Marilyn Minter is a feminist painter and photographer. Although she treats some of her photographs as free-standing artworks, her primary mode is found in her monumental paintings finished with layers of thinned enamel paint. Minter’s billboard sized paintings reveal a spectrum of human desires: sex, food, beauty, and affection. Her work is grounded in the bodies of women as she depicts women as empowered objects of desire.
Minter received her B.F.A. from the University of Florida and her M.F.A. from Syracuse University in 1976. She lives and works in New York and teaches in the M.F.A. Department at New York’s School of Visual Arts. A political activist, Minter serves on the art committee for Downtown for Democracy. In 2015, she received Planned Parenthood’s Women of Valor Award, an organization for which she raised over 3 million dollars.
From the late 1970s Minter made photorealistic oil paintings of everyday objects such as linoleum floors and the detritus on them. Other early paintings were based on photographs of girls or starlets, seen through faux dot-screens like those used in offset printing. In the late 1980s, faux dot-screens also appeared in her small enamel paintings of the “100 Food Porn” series 1989-1990, which featured suggestive foods being cracked open, knifed, or peeled apart.
Minter started with negatives of commercial photographs reconfigured in Photoshop to make new images. These are turned into paintings through the layering of enamel paint on aluminum. In this way Minter creates her illusionistic paintings of body parts awash in bling, jewels, liquid gold, and silver beads.
When Minter began to shoot her own photographs, she used digital manipulation for further departures from the real. She has never pictured a full figure or a clothed one. While lipstick and eye shadow were vividly shown, so were blemishes, pimples, or chipped nail polish. The way she staged her models challenged commercial photography but also circled back into it. While the fashion industry would put jewels delicately into a model’s mouth, Minter “would cram them in.”
In the 2014 video “Smash” a pair of feet, strapped into jeweled, silvery high-heeled sandals, stomps through liquid and shattered glass to percussive music. A series of new paintings is based on photographs of women behind steamed or frosted panes of glass, some beaded with water.
Her work has appeared in group exhibitions throughout the world including San Francisco MoMA, MOCA Cleveland, and MoMA New York. In 2006 she was included in the Whitney Biennial. She has had solo exhibitions in Los Angeles and New York in 2009 and 2011. Her video “Green Pink Caviar” was exhibited in the lobby of MoMA in 2010 and was also shown on digital billboards on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. In 2015, her Retrospective “Pretty/Dirty” was seen at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston. It traveled to MOCA Denver and finally to the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.