Pioneering artist Audrey Flack, known for photorealism and sculpture, passes away aged 93

Flack’s legacy lies in her versatility and her determination to explore the multifaceted experiences of women
In frame: Audrey Flack
In frame: Audrey Flack

Audrey Flack, a pioneering artist whose work spanned abstract expressionism, photorealism, and monumental sculpture, passed away on June 28 at a hospital in Southampton, New York. She was 93.

In frame: Audrey Flack
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Born in New York City in 1931, Flack’s artistic journey began at the prestigious Cooper Union. Her talent was recognised by Josef Albers, a leader in geometric abstraction, who recruited her to the Yale School of Art. However, Flack soon found herself drawn to a different path.

As a young artist, she mingled with legendary abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock in the vibrant downtown scene. Her artistic direction shifted dramatically in the 1960s as she embraced Photorealism. Using photographs as her canvas, Flack created larger-than-life still lifes focusing on objects that shaped women’s experiences. Think exquisite jewellery, delicate makeup, and shimmering glassware, alongside religious artefacts.

Art by Audrey Flack
Art by Audrey Flack
Art by Audrey Flack
Art by Audrey Flack

By the 1980s, Flack swapped brushes for sculpting tools, creating imposing bronze and clay figures inspired by Greek mythology. Her studio birthed powerful depictions of Athena, Daphne, and Medusa. These sculptures served a purpose beyond mere artistic expression. Flack sought to offer an alternative to the traditionally male-dominated depictions of heroes that dominated public spaces.

Art by Audrey Flack
Art by Audrey Flack

Flack’s artistic journey wasn’t without its struggles. She started her career amidst the chaos of abstract expressionism, literally slinging paint in her cheap, condemned Eighth Street studio. However, she soon left this world behind, finding inspiration in the every day through photographs and news clippings. Her art evolved to include portraits of her family, reflecting her personal struggle to balance motherhood with artistic ambition. Raising two daughters, one autistic and one nonverbal, while navigating a difficult marriage was a constant challenge for Flack.

One of her most ambitious projects, a bronze sculpture of Catherine of Braganza, remained unfinished. This 17th-century Portuguese princess, rumoured to be the inspiration for the New York borough of Queens, captured Flack’s imagination, but the project remained unrealized.

In frame: Audrey Flack
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Flack’s legacy lies in her versatility and her determination to explore the multifaceted experiences of women. She shifted genres, explored new mediums, and broke free from artistic conventions, leaving behind a captivating body of work that continues to inspire.

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