It’s no secret that girls today are ravenous consumers of images—of themselves, their peers, and their idols. They are also the creators of their “ideal” lives, using the power of technology to craft a photographic story of themselves with editing tools and a keen eye for what will generate the most positive response on social media.
Yet beneath the veneer in these carefully presented images lies the same self consciousness that plagues most of us when captured on film or in a painting. It’s this tension between insecurity and bravado among adolescent girls that inspired the latest work of Lizzie Wortham, an emerging contemporary figurative painter. Originally from Minnesota, she now lives in Bonita Springs, Florida. Her work, which has appeared in both solo and group shows, has received regional and national recognition from organizations such as the Minnesota State Arts Board, the Minnesota State Fair, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the White Bear Arts Council and the North American Graduate Art Survey.
Wortham’s series “Like a Girl” is her second collection to focus on abstracted representations of girls and young women on the path to discovering their own identities. Painted in oil using a combination of washes, solid blocks of color, layered brushwork, and thick impasto applied with a palette knife, the images play with the rules of pictorial space while evoking nostalgia, dreams, and memories of childhood and adolescence.
Wortham’saward-winning painting “Girl” was aptly described by Minneapolis Star-Tribune art critic Mary Abbe as capturing “the mingled hostility, curiosity, and vulnerability” of girlhood in its many stages.
Wortham began painting during her student years at Macalester College in St.Paul, Minnesota, where she earned a B.A.in fine art. After graduating, she worked as a graphic designer, but continued to paint—often, with her children and their friends as subjects.
During her MFA program in painting and drawing at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wortham learned the power of texture, color, and form on the painted surface. She sought to understand how to use those properties to convey meaning without being as dependent on imagery, but ultimately found the most satisfaction painting the human form using family photographs as source material.
Working from photos adds an intriguing element to Wortham’s work. She has since moved on from her family’s collection to a wide range of images given to her by other women. In “Camp,” Wortham drew from a photo she took with her instant camera at summer camp after sixth grade. A group of girls are gathered in a wooded glade,oblivious to the one they’ve left out—the one who now tells their story with tubes of oil paint.