A recent series of paintings that Barbre worked on is called ‘Magnetisme Animal’. These paintings feature powerful, female figures with various animal heads in sexual poses and activities. Some of the paintings, like the large one on the canvas in front of me, feature lovely bodies and beautifully rendered animal aspects. Some of her other works have the feminine characters engaged in and clearly enjoying explicate sex acts.
“I ask Crystal about the kind of reactions her work receives and if she has had to deal with any negativity regarding the sexual content in her work. This question obviously hits a nerve, Crystal lights up, talks a mile a minute. “A lot of people think I’m a man, I have heard people say that my work is misogynistic and they are surprised to find that I’m actually a woman. I don’t hide my gender but I don’t make a big deal out of it either. I sign my work with my last name only. I want the paintings to speak for themselves without the expectations that my gender might bring. I’ve had people criticize the work as anti-feminist despite the fact that the women I paint are powerful, in control and enjoying themselves. Some people are very offended by images of women enjoying sex. It really makes me angry!”
Crystal Barbre’s commitment to her work and the themes she addresses becomes even more obvious when I question her about the economic side of painting and how much she is influenced by what will or won’t sell. “Sexually explicit paintings of powerful women are very difficult to sell, especially the more graphic ones. I try not to let the market drive me. I’m going to paint what I need to paint whether I can sell it or not.” This conversation spins off into several directions; the cost of making art full time, the delicate balance between communicating with an audience and pandering to it.” Excepted from a recent interview by Siolo Thompson for the Pretty, Sexy, Dirty Girly exhibition.