Joan Cox

MFA ’13 Fine Arts Low-Residency

My work opens up a dialogue about the increasingly open presence of lesbian couples in contemporary society and the lack of their presence in the history of Western art. I use narrative, historical art references and autobiography to depict taboo intimacies between women—acknowledging and emphasizing the female gaze. 

Because the lesbian perspective has been denied so long in painting, I strive to validate the presence of dynamic, complex, sensual, sexual and loving relationships between women—making them less taboo. I create paintings that I wish I could have seen growing up; realities that echo my own and let me know that I am not only valid but can also find joy and acceptance.

These lush narrative paintings, layered with colorful fabrics, patterns and nature present the viewer with richly symbolic images of intimate relationships between two women, acknowledging and emphasizing the female gaze. I draw on my own life with my partner of twenty-one years as well as the intimate lives of lesbian couples in my community to build visual narratives that champion our undeniably intense, complex, celebratory and (still) taboo relationships.

Joan Cox (born 1969) is a figurative painter who focuses on painting intimate relationships between women. Growing up in Baltimore, Maryland, Joan navigated her formative years during a time when LGBTQ+ identities were marginalized and silenced. During this time, she explored various mediums, including painting, photography, graphic design, and writing. While her work showcased technical skill and emotional depth, it was not until grad school that Joan found the courage to openly express her own LGBTQ+ identity through her paintings. She earned her BFA from Towson University and her MFA from MassArt.