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5 Fast Facts: Andrea Higgins

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
Close-up detail of a larger abstract artwork features thick black paint meticulously applied in small neat rectangles alternating orientation to form a grid. There is a minuscule amount of space between the tiles that allows a pink background to show through.

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Andrea Higgins, whose work is currently on view at NMWA in the collection galleries.

1. Tantalizing Textiles

Higgins’s interest in fabric goes back to her childhood visits to Britex Fabrics in San Francisco. The textiles purchased and worn by her grandmother inspired her earliest abstract portraits.

On the left, a vertical rectangle with a dense, textile-like pattern. Evenly sized, lozenge-shaped brushstrokes densely packed together create a repeating pattern of identical diamonds in peachy shades. On the right, a close-up of the same painting, depicting the dense, even brushstrokes.
Andrea Higgins, Jackie (India) and detail, 2003; Oil on canvas, 24 1/2 x 21 in; Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, D.C.; Image courtesy the artist and Hosfelt Gallery, San Francisco

2. Ladies First

In her “President’s Wives” series, each painting is named for a first lady. From Jackie Kennedy’s pillbox hats to Hillary Clinton’s iconic pantsuits, these portraits not only represent the women they’re named for, but also the administration and history of which they were a part.

3. What’s in a Fabric?

On a trip to Indonesia, Higgins witnessed the effort women put into dressing for temple, hoping to attract the attention of the gods. This “ultimate power dressing” struck her as a parallel to the way the style of first ladies influences the public.

A vertical rectangle with a dense, textile-like pattern is divided into quadrants. Evenly sized, lozenge-shaped dark brushstrokes radiate out diagonally from a center point, nearly hiding a bright pink ground.
Andrea Higgins, Hillary, 2002; Oil on canvas, 52 x 40 x 2 3/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection; © Andrea Higgins; Photo by Lee Stalsworth

4. Picturing Fiction

In more recent work, Higgins’s portraits represent fictional characters and their surroundings. Rather than using photographs as inspiration, these paintings bring an author’s description to life.

5. Painstaking Process

In Higgins’s work, each “stitch” is built up as she applies paint layer by layer. From a distance, viewers see the overall pattern, but up close the thickness of the paint is evident, and so are the repetition and uniformity of her brushstrokes.

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