And all that jazz...
This holiday, give a Sophie Flack-the NYCB dancer moonlights as a painter.
Thu Nov 22 2007
Photograph: Roxana Marroquin
How long have you been painting?
I’ve been drawing and painting my whole life. I drew as a toddler; my mom likes to tell the story about how, at preschool, when all the kids were napping or playing, I would still be working on the same painting.
Have you studied art?
I haven’t had much formal training, but I have been very lucky in that I’ve been encouraged by my family and every school I have attended. I took several figure-drawing and rendering classes my first year of high school in Boston. When I moved to New York in tenth grade to train at the School of American Ballet, I worked independently at Professional Children’s School; they gave me free range of the studio for many hours each week, and it was heavenly! I graduated with an art award. I continue my art education with painting classes at the Students League near the theater. I think the best way to learn is to do it.
What inspires you?
I’m inspired by the way ballet dancers move and the way we view our bodies. Since I have such a thorough knowledge of muscle structure and the way the body operates, I like exploring what that figure would look like on paper. I am interested in the shapes of bodies and the negative spaces they create.
Photograph: Roxana Marroquin
Could you talk about a couple of your pieces?
One of the most recent ones [Rollin’ and Tumblin’] is bright pink with a woman bent over—it’s kind of erotic-looking. That’s actually a self-portrait. I see it as being very sexual, but it’s also of a very muscular figure. One thing I’ve really battled with from the beginning of my career was being a woman with curves and also trying to be a dancer in New York City Ballet, and I think this painting really explores that. There’s also Dream Awake, which is of a pregnant woman with red hair. A lot of them are about what it feels like to be a woman and the different struggles we have—with our bodies especially, but also emotionally. I have a lot of pregnant dreams. I don’t know if that’s normal.
What do you find compelling about the female form?
I love the capabilities of the female body. The ballerina is an extreme version of what the female form is capable of.
Do you use dancers as models?
I have the utmost respect for anyone that has the bravery to present themselves on a stage. As a dancer with New York City Ballet, I am surrounded by self-critical, hardworking, lithe ballerinas 12 hours a day. My vantage point is that of a woman who has given her life to the ballet and is enveloped by that life completely. Yet I observe my environment: Ballet dancers, especially those in the corps de ballet, see themselves in a skewed way that I find both disturbing and fascinating. My friends are so incredibly beautiful and generous, but it’s a challenge to convince them to pose for me, because they are astonishingly modest and restless. I paint myself more than anyone—I am a very patient and dedicated model and not at all bashful.
Do many dancers buy your paintings?I sold five to David Hallberg. [Laughs] He’s my collector.
Visit sophieflack.com; prices range from $300 to $1,500.