Shelley Adler has been fascinated with the work of Pablo Picasso for a very long time. More recently, this evolved into a curiosity about the artist and his life, especially his relationship to the muse. Adler is acutely aware of the importance of muses in her own practice, describing them as active participants in the process. Over the last five years, she has been looking closely at Picasso’s female muses, especially during this last year. It was an ideal subject since she no longer had access to models and friends visiting her studio.
In developing this series, Adler was interested to learn that several of Picasso’s muses were artists in their own right. These artists showed extraordinary strength and perseverance in their careers before, during and after their time spent as Picasso’s models. The six women Adler has selected for her subjects are Dora Maar, Lee Miller, Nusch Éluard, Jacqueline Lamba, Françoise Gilot and Ady Fildelin. Adler found iconic and rare images of these women as her source material and then conveyed their independent personalities using bold colour and energetic brush strokes. There are two ways in which the term “idols” is to be understood in the context of this exhibition – Picasso in the eyes of his muses and now, these women as idols for Adler.
It became increasingly interesting to me how little I knew about who the models to Picasso were and how many of them were artists. These models, who had been painted over and over again, never seemed to garner much attention outside of being labeled a model to Picasso. As I dug deeper, I found these models to be fascinating women who were fiercely creative and intelligent, and in some cases very accomplished in their own right. I created a link in my mind between their creativity and the quality of Picasso’s work – that he must have fed off their creative minds and spirits and indeed did make great work with these models.
– Shelley Adler
Born in 1961, Shelley Adler received her MFA from Boston University and her BFA from York University in Toronto. She has exhibited across Canada and in the United States. Her work is held in many prominent collections and has been exhibited internationally including in Berlin, Miami and New York.
To watch the exhibition walkthrough, click here.
To watch a conversation between Shelley Adler & Sarah Milroy, click here.