Looking at Sasha Gordon’s large, buxom paintings, it’s impossible not to feel the emotion of what’s going on in her life. “I do look a bit like Taylor Swift,” she laughs. “If something bad happens, I need to draw it. Sometimes there’s a drought—a dryness of ideas—and I don’t really have anything to do, and other times I get so emotional and manic that I need to draw something .” That thing was always herself.
Like Bubbles, her latest paintings, all about her “first-ever dating experience.” Gordon is half white, half Asian, queer, and 20, never been in a relationship before. (The painting recently had a group show at the Rudolph Tegners Museum outside Copenhagen, along with works by renowned artists such as Cecily Brown, Jenna Gribbon and Sanford Biggers.) The painting features young, porcelain-skinned women sitting nude and vulnerable in the middle of the sea of an isolated rock. The reference is Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, but the vision is pure Gordon, her eyes cannot escape pain. “I had emotions that I had never dealt with before,” she told me. “I feel so compelled to paint these feelings, how frustrated and disappointed I am with someone I really trust. I’ve thought a lot during this relationship about the people I see being white, and what it means to me How effective.” The breakup broke her heart, but she has no regrets. “Heartbreak really helped my work,” she said. “Good drawing.”
A few months later, she was traveling with friends , to Los Angeles, Copenhagen and London, where she got a new tattoo, a doily, on the back of her left hand. (“I just love tattoos,” says Gordon, who has amassed 20.) If the two very large prints she’s just started at her Brooklyn studio Painting is any indication of how she feels now, that she’s in a good place. In the game she started yesterday, she was a cat. (“I’m not a cat person,” she admits. She’s very fond of her shih tzu poodle, Boba.) In another, she’s a living botanical garden, her body and head completely covered in green leaves rather than skin, but So far, only the head of the leaf has been drawn. Other smaller works are in the works and are attached to the walls.
Gordon’s self-portraits have a secret alchemy that makes them stand out from the current avalanche of figurative art rooted in identity politics. Her main raw material is oil paints, not acrylic paints – layered in layers to create rich translucent effects. She dug deep, and then deeper, pulling out what was inside of her, and confronting growing up as the daughter of a Polish-American Jewish father and a Korean mother in the very white town of Somers in Westchester County It’s not always an easy experience in New York. Her work is a raw, fearless self-disclosure, less for us to see than for herself. She paints because she has to.
Gordon has been showing her larger-than-life paintings in galleries and art fairs since her third year at RISD (RISD). Last spring, Jeffrey Deitch gave Gordon her first solo show, “Hands of Others,” in New York. Across seven spellbinding paintings, her face and buxom nudes appear in a variety of eerie settings. My Friend Will Be Me depicts her as a purple boulder sitting at her easel, drawing, smiling and looking directly at us. The image makes you uncomfortable, but you can’t forget it. In Pinky Promise, has two of her, mint green this time, standing side by side in the woods, pinkies and nipples touching. Deitch also showcased her Mood Ring, a six-by-five-foot painting of a mysterious round face in “Wonder Woman,” which was created by Kathy Huang in His Los Angeles gallery. “It’s very rare for someone who is still in art school to be so accomplished and have such a unique vision,” he said.
Her first solo exhibition will be at Miami Contemporary The Academy opens, in December, when the international art world will take part in the next Art Basel Miami Beach. What does she think of all this early art world recognition? “I love a lot of things that come with being successful, but it was really scary,” she admits. “I came from a small town where nobody noticed me. Now I have imposter syndrome all the time. Like why am I here? People come to me and tell me I’m their role model. I’m just drawing. I’m changing Someone’s life? It’s so weird.”