“My mother would tell you I was drawing recognisable forms by the time I was two. I don’t know how true that is, but it’s nice to hear your artist origin myth from your mother’s mouth,” begins New York City-based painter Drea Cofield. Clearly an artist from a young age, Drea knew she “wanted to pursue art in some way when I was looking to go to school,” but it wasn’t until the end of her junior year at DePauw University – after “taking art classes and coasting through everything” – that Drea finally began to take painting seriously. Spurred on by a professor who, during an exhibition, told her parents simply: “Your daughter is a painter,” she soon accepted her career as an artist.
As she developed her practice, Drea says she faced the same problems many female artists encounter during their career, such as “constantly not being taken seriously, especially if your content is outside accepted tastes and expectations of what ‘female work’ should be about or look like.” Aspiring to produce work that was a commentary on more than just the usual artistic subjects of “myself, my sexuality and my body,” Drea purposefully plays with these assumptions while she thinks about “the social and political dissonance in my past and present day-to-day life.”
Today, Drea has established a strong visual identity in her work. Dominated by naked figures in various intricate poses, her new series, Lotus Eaters, carries a warmth and intimacy that permeates each piece. Referencing Homer’s The Odyssey, her characters engage in various ritualistic activities that take place in a world that Drea describes as an “amoral Eden”. The sculpted, gleaming subjects of her work live out their hedonistic fantasies as they lie around eating fruit and sensually engaging with one another, in blissful ignorance that similarly befell the lotus-eaters found in Homer’s mythological tale. “The subject matter was purposefully distancing from the highly personal nature of the work’s content,” Drea tells It’s Nice That.
The colour scheme of the series is suitably bold and saturated, giving the impression of a hallucinatory experience. “Using as little white as possible,” Drea’s oil paintings are alive with colour. The wide-ranging palette of each work perfectly harmonises with the androgynous, occasionally hermaphroditic, characters found within. Also corresponding with this aesthetic is the overarching humour and queerness that Drea has injected into the series. Speaking on the inspiration behind her subject matter and stylistic decisions, Drea says the pieces are primarily concerned with the “cognitive dissonance that persists between my conservative fundamentalist Christian upbringing and my current liberal art-centred existence in New York City," she tells It’s Nice That. Attempting to remedy this psychic void through painting, she explains that Lotus Eaters is her “first attempt to look into my past through the padding of mythology and allegory.”
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