Women Painting Women - Sublimating the Imperfect

"Beauty Is Not Perfection, It Is Sublimating the Imperfect" - Helene Delmaire

I loved this article over at Combustus featuring the artist Helene Delmaire from France interviewed by the talented writer Deanna Elaine Piowaty. She writes:

"To make oneself vulnerable, to “bare” ourselves to those beyond our comfortable circle of trusted friends and family, to share of our fragile interior beyond what is whispered in the dead of night to the love of our life…to take this chance even as we know the risks: Truly, is there anything more courageous? More achingly beautiful? And isn’t that what we ask of artists? What we depend upon them to deliver?"*
"Emerse yourself in Love"  WORK IN PROGRESS | OIL ON WOOD | 36X40 | Heather Shirin

"Emerse yourself in Love" WORK IN PROGRESS | OIL ON WOOD | 36X40 | Heather Shirin

My eyes start to tear-up. You see, I somtimes paint women with women. It's a difficult subject matter to sell, and I continue to get flack from friends and family who honestly wonder "why don't you just paint landscapes?!"... but painting Art Novueau portraits of women is what my heart wants to do. To fight against disgriminating views. I have had bigotry released onto me when I paint something I believe to be so beautiful, and full of love.

I know I am painting intimate settings between women, and I see it as the romance of best friends, the closeness of lovers, or the dedicated unbreakable bonds of Sisters. I paint for the freedom of speech, and more than anything I paint for the freedom to marry whom you love. I feel like a rebel with a cause, with something to say, but afraid all the time to say it. I want to be brave, have that courageous heart Deanna describes. 

Married to the love of my life Paul, people always question my sexuality. It doesn't bother me, I think women are beautiful. This is about doing something to pave the way - so that others can consider what it is I do is beautiful too. 

Kimlt, "girlfriends"

Kimlt, "girlfriends"

Gustav Klimt - (a huge influence), painted women with women, and he is now famous for being a womanizer. He also has the highest valued paintings in the world!

"Nevertheless, he was a womaniser with uncalculated conquests and seven known children. No wonder Vienna buzzed with gossip about what, besides painting, went on in the studio beyond. Yet among all the photographs of the rather pudding-faced artist in the exhibition, not one captures what made him such a lady-killer."**

"I am not a womanizer" I think to myself. "I am a Feminist!" I google this to be certain. "Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies that share a common stated aim: to define, establish, and defend equal political, economic, cultural, and social rights for women." says Wikipedia. I agree, I am a Feminist. I desire the United states Supreme Court to pass a universal law that makes Marriage Equality legal in all 50 states. It's coming. I am excited. I cried when my home state of North Carolina passed the legalization, I thought it would be another 20 years or more!

Nude I – work in progress | oil on wood | 36x30cm | Helene Delmaire

Nude I – work in progress | oil on wood | 36x30cm | Helene Delmaire

"But a thing of creative beauty doesn’t have to simply offer us a distracting side trip: it can actually serve as the roadmap itself.  A curious set of hieroglyphics scratched on the wall of our co-traveler’s life, a clue to the caverns another has spelunked down into, the treasures and monsters they’ve found within, and what might be waiting still for us when it is our turn to make that beautiful-terrible journey."*

Deanna Elaine Piowaty wrote something I hadn't quite grabbed completely before, what I was painting was really important. It was a voice of many. Helene Delmaire painted these figures, Nude 1, together, and Denna never questions her sexuality or motivation behind two women together.

What mattered to her was the expression of feminity and vulnerability:

"Helene, the vulnerability you are able to convey in your artworks is phenomenal. And yet without any hint of powerlessness. This is vulnerability in all of its potent beauty. Femininity as a source of strength, creation, renewal." *

"Femininity as a source of strength". I loved this. It's perfect. I paint women for many reasons. I adore the process, from beginning to end and all the tangents inbetween. But mostly I just see the beauty of the model's soul. Women emit emotion. I relate to their feelings and paint what I am reacting to within the photo that captured this to begin with, this something...its a look of reflecting the 'fragile interior'. 

As I release new more women with other women themed work, and I am not certain how to make my viewers see what I see, but it's a challenge I am willing to take on. I fight for the right to paint whatever I want, and to celebrate love in all it's forms. I think my work is beautiful, and that is all that matters.


* Author Deanna Elaine Piowaty from Combustus interview of artist Helene Delmaire
** From 
"A lover of women" on the economist.

Yes! Magazine Covers "Keeping You Inside" Show at Delurk Gallery


Heather Shirin, an artist currently residing in a suburb of Asheville NC, is fascinated with the personal connections between friends.

Her current show at Winston-Salem’s Delurk Gallery, titled “Keeping You Inside,” focuses on the relationships that women have with each other, whether intimate or personal.

“A lot of people don’t see anything erotic about my work, but the younger crowd, the off-the-fly crowd, get straight into the lesbian-esque idea,” she said.

Shirin’s paintings are anything but erotic, but the idea that women embracing one another could symbolize some sort of sexual undertone is not lost on her.

“I was interested in showing that love is not necessarily erotic, but beautiful and real and tangible, and something we don’t always celebrate in our society upon seeing an intimate setting between two females because it’s in the taboo arena to show same-sex anything these days,” she said. “A mother holding her child shouldn’t be something that is frowned upon simply because it’s an adult mother and child.”

This series, or shift in her artistic focus, became clear to her when she moved to North Carolina six years ago from Boston, Mass. Leaving behind her closest friends and family, she felt a certain emptiness in not having those close ties.

“Women have something different with other women — something different than the relationships that men have with other men,” she said. “We need feedback or approval or opinions — just something.”

Shirin’s latest work is focused strongly on this idea. Her canvasses are large pieces of wood, and her preferred medium is a mixture of exotic printed paper and paint. Whether or not it was deliberate, the foundation of wood could be construed as the subconscious intention that relationships must be rooted naturally, and those relationships that are nurtured spread roots and grow.

Aesthetically, the color palette stays on the warm side of the spectrum — reds, oranges, yellows — but does tend to dip into the violets and greens.

For the visual structure, Shirin acknowledges one of her favorite artists, Gustav Klimt, as laying the groundwork for her composition of females. Shirin, like Klimt, dresses her subjects in ornate patterns, often surrounding them in golden backgrounds speckled with detail.

Shirin started her quest into the artistic world in the fourth grade when she began working with a private tutor. Her instructors told her parents that she was drawing and illustrating well above her age, and her parents nurtured this gift. By the time she was in the eighth grade she was taking painting classes, studying artists such as Bob Ross on television and laying the groundwork for what would hopefully be her career. Upon graduating high school, Shirin was the president of the Art Honor Society. In 1997, she graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts — a degree that she admits didn’t help her in getting full-time work.

“It really seems like only in the past 20 or 30 years that it’s become acceptable to follow your dreams as a woman artist,” she said. She also mentioned that in that time, specifically within the past four years, has the idea of women painting women become more popular thanks to gallery exhibitions and the online community.

“The internet really changed the game,” she said. “I worked in daycare for a long time but recognized that the Internet is where I could make a living.”

She went on to pursue an education focused on HTML, a digital coding language used for developing and building websites and digital content. She also studied the Adobe programs and became proficient enough to start a career as a graphic designer. She operated SiteImages.com for many years, still does, but chose to pursue painting as a career in 2012.

“The younger generation sees a freedom in opening up, and that has allowed female artists to really flourish,” she said. !


Heather Shirin’s “Keeping You Inside” is currently on display at Delurk Gallery and will hang until Nov. 2. Delurk Gallery is open Wednesday- Saturday 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

Keeping You Inside, Reception Friday Oct 3rd

Opening at Delurk Gallery Friday, Oct 3rd 7-10pm!

Delurk Gallery presents Keeping You Inside, an exhibition of mixed media paintings by Asheville NC artist Heather Shirin. The show will run Oct 3rd through Nov 2nd, with an Opening Reception on Friday, October 3rd, from 7-10pm. Receptions take place during Winston-Salem's Gallery Hop. Gallery is located at 207 W 6th St. Winston Salem NC 27101.

Hide Away for Another Day

40 x 30 
Acrylic and Gold Leaf on Birch Panel

Heather Shirin’s paintings are quiet and reflective portraits of women with other women. The mixed media portraits, mostly large-scale, are painted on deep birch wood panels. Shirin purposely allows the natural beauty of the wood grain to shine through in the skin tones of her female figures. Various fine art papers are used to depict clothing, and elements such as gold leaf and metallic paint give the pieces a highly reflective appearance. Intricate designs add texture and depth to the works, creating modern portraits in a style that is reminiscent of Art Nouveau period pieces.

“I am interested in the relationships that women have with other women - the closeness between sisters, mothers, lovers and best friends,” Shirin says.“I capture the vulnerability, strength and romance that women share when together – using materials that define their beauty and presence…”

Shirin currently resides in Asheville, NC, where she exhibits at several art galleries and teaches Art Nouveau portraiture and mixed media art classes. She received a B.F.A. in oil painting from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and she has studied design at the Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston. Her exhibition history includes NY, MA, PA, NC and now GA. She is a juried member of the National Association of Women Artists.

Holding Tight When We Should Let Go

40 x 30 
Acrylic, 23k Gold and Silver Leaf on Birch Panel

About Heather Shirin

Shirin exhibits at several art galleries and teaches Art Nouveau portraiture and mixed media art classes. She received a B.F.A. in oil painting from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and she has studied design at the Museum School of Fine Arts, Boston. Her exhibition history includes NY, MA, PA, NC and now GA. She is a juried member of the National Association of Women Artists.

Women Painting Women Exhibit at Principle Gallery

Women Painting Women

Tossed and Turned by Daryl Zang

Tossed and Turned by Daryl Zang

In 2009, artists Alia El-Bermani, Diane Feissel and Sadie Valeri co-founded the blog entitled Women Painting Women. The concept came out of an online discussion detailing how contemporary women artists handle the female figure as a subject. Inspired by these discussions but failing to find a comprehensive online resource cataloguing the work of such artists, the site was started as a way of highlighting underrepresented female artists actively portraying female subjects in the figurative tradition. Since then, Women Painting Women has featured, on the blog, the work of more than 340 figurative painters from around the world and has helped to organize eight exhibitions in galleries in the US and UK.  These efforts continue this year as Principle Gallery in Charleston, SC hosts the 2014 Women Painting Women Juried Exhibition.