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Maggie Colombo Virtual Art Gallery

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Self Portrait

This exploration in abstract portraiture is also an exploration in how we view ourselves. In painting this, I took notice of the ways my choices in representing myself differed from the factual truths of my appearance. I allowed myself to be curious as to why certain features felt quintessentially me.  I wondered if my adamance towards the hairstyle- a combination of my current hairstyle (pigtails) and my hair cut from age 18 (short with bangs)- represented my identity from a formative moment of my life colliding with my identity today. This painting became an expression of how our identities are not just our current selves, but all the selves we have been.​

I also noticed how I felt joyful in accurately representing features that are not always easy to love- my asymmetrical eyes, hooked nose, birthmark, and tendency towards tears. While I had the power of the creator to erase these flaws, to make my image "perfect", I took hold of the power to choose, and still chose who I really am.
 

Oil on canvas, 2022

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Whale Tail

Oil on canvas, 2022

This painting looks at the image of the “hot girl” through the lens of a young girl. Far before we understand what “sexy” means, young girls want to be sexy. We look up to the hot girls with a belief that the hot girl held power. We wanted to be her. It was an understanding of “sexy” without any sex, and an understanding of “hot” without a desire for male attention. As a young girl, I looked up to the hot girl and, growing up in the 2000s, there was nothing more emblematic of the hot girl than the "whale tail”.

The use of purple skin places the hot girl into the young imaginary by divorcing her from reality. This represents how a young girl's magical understanding of hot girls is an idealized vision of womanhood. Replacing her skin tone with an alien-like appearance removes her from the male gaze by making her fleshless. While the inhuman colors desexualize her, the vibrance of the colors, particularly the use of the hot pink thong, allows her to still maintain her “hotness.” 
 

Party Worms

This painting represents the duality of girlhood- the wonder and joy of growing up, alongside the gruesomeness of becoming aware of your role in society. 

Young girls, like young boys, love nature, animals, and weird things. A 4 year old girl will laugh and smile at the sight of a worm. As she ages, she will be taught that the worms are for the boys. Girls are supposed to be grossed out by bugs, not play with them. 

As a child, I was a picture of femininity, loving sparkles and dress up and slumber parties. There was but one exception to this- bugs. I loved them. I spent a week at nature camp and filled notebooks full of bug drawings and diagrams. I wanted to care for them, harboring many in my home in a "worm hospital" to the dismay of my parents. But at some point around puberty, I learned I had to pretend to be scared of bugs, in order to make the boys feel like heroes. I lost that wonder. 

This painting contrasts the grossness of the worm (representing how girls are “supposed” to see them) with the vibrant technicolor background (representing the girl’s remaining fascination). The viewer is meant to feel torn and confused looking at this painting- both repulsed and interested, uncertain of how they are supposed to react- mirroring the experience of a young girl learning their gender roles. 
 

Oil on canvas, 2022

Not For You

Oil on canvas, 2023

This painting is a critique of the sexist idea of a “pick me girl.”

Society, which is built around the male gaze, always assumes that every action a girl takes is for male attention. Women are called “pick me”s for dancing (or not dancing), for eating (or not eating), for what clothes they wear, for what music they like, for what interests they have, for the way they talk, etc. Even personally, my name “Manic Pixie Couture” comes from sexist comments I received that labeled me a “Manic pixie dream girl”, assuming my creative and whimsical nature was a persona I created to attract male attention. 

The candy necklace serves as a symbol of this objectification. The necklace is pretty, but a girl does not wear it to be pretty for others. A candy necklace is a sweet treat, and that sweetness can only be enjoyed by the owner. The words “for me” assert that the girl wears the candy necklace for her own fun and enjoyment, not to be pretty for others. 
 

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In Plain Sight

This piece is a commentary on the practice of flagging in the queer community, particularly among femme lesbians.

“Flagging” refers to the practice of queer people using fashion, makeup, and other symbols to indicate their queerness safely to other queer people without outing themselves to potential homophobes. This painting depicts one flagging practice amongst lesbians- unshaven and dyed armpit hair.

A common struggle for queer people is straddling the line between not wanting to appear “too gay” out of fear of homophobic violence, while also not wanting to appear “too straight” and have their queerness invalidated or unnoticed by other queer people. This is represented in this painting by the use of color. The body and clothes are orange and hot pink, the colors of the lesbian flag, representing the desire to present as visibly queer. However, the yellow background is not part of the lesbian flag, representing the queer individual’s desire to tone down their queerness. The introduction of the yellow alongside the orange and pink gives the queer person “plausible deniability”

The text "nobody knows I'm a lesbian" is a reference to an iconic t-shirt from the queer rights movement. This slogan is ironic, as by nature of wearing the shirt, you ensure everyone knows you’re a lesbian, but it is also a commentary. Due to heteronormativity, lesbians are often erased, with our queerness overlooked even when it is obvious. 

Oil on canvas, 2022

This painting is an ode to a somewhat universal ritual amongst many women, who report crying every year on their birthday, known as the “Birthday Cry.”

 

The birthday cry is also a symbol for the experience of girlhood. From a young age, even before we are consciously aware of sexism, many girls feel an unconscious awareness of this burden. Even when surrounded by color, joy, and fun, there is a small part of us that feels sad, though we are unsure why.

Birthday Cry

Oil on canvas, 2023

This painting poses the question “does patriotism make us complicit in the crimes of our country?”

This painting depicts a red white and blue popsicle that is melting on the hand of its holder. The red syrup from the ice pop that has covered the hand resembles blood.

This metaphor inquires if the user, by nature of celebrating the red, white,  and blue, has blood on their hands. In a time where the line between patriotism and nationalism is blurred, where “love of country” is used to justify hate and violence, where state violence against marginalized Americans persists alongside imperialistic violence abroad, celebrating the 4th of July feels violent in and of itself. This piece asks, to what extent are everyday citizens culpable in this violence?
 

Red, White, and Blue

Oil & collage on canvas, 2022

"All I Want is You" Series

Oil/acrylic & collage on canvas, 2022-2023

This series of 12 paintings is an interpretation of my favorite love song "All I Want is You" by Barry Louis Polisar.

These paintings are an expression of a moment over a decade ago, when I fell asleep while listening this song on my iPod on repeat. I dreamed of all the lyrics coming to life in images all around me. 13 years later, that dream stayed with me and came out through my paintbrush.

Each line of this song is beautiful, loving, and playful- all things I strive to be. I devote one painting to each line of the song, with the lyrics collaged alongside the paint.

These paintings were created with the consent of Barry Louis Polisar and Sony Music.

Oil on canvas, 2022

This painting is a critique of how billionaires treat the earth as if there are millions more available in a gumball machine for them to purchase. There is no planet B. Climate action now.

Gumballs: 25 Trillion cents

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Sketches and Studies

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