Felice House

As Interviewed by Wiley Younger, March 15, 2018

Felice House: In Her Own Words

My name is Felice House, and I am a feminist portrait artist. Iíve always been interested in creating images of women as I see them, in contrast to how they are portrayed in advertising; sort of consumable, overly sexualized images of women. Iím looking to portray a counterpoint.

So I made a series of paintings called ReWestern, and I took the most classic images from western movies, and I replaced the male hero with a contemporary women, and by doing that I am pointing out the gender power dynamic in culture. Basically, Iím pointing out who has access to power, who we expect to have access to power. So we all know John Wayne and James Dean, Clint Eastwood, but I want you to think through Virginia Wayne, Liakesha Cooper, Liakesha Dean, all, you know, a female version of the hero.

The show opened the day before the womenís march. BBC highlighted my exhibition as their response to the US presidential election.

I decided to use western movies because theyíre so much a part of American culture, and they are international, they span the globe. So whether you live here, or in Germany, or Singapore, itís likely people know the same western movies.

So I feel like the most important thing that happened in making the series happened before the series even got made. Like, I was just trying to make a series about cowgirls, because I thought cow girls were like a fun, powerful image of women. And what happened was I was trying to make these images of cowgirls, and they were not conveying the kind of power I was interested in. And I couldnít quite figure it out, and I went to google, and I just typed in cowgirls, and the image of the cowgirl, on google, which is the modern day oracle, is so sexualized that I think it was informing what I was trying to do with paint. Like I couldnít make this series of cowgirls be powerful, because the cowgirl image has been co opted as this over sexualized image in culture. And so, I was just playing around in photoshop and I put one of the models heads on John Wayne. it was like a 20 year old model and like a middle aged John Wayne, and it was so funny, like, her head sitting on this middle aged manís body, but it did the thing. It did the thing that I was wanting. Like, it conveyed power, because we all know John Wayne, and we kind of have those images in our head already.

So I became interested in the western movie after I came to Texas, when I was 15, and I was in love with the outfits, and the boots, and the music, and these black and white characters that were either good or evil. But when I actually sat down to watch a western movie, I was frustrated with the roles for women. Iím just not interested in being, ya know, a wife waiting for her husband to come home for 8 years, or a hooker with a heart of gold.