Penitence and Prowess

Faculty Advisor

Richman, Elise

Area of Study

Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Publication Date

Summer 2015


This summer research project gave me the time, space and means to explore both the technical approaches to painting and the inter-weavings of being an empowered woman. During this project, I had the opportunity to travel to Italy and peruse extensive collections and museums brimming with primary source material.

Exposure to some of the most renown paintings in European history informed a restructuring of my process and technical approach to painting; they encouraged a freer, more direct application of paint. By enlivening my mark-making, I found that the figures I was creating began to breathe, rising from a two dimensional reality into dynamic women, seething with ambition and voice.

In addition to this technical shift in style, I was struck by the content of classical painting. Themes from the Church’s artwork both inspired and appalled me. Centuries worth of oil painting follow a pattern of invasive, misogynistic portrayals of the female with the Madonna as their flagship. These classical works show the expected submission of the greater female population; they show women blind in their humanness. The submission of the female to the hand of god and male power sparked my creative combat. The result, Penitence and Prowess.

Penitence and Prowess is a body of work in which the female figure is employed as a seed of empowerment in place of objectification. These explorative portraits delve into the inner workings of power dynamics both in a historical and modern setting. This body of work is a reclaiming of female fortitude, right, and responsibility. The work plays with themes of reproductive health, freedom of choice, sexuality and vanity. Drawing inspiration from Marlene Dumas, Lucian Freud, Alice Neel, Francis Bacon and many more, I introduce a grouping of empowered women, confronting their beliefs, sexuality, and making definitive choices to combat centuries of systematic oppression.


University of Puget Sound

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