Images of works by artist Betty Tompkins
Image of Artist Betty Tompkins
The large scale photorealistic paintings of heterosexual intercourse which Betty Tompkins made between 1969 and 1974 were practically unknown when they were exhibited together for the first time in New York in 2002. Knowledge of Tompkins’ paintings immediately broadened the repertoire of first generation feminist-identified imagery. More significantly, their materialization made manifest an unacknowledged precursor to contemporary involvement with explicit sexual and transgressive imagery. Shown at the Lyon Biennale in 2003 beside Steve Parrino’s equally wayward abstractions, Betty Tompkins’ work garnered extraordinary attention. The first painting in the series – there are only eight extant early Fuck Paintings – was acquired for the permanent collection of the Centre Pompidou/CNAC in Paris.......
    Although Betty Tompkins’ work is not included in LA MOCA’s current Wack! Art and the Feminist Revolution exhibition, it figures prominently in Richard Meyer’s essay for the show’s catalog, Hard Targets: Male bodies, Feminist Art and the Force of Censorship in the 1970s. Meyer notes the essentialist bent of much early feminist-associated art and outlines the marginalization melded the phalocentric or coitus-concerned work of heterosexual women artists. Given the context, Tompkins’ straightforwardness and refusal to moralize is bracing. This, coupled with a ferociously deadpan humor, makes the artist’s images iconic.   from Mitchell Algus Gallery press release, 2007
Selected Solo Exhibitions
Small | Marlborough Contemporary | NYC
Sex Works/WOMEN Words Phrases and Stories | Gavlak Gallery | Palm Beach


In addition to the WOMEN Words series, a group of Tompkins’ drawings from the early 1970’s are also on view. The series of four studies reveals the process for Tompkins’ paintings, while the additional drawing, Double Drip Mouth, 1971, relates to the pop art movement of which influenced the artist while she was an art student.

Virgins | PPOW | NYC
Sex Works/WOMEN Words Phrases and Stories | Gavlak LA | Los Angeles


Tompkins is a groundbreaking, feminist artist who has, over the course of her career, repeatedly bucked conventional norms, eschewing ‘safe’ art in favor of creating difficult and impactful paintings, drawings, photographs, and videos. Taking as her starting point heterosexual pornography, Tompkins reclaims the medium, taking a genre typically conceived as a vehicle for subverting women, and uses it to create direct, powerful, and empowering works that are distinctly feminist. Appropriating pornographic imagery, Tompkins recasts it through an artistic lens and creates masterfully crafted paintings that assume control of and reframe the subject matter.


The centerpiece of the exhibition at Gavlak will be WOMEN Words, Phrases, and Stories an installation of 1,000 paintings of words that Tompkins received in response to an email request for words that describe women. The works are traveling from the FLAG Art Foundation in New York City, though this marks the first time the paintings will be shown alongside her earlier work. Tompkins received more than 3,500 responses to her initial query, with the most common words sent in response being cunt, bitch, slut and mother. Beginning in 2013, Tompkins selected 1,000 of the words and began to paint them on canvas, depicting some simply as text, while incorporating imagery from her earlier works into the background, or gestural references to what Tompkins describes as “old-boy painters,” like de Kooning and Rothko, into others. Tompkins then installed the paintings in a confined yet fluid network, creating conversations between them, some humorous, some disturbing. In one arrangement, Tompkins placed the phrase “Liberated women,” and underneath hung “Talking, talking, talking,” followed by “Will she ever shut up?” a trajectory that Tompkins feels mirrors a common experience women have, with people first approving of you, and then slowly become more and more critical. In other less lighthearted areas of the installation, more overtly misogynistic words form groupings: “The only thing that could make her more beautiful is my dick in her mouth,” “Three hole wonder,” or “Prick pit.”

WOMEN Words Phrases and Stories | Flag Art Foundation | NYC


The FLAG Art Foundation presents Betty Tompkins: WOMEN Words, Phrases, and Stories from January 20 – May 14, 2016, on FLAG’s 10th floor gallery. The exhibition marks the first comprehensive presentation of 1,000 intimately-scaled, hand-painted works, each of which features a word or words used to describe women. Ranging from flirtatious to derogatory – with the four most used words being Mother, Slut, Bitch, CuntWOMEN Words emanates from Tompkins’s career-long commitment to challenge the representation of female identity, the politics of pleasure, and the role of sexuality in contemporary culture.

Real Ersatz | BHQFUG | NYC


BHQFU, New York’s freest art school, is pleased to present REAL ERSATZ, an exhibition by Betty Tompkins and her first New York solo show since 2009. In her new body of work Tompkins plays with the idea of the real, the fake and the area in-between. Using both digital prints and paintings of the same image she explores the interaction that these different mediums have with each other. The exhibition will open a conversation between photorealism and technology as well as the experience of medium, scale and color in contemporary art.

Recognized for her exploration into sexuality and her controversial ‘Fuck’ paintings of the 1970s, this exhibition marks a new direction in Tompkins work whilst celebrating her as a transgressive icon.

Review by Jerry Saltz in NY Magazine:

Betty Tompkins: "Real Ersatz"

Through Oct. 18

Way back in the 1960s at the exact same moment that Chuck Close was doing it with the faces, Betty Tompkins was making enormous black-and-white photorealist paintings — not of faces — but graphically pornographic images (still un-reproducible in these pages), ripped from straight male porn magazines (yes, kids — people used to masturbate to still black-and-white pics back in the day; not color videos like all of you); beautiful paintings of blow jobs, female fingerings, spread-eagle women doing anything you might imagine. I remember seeing images of this work back then and thinking, Wow! I like these way more than Chuck Close; this is someone really going for it in scale, technique, and holding nothing back about image. Sadly and undeservedly — and probably because it was too scary for a woman to be handling in-your-face imagery and scale like this — Tompkins was dealt out of a little history before storming back in about 15 years ago; she's one of the strongest artists out there now, always sparing nothing, using contemporary porn (all-shaved, of course, and bigger dicks, not sure why), in a show that is a must-see for the legions of curators who are always beating the bushes to "rediscover" other "older women artists."


Art Basel Feature | Galerie Rodolphe Janssen | Basel
Paintings & Works On Paper 1972-2013 | Sarah Gavlak Gallery | Palm Beach

For her exhibition with Gavlak Gallery, Tompkins is showing works that range from
early sketches for paintings to now iconic "Cunt" paintings that in a more abstract
manner recall Courbet's "L'Origine du Monde". Also included is a series of "soft
core" works from 1996 - 2000 that are less graphic yet provocative paintings of
women in various stages of dress painted onto everyday found tools and book pages.
Selecting common hand saws, shovels, axes, baking pans, and cake servers, quotidian
objects that are assigned along gender lines of domestic work and construction work
are painted with titillating scenes of women frolicking about in a lake, or simply
posing in nature. Again recalling more erotic art historic subjects painted by
Boucher through Courbet of women alone or in pairs in their private quarters or
under a tree in repose "napping" together or reading, imagery that in the past were
reserved for male pleasure. While it may be taken for granted today that women artists
make transgressive and explicit sexual imagery, Tompkins' sexual paintings were
at the forefront of the feminist movement. This discourse by women artists and philosophers
addressing issues of female subjectivity and ownership of sexual imagery for their
own desire and pleasure continues to be challenged and explored today by women in
art and popular culture.

Woman Words | Dinter Fine Art Online | New York City

An online project.  in 2003, I sent around an email that said "I am considering doing another series of pieces using images of women comprised of words.  I would appreciate your help in developing the vocabulary.  Please send me a list of words that describe women.  They can be affectionate (honey), pejorative (bitch), slang, descriptive, etc. The words don't have to be in English but I need as accurate a translation as possible. Many, many thanks,

Betty Tompkins"

I received over 1500 words and phrases in seven languages. There were some that were repeated over and over. In January, 2013, I again sent out a request. i received thousands of words and phrases in many languages.  Many people wrote short anecdotes. I was interested to see that while some words had made a comeback in ten years such as TART, the four most repeated words remained CUNT, SLUT, BITCH, and MOTHER.

Betty Tompkins & Dadamaino | Home Alone 2 | New York City

Opening exhibit of Home Alone 2 on Forsyth Street

Fuck Paintings | Galerie Rodolphe Janssen | Brussels

Betty Tompkins started painting large scale, photorealistic, detailed images of penetration, masturbation or the female genitalia in 1969.

Her intent from the start was to have two disparate elements in order that "the abstract and the sexual content - coexist equally in the work." Or as she says : " I realized that if I cut off all the identifiers - heads, hands, feet, etc. - I could create these beautiful abstract images out of the part of the photograph that was most compelling which, of course, was the explicit sex part. »

Sex Works | Galerie Andrea Caratsch | Zurich

Solo exhibition of new paintings  Show title still compliments of Bruce Hainley.Over the past decade, Tompkins has significantly expanded her oeuvre, both in terms of imagery and technique. Her first new paintings were made using novel media such as rubber stamps and fingerprints, of which two important examples are included in the current exhibition. More recently the artist has resumed her use of the air brush, investing the painting’s immaculate surfaces with a chromatic subtlety that stand in stark contrast to the powerfully explicit nature of her subjects. It is the second exhibition of Tompkins’ work at Galerie Andrea Caratsch. The first one featured her early „Fuck Paintings“ and drawings from the late 60’s and early 70’s. This show is devoted to her latest work and will include 18 new paintings as well as two rubber stamp paintings from 2006 and 2007.

New Work | Mitchell Algus Gallery | New York
April 25 - June 6, 2009
Fuck Paintings and Drawings 1973 - 2007 | Lawrimore Projects | Seattle

Betty Tompkins is a painter's painter. She paints explicit scenes of sex acts and male and female sexual organs. She works from a surprisingly small library of source material culled from vintage and contemporary pornographic magazines, postcards and photographs. Within this relatively limited lexicon of images, Tompkins explores a myriad of techniques to bring her work into being and exhibit her prolific skills as a draftsperson and painter. It is here where her charged and transgressive subject matter gives way to the formal, aesthetic considerations that make her so highly regarded in painting circles. Yes, “Fuck Painting #12” is exactly what it touts itself as being, but it is also a compositional and technical wonder and works equally well as a non-objective painting on first blush. A large painting at seven by five feet, “Fuck Painting #12” is comprised of literally tens of thousands individual rubber stamps of slang words used to describe sex like "hot," "horny," "fuck," "screw," etc. What can be read as an abstraction at first, then becomes photo-realistic and finally, upon closer inspection, breaks down further to an experience of pure language.


Sex Works | Mitchell Algus Gallery | NYC

Show title compliments of Bruce Hainley. 

Fuck Paintings and Drawings | Galerie Andrea Caratsch | Zurich
Both old and new work.
New Paintings and Drawings | Mitchell Algus Gallery | NYC
Fuck Paintings 1969-74 | Mitchell Algus Gallery | NYC
The original group of Fuck Paintings 
Copyright ?2007 Betty Tompkins, All Rights Reserved