Mystic Strangers: A Feminist Revisitation of the Art of Richard Lindner

Mentor: Joe Lucchesi

Abstract: This St. Mary's Project examines a body of work produced during the last decade and a half of German-American artist Richard Lindner's life. In particular, this study focuses on the ways in which Lindner discusses, defines, and portrays the relationship between men and women in his paintings. Since his rise in popularity during the 1960s, Lindner's work has frequently been interpreted as depicting a world in which men are tyrannized by malicious and aggressively sexual women. Typically these narratives have focused on Lindner's portrayals of powerful women, and scholars have frequently emphasized how aspects of his visual rhetoric comprise a vision of a world turned inside-out. As a result, the body of scholarship surrounding Lindner's artwork has become entrenched in the assumption that his work is born out of concerns about the dangers of female sexuality. This paper challenges the established patterns of art historical discourse that govern popular understandings of Lindner's art in order to investigate the ways in which his imagery can be recontextualized to support alternative perspectives. Utilizing Judith Butler's theory of gender performativity to uncover the "hidden" function of these paintings, this paper revisits Lindner's depiction of men, women, and the "couple motif" in order to demonstrate the potential for these images to function within a feminist framework. It is the author's intention that this addition to the scholarly narrative serves to open the doors to new, expanded, and more progressive interpretations of Lindner's body of work.