula Woman's Caucus for the Arts. They published a call for entries. The subject was "Control". It was to be juried by the Guerrilla Girls West. Most of you know that the Guerrilla Girls, whether East or West, have been bringing attention to the fact that women artists are underrepresented in the art world, past and present, in historical accountings, museums, and galleries. I am a fan of their work.

"Control" the exhibition, is a display of 79 women artists, all making a visual statement about the countless variations of control. There were no restrictions, we were invited to be even politically incorrect, control could be seen as positive or negative.

"Nipped In The Bud" , my entry, is my reaction to the 2002 film of Israeli director Doron Eran, created from a book written by Dorit Zilberman. The film "God's Sandbox" while having mixed reviews of it's directorial quality, stabbed me in the heart. I have wanted to find a way to express with my art my grief and outrage over the cruel and barbaric practice, female genital mutilation, more politely called female circumcision. According to the World Health Organization this practice has affected between 100- 140 million women and girls worldwide. Though illegal, this is even going on in Europe and North America. This protest is not against men specifically, this practice is thriving because of the heavy influence of grandmothers.

The image of a rose whose bud has been cut off before it's bloom, it is a metaphor not limited to female genital mutilation, but to all forms of oppression, including the seemingly innocuous verbal abuse. Someone who suffers the negative affects of control will never fully blossom to their full potential, never really know their full self.

I spoke in my post of June 3/09 Finding the Right Titles For Paintings about the significance of titles. This title "Nipped In The Bud" still sounds flippant to my ears, and not respectful of the subject. Nothing else appropriate came to mind. I stopped searching when I found that the phrase first appeared in a comedy by Beaumont and Fletcher in 1607. "Yet I can frowne and nip a passion Euen in the bud". The play is called Woman Hater.

At the:

Somarts Cultural Center,

Main Gallery,

934 Brannan St.,

San Francisco

I invite you to attend the opening of this very special exhibition August 6th, 2009, 6 - 8 p m, and watch the interview of curator Karen Gutfreund on Talk TV


  1. This is great post and your painting even greater,love it!! 6 of august Im in hospital trying to find out if Im OK to go on next 20 years or I have less.Greetings and all the best,Aleksandra

  2. Aleksandra, Sending you warm wishes and heart felt prayers for the best outcome. Joanne.

  3. Until you explained the catalyst for this painting, I assumed it was a more common situation of someone cutting off a creative effort with negativity. I don't think your title is flippant and I like the fact that it can be interpreted in many ways. Excellent post.

  4. the painting stands on its own, anything but mild-mannered though the choice of colours seem subdued. the image is powerful, title or no title. all of these factors add strength to the painting as a statement and art. and your words are very touching: this painting could influence governments to really clamp down on such a practice. r.

  5. That is a beautiful piece. And you're right. "Nipped in the Bud" does sound a bit flippant - until you look at the painting. When I saw this, I thought of potential lost. In fact, were I to name it - that IS what I would have named it - Potential Lost. But your name works nicely - and if you stop and think about it - there is a visceral level at which the name REALLY evokes a response.

  6. Hi Joanne
    Before I read down through your blog statement I knew exactly what horror was depicted in the work, Nipped In The Bud.
    As artists can we do anything other than speak through our paintings. Most of the time it's up to the viewer to determine the meaning of a painting, for me, my job is done once the work is complete but sometimes a statement is needed. This is one of those times. Well done. It's a subject that needs discussion.

  7. Chris.. I hadn't thought of it in terms of creative effort. Thanks!
    Rahina.. I wish that were true, but I think we must all rely on the power of the individual these days.
    LceeL.. I know what you mean .. it literaly hurts to think about it. Perhaps that's why it is so rarely mentioned.
    Ray.. You are so right, everything we paint speaks for and about us. Even when we paint to sell.

  8. I must admit Joanne that when I paint my intention is to capture in paint my feeling of joy in the colour, light, shadow and the sense of the spirits that surely wander forever in these natural places. Perhaps in a small way to show how quickly and easily we are losing these parts of our collective world.

    I salute you for bringing your art to such a grand height and helping to expose this ugly and abhorrent practise...thank you!


  9. This piece is incredible, both in conceptual realization, it's expression of a most despicable practice and draftswomanship. Thank you for painting it.