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Audrey Flack


Mr. President, I have the honor of presenting Audrey Flack, a pioneer of photorealism and an internationally celebrated painter and sculptor.Ms. Flack, in 1992 a retrospective of your work toured throughout the United States under the title, “Breaking the Rules.” That title could not have been more apt.

Your career has been marked by a willingness to push the boundaries of media — to innovate and explore new forms of expression. Beginning in 1962, you created paintings that incorporated imagery that was both deeply personal and profoundly public, using photographs of your family as well as ubiquitous images of national and world events as the basis for your art. One of the first artists to re-contextualize iconic media images, such as President Kennedy’s Dallas motorcade and the liberation of Nazi concentration camps, you vigorously “challenged convention” in creating art that confronts difficult topics and asks important and timely questions while stretching notions of what fine art could be and do.

Also, as a female artist in the male-dominated art scene of New York City in the 1950s and 1960s, you stood out as a maverick thinker and maker. Not content to be “one of the boys” in this ultra-macho world, you embraced the sentimental, the beautiful, and the symbolic in your paintings and sculpture. You stated, “My work was humanist, emotional, and filled with referential symbolic imagery … These works were attacked and berated for their feminist content but this very same type of subject matter has found its way into the mainstream. Vision has changed.”

Indeed it has. Yours were the first photorealistic paintings to be purchased for the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection. Today, your paintings hang in prestigious museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Worcester Art Museum. Your sculptures grace public spaces throughout the United States, and your book, “Art and Soul,” has enjoyed multiple printings.

Your influence is as crisp and rich as one of your hyper-real paintings, and is reflected in the work of many contemporary artists, some whom you’ve mentored during your professorships at universities and art institutes. By example, you have taught these artists to learn the rules of the game, and then shatter them.

Mr. President, on behalf of the trustees, faculty, students and staff of Clark University, I request that the degree of Doctor of Fine Arts, honoris causa, be conferred on Audrey Flack.