Introspective Softness: Final Reflections on Inslee Fariss Exhibition at Sozo Gallery

Inslee Fariss is a NYC-based fashion illustrator whose exquisite figurative works are currently on display at Sozo Gallery until March 13.

            While studying art history at Wofford College, I devoted my senior thesis to an in-depth analysis of depictions of the female form by male & female impressionists (Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Berthe Morisot, Mary Cassatt). To give you the "Sparks Notes version", I argued that in comparison, female artists deliver a depiction of the female form that contains a discernible difference than their male contemporaries' works of the same subject matter. The difference Berthe Morisot and Mary Cassatt brought to depictions of the female form was a level of personal introspection to their women; unlike the women painted by Degas and Renoir, which were presented in a more overtly sexual manner. In portraying women in intimate situations, such as the bath or in the act of dressing, Morisot and Cassatt achieve this level of introspection because their subjects are a reflection of themselves or something of which they are intimately familiar.

             The Bath, Berthe Morisot                                                 La Toilette, Mary Cassatt

Flash forward over a century to 2017 to figurative artist, Inslee Fariss. What Inslee presents is, like the female impressionists that preceded her, an introspective depiction of the female form. Inslee uses these figurative works as “an antidote to the structure and daily routine” of her career as a fashion illustrator. Inslee says, “The palette, the compositions, the mediums have all begun to shift to evoke a new mood that reflects the introspective softness I feel when working on these pieces.” This introspective softness is beautifully depicted throughout the pieces in Inslee’s exhibition. Inslee’s series offers depictions of women in a variety of poses that show strength, grace, attitude, and reflection. This is achieved through Inslee's careful composition and choice of medium. Inslee's women are more than just something pretty to observe, they offer the viewer a glimpse into a personal and seemingly self-reflective moment in time.  

Inslee’s choices of her figure's poses paired with medium, work harmoniously to depict a beautiful snapshot into the figure’s psyche. In Unswayed the figure sits poised with her hand rested under her chin and her head slightly tilted as if she is deep in thought. The figure in It Comes Naturally stands firm with her hands clasped behind her back and her shoulder pressed back with confident composure. In these two pieces, Inslee combines postures that exude an air of thoughtfulness and strength with a soft peach watercolor that balances the pieces with beauty and grace.

In Mind Will Wander, Peach & Clay and Standing & Examining, Inslee creates figures with more attitude and confidence through use of a bolder medium, oil, and powerful poses. In both pieces, though the poses differ, Inslee beautifully depicts the strength of her figure through the way the brush strokes highlight the musculature of the figures (particularly in their backs), yet her choice of warm colors balance out the strength of the poses with a level of softness. Each figure's composition depicts a woman caught in an act in moment in time. Inslee's choice of such impressionistic poses adds humanity and personality to her figures. They are more than just a depiction of the female nude, they are a snapshot of woman at a specific moment in time. 

Inslee Fariss presents a striking body of work that adds a personal layer to the depiction of the female form that brings her figurative works out of the realm of sexuality alone, just as the female impressionists did so before her. Do yourself a favor and come by the gallery to see these gorgeous pieces in person. Inslee’s exhibition will be on display through March 10.  

[ For more on Inslee, read the artist’s full bio and artist statement ]