Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Susan Rankaitis

Reader 2

Liat Yossifor

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Rights Information

© 2013 Audrey E. Howell


This paper looks at the concepts of the biomorphic and grotesque in art from the start of the 20th century to the present with a focus on painting and drawing. Included in the discussion of the grotesque throughout history are the works of Dadaist Otto Dix, painter Georg Baselitz, and feminist artists Judy Chicago, Hannah Wilke, and Ana Mendieta. Each used grotesque imagery to comment or react to a larger sociopolitical issue. Biomorphic artworks from the 20th century are mentioned as well, with specific examples of work by Lee Krasner, Willem DeKooning, and Hans Bellmer. These artists together start to illustrate the ways biomorphic and grotesque imagery can be used to explore physical gesture, inspire a visceral reaction in the viewer, and make societal critique. These themes are currently being explored by contemporary artists Jenny Saville, Wangechi Mutu, Inka Essenhigh, Cecliy Brown, Elizabeth Murray, and Maria Lassnig, each of whom is discussed in detail. Their work explores the boundary space between the body and hybridity, impurity, or abstraction, each in their own way. Following this discussion the author’s own paintings and drawings are mentioned, including dialogue detailing the thought process behind each one. Photographs of these works are included.