Marilyn Minter has been bringing an unapologetic view of womanhood to the art world for the past 30 years. Her most well-known works feature extreme close-ups of women's mouths, overfilled with glitter or pearls; tongues become textured landscapes and papillae become the new erotic. Marilyn's work was seen as highly controversial and anti-feminist by some in the '90s. But this was a fundamental misunderstanding: her images served society's expectations of women back to us, amplified. The best part about her porn-paintings series—many of them featuring cropped views of women's mouths and penises—is the fact that you could trade the penis for a bottle of water or perfume and the images would just look like regular magazine advertisements.
Her work, which also includes photographs and videos, can currently be seen in a retrospective, which started at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston and will end at the Brooklyn Museum this fall. When you see her decades-long oeuvre, a story clearly emerges. From the photographs of her mother's off-kilter glamour, to linoleum floors and disembodied women, her work keeps taking a closer and closer look at what it means to be a woman, at what makes a woman, as close as our pores and beyond. These paintings are extraordinary in person; there is a depth of color, the evidence of human touch that is imperceptible in pictures in books and on the Internet.
We met at Marilyn's studio in New York City's garment district on a warm afternoon. While we spoke, her assistants were working on beautiful large-scale paintings, dabbing away with their fingers on abstractions of women who seem to be standing behind heavily condensed glass. She has a show opening in tandem with her retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum this fall and is also hard at work on some impressive initiatives for Planned Parenthood. Marilyn talks a mile a minute, and she made me feel so comfortable that, without realizing it, I had put my leg up on my chair while we were chatting like I was hanging out at my best friend's house. As she ate her lunch, we talked about the state of reproductive rights in the United States, Miley Cyrus, and the best way to deal with trolls.
Laia Garcia: So you have a retrospective that is now in Orange County and is coming to Brooklyn in the fall. What was it like when you first walked into your retrospective? Seeing all your works, all your children, together?