Studio Visit: Inside Ana Benaroya's Studio, Where the Women Have No Shame
Venus Over Manhattan’s first pick for its new downtown outpost showcasing younger artists would rather talk lesbian desire than the female gaze.
A few years ago, Ana Benaroya received what she considers the ultimate compliment. “Saw this young artist’s work recently,” the renowned painter Katherine Bradford wrote in an Instagram post about one of Benaroya’s paintings. “Now have to completely rethink nipples.” It was, Benaroya recalls when I stop by her studio in Jersey City, “the ideal validation.”
Ana Benaroya, Save Your Love For Someone Like Me, 2021, Spray paint, acrylic paint and oil paint on canvas, 59 x 47 1/4 in 149.9 x 120 cm
Ana Benaroya, Undercover Angel, Midnight Fantasy, 2021, Oil on canvas, 59 1/4 x 71 150.5 x 180.3
Ana Benaroya, Wouldn’t It Be Nice, 2021, Spray paint, acrylic paint, and oil paint on canvas, 84 x 72 in 213.4 x 182.9 cm
Ana Benaroya’s work centers substantial female subjects, whose extravagant musculatures upset more traditional expectations of femininity. Through her paintings and works on paper, Benaroya constructs a female gaze that recasts women in dominant roles, with an assertive, idiosyncratic presence. The muscles on Benaroya’s figures both distort and ornament her subject’s bodies, and speak to female desire and a queer sensibility. Striking, offbeat colors dominate the compositions, and the artist’s intense, slightly macabre palette balances their figurative vigor and allure.
In her practice, Benaroya pulls from diverse sources to assemble a unique pictorial language. She cites gallery artist Peter Saul as a major inspiration, and her work often makes reference to graphic styles familiar from superhero comics. Her current exhibition at the gallery centers on images of women in relation to water, and through references to sources both art historical and contemporary, Benaroya explores the dynamics of queer desire, in which bodies are on display for themselves and on their own terms. In compositions animated by complex networks of attraction, Benaroya makes visible forms of lesbian desire that are typically rendered latent or invisible. As she told Stephanie Eckardt in W Magazine, “‘I want depictions of female nudes that have desire and passion, but because the women are the sex objects—because they see that in each other [...] I feel like not many examples of that exist, from the perspective of someone like me.’”