DETROIT — Brenda Goodman has been steadily doing her thing for decades, moving from early success within the Cass Corridor movement in her native Detroit, to a varied career in New York City, and finally to her current retreat in the relative sanctity of the Catskills. Her “thing” is a little bit difficult to sum up, perhaps, because over the course of this long and productive career, her creative output has vacillated between painting and drawing (with forays into three-dimensional constructions); smooth surfaces and chaotic buildup on canvas; and intimate small-scale works and jaw-dropping large paintings that grab your eye from across the room. But all these works come from a place of deep personal perspective and wildly messy emotion, and, as a newcomer to Goodman’s works, this strikes me as relevant to a contemporary conversation about women artists and female identity writ large.
Goodman is not self-identifying as a feminist. “I have never dealt with the ideas of the male gaze or any feminist issues in my work,” she says to me via email. “It comes purely from what I am feeling and going through at the moment in my own life. I’ve never toned done any feelings in my work or in my person …. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I paint as directly as that in my work.” And with due deference to Goodman in her determination to speak her truth, I submit that a refusal to tone down one’s feelings within the professional arena is a radically feminist act.