REBEKAH BOYER is a Broolyn fine artist,
currently living in rural northeastern Pennsylvania.
Her work has been called "vivid, vital, expressive,
and just plain gorgeous" by Critical Inquiry
executive editor and art critic W. J. T. Mitchell and
“exciting and powerful” by Owen Phillips of The
New Yorker. A prolific painter, Boyer works with
deep concentration and blazing energy. Her
paintings combine realism with abstract elements
and various cultural icons, marked by brilliant color
and form and a jagged, primitive emotionalism, all
of which are served by her highly fluent figurative
Boyer received formal training at the Philadelphia
College of Art (1970-1973), the Pennsylvania
Academy for Fine Arts (BFA 1975), and the
School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA 1985).
In 1971, at age eighteen, she studied in San Juan,
Puerto Rico at the Escuela de Belles Artes under
disciple of Diego Rivera and muralist Raphael Rio
Reyes, and in 1979 for a summer at the
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in
Maine (see resume).
Between 1979 and 1983 Boyer had several solo shows in Philadelphia (1979, 1980, 1983) and New
York’s SoHo (1980) that launched her career as a painter. Simultaneously she had begun making a
living as a courtroom artist for television. For over twenty years Boyer was in high demand as a
courtroom artist, covering many famous trials for television, first in her home town of Philadelphia, then
in Chicago, and finally in New York City, where she settled in 1985 while intermittently doing illustration
work. With her open, streetwise nature, she easily got to know defendants like John Gotti, Imelda
Marcos, and others who sat on the bench in front of her in court. Through all, driven by a powerful need
to paint, she continued to evolve and has produced a very large body of paintings and works on paper.
Boyer has worked mostly outside the mainstream art world while being viewed by many as an
underground legend. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Television and
Radio, New York and Beverly Hills, the law offices of Kreindler and Kreindler and Peter Parker, and is
owned by many private collectors. She is a grantee of the Pollack-Krasner Foundation and the Art
Institute of Chicago. She work is shown regularly at the Nutshell Arts Center in Lake Huntington, NY.
In 2001 Boyer retreated to her studio to pursue a deeply romantic and shamanic view of the
subconscious, dredged up and brought to light on two-dimensional surfaces, beginning a long period
when she largely dropped out of view. Determined to work without a preconceived view of what the
canvas would yield, she began using movement directly to affect form as she searched to find the form
within the self. She found a comrade-in-spirit in Picasso, specifically in his stated mission about style:
“You should never have a style. Style is the death of the artist.” What distinguished her work, however,
was a will to particularize the form by including not just her own inner vision but also its outside referent,
the subject or the concrete experience.
Boyer survived these years by working odd jobs and selling paintings to a small coterie of devoted
collectors, in addition to spending a year teaching art in the New York City public schools. She had only
one major venture back into the art scene when, in 2001, at the urging of friends and supporters, her
work was the subject of a one-woman show in Chicago’s uptown Las Manos Gallery.
The last decade has produced a large body of stunningly original, masterful, and visionary works that
conjoin figures, often abstracted, with collaged and graffiti-like elements. The majority are on canvas
using enamel, less often acrylic or oil. Also plentiful are medium- and large-sized works on Canson
paper done with oil pastel, often combined with mixed media and collage. The principal themes of this
era have been gritty urban life and the paradoxes of motherhood and sexuality. Many pieces play with
tensions between predators and prey, the latter shown in extreme circumstances of stress but often
under a glamorous, optimistic patina, a looney comedy grinning at life's adversities.
In 2000, for example, she created “Mother Is a Milk Goddess,” a large work on paper that depicts an
amphibious creature capable of protecting her own and destroying her rivals. The protagonist has an
overabundance of eyes and teeth, and a boy-page at her service. The medium of water functions in this
and many other works as an agent of the subconscious, forming a space where exterior and interior
merge. Some of Boyer's large recent works incorporate images from her earlier pieces dealing with
crime and criminals, or paintings or characters she has invented over the years who reappear in
collaged photographs or reworked in paint (e.g. “Philadelphia,” 2000) to serve as sinister or beneficent
ancestors that draw attention to the perilous undertow of human intimacy.
Boyer comes from four generations of artists and has made art incessantly since her earliest youth.
Throughout her childhood she attended Saturday classes taught by her father at the Philadelphia
College of Art, and was nurtured in her parents’ studios and by weekly trips to museums and galleries.
After she began formal studies at the Philadelphia College of Art, she took a six-month leave to study in
Puerto Rico with muralist Rios Rey, a sojourn that profoundly influenced her sense of color and form.
Between the 1970s to early 1990s, the figure was predominant in Boyer’s work. Her keen eye for
interior psychological states brought out the vulnerabilities of her subjects, who gazed out at the viewer
in direct address from stark backgrounds. Among early inspirations were Balthus, Lucian Freud, and
Francis Bacon. One layer of work, created in the early 1980s, explored connections between human
subjects and their spirit familiars from an animal world (for instance, “St. Anthony and the Ants”), or
brought subjects together with their inspirations in the world of art “(“Phillip’s Pollock”). During these
years she also experimented with unconventional domestic portraiture, quasi-surrealist landscapes, and
narrative scenes in semi-abstract settings flatly worked in thinned paints. Typically the works were of
medium size on canvas, some in oil but others in acrylics, whose fast-drying properties were valuable to
her fast technique and the street sense she developed growing up amid racial tensions in the
Germantown section of Philadelphia.
The Erotic Series and the Infinite Painting, 1996 and beyond
A large project of the years 1996-2001 was a series of 20” x 25” oil pastels on Canson paper called
The Erotic Series, numbered sequentially into the several hundreds, which explore eroticism from a
wide variety of angles, ranging from female sexuality to birthing and mothering. It was with the The
Erotic Series that the expressionistic quality, which had always been part of Boyer’s sensibility, began
to range into abstractions in combination with human figures.
An offshoot of the Erotic Series was inspired by a series of landscape commissions by jazz musician
Patricia Barber, an avid collector of Boyer’s work. Entitled "My Lovely Land," these pictures turn the
psychological abstractions and figurative motifs of the erotic works into exuberant, quasi-abstract
celebrations of the out of doors.
Also about 1996 Boyer began work on her ongoing project The Infinite Painting, a set of interrelated oil
panels that adjoin one another to form an infinitely expandable image, while also creating many large
narrative works on paper, often collaged with photos of her own fine art from earlier years, together with
courtroom art and crime illustrations.
Boyer’s fine art has been seen in solo at the now-defunct National Arts Center (SoHo, New York City),
the Lace Gallery (Philadelphia), Montgomery County Community College, The West Chester Gallery,
and Las Manos Gallery (Chicago) and in group shows at the Hubbard Street Gallery (Chicago), the
Sanoff Gallery (Chicago), the Hyde Park Art Center (Chicago), The Museum of Television and Radio
(New York and Beverly Hills), Lennert Anderson Selects (New York), the MBM Gallery (New York), the
Museum of Sex at the Javits Center (New York), the Speakeasy Gallery of Erotic Art (Los Angeles), the
Woman Made Gallery (Chicago), and Fetiço (Chicago).
Boyer is the mother of two boys. She has just moved to the mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania
after 24 years in Brooklyn.
Boyer in her studio holding "HollyWould," 2007