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Suzannah Sinclair's Watercolour Playmates

Suzannah Sinclair grew up on an army base in northern New Jersey in a strict, religious family. Not that we'd ever fall back on that lazy stereotype that the army and religion make kids grow up really, really horny, but for whatever reason Suzannah now spends her days rescuing 70s-era Playboy beauties from their wank bank destines and putting them down in watercolour. There's something untouchable and irresistible in her models’ gazes. They give you the sort of look someone like Hemingway heroine Lady Brett Ashley might use to elegantly balance being every man’s desired trophy wife while still completely slutting out.


Vice: Hi Suzannah. So what’s your obsession with painting naked and barely clothed girls?
Suzannah Sinclair: I’ve always been drawn to the female figure. As a kid I was a tomboy but really liked drawing pretty things like girls or animals. The first thing I ever drew was a princess with a cat – a kitty princess [laughs]! After that I started drawing women from fashion-type magazines, but they didn’t have the realistic body type I was looking for. Then, when I was in art school about ten years ago, I came across some old Playboy magazines and realised that clothes quickly become dated. Without them the piece becomes more timeless and open to interpretation.

You must have a pretty big collection of porn rags by now, right?
I have loads! Mainly from the 60s and 70s – the vintage ones are the best, I’m not that into the newer stuff. I like to look for different girlie magazines when I travel. It’s funny asking for them at flea markets. I get strange looks.

Do you think that, as a woman, you have a different approach to painting nudes?
Historically, painting is usually done by men. It’s like that Guerilla Girl poster, “Do women have to be naked to get into US museums? Less than 3% of artists in The Metropolitan Museum of Art are women, but 83% of the nudes are female.” I do think I have something else to bring to the table. I know what it feels like to be a woman, for a start. The reactions I get are interesting – some people look at my paintings and react at face value – "she's hot," etc. But others perceive more.


Like a hot ass. Do you have a favorite muse?
There are a couple of playmates I keep coming back to. They have a certain something that comes across through the pages – a look that says a lot. That’s what I search for when I go through magazines made for men, by men. Something I can connect to: a look or glance from a model that I can project some kind of familiar feeling onto. It can be a look of anticipation or waiting for someone, a daydreamy feel, etc. I feel like I paint an intersection of what I know and something that is beyond me, in my imagination.

Were your parents very strict?
I thought so as a kid, but now that I’m older I totally understand all the decisions they made in raising us and I’m glad for it. My folks encouraged my pursuit of art. They would often take me to the MoMA, and some of the stuff in there was more shocking than the R-rated movies I wasn't legally allowed to watch.

How do they feel about your nudie theme?
Well, they’re the ones who enrolled me in watercolour lessons when I was a teenager, which is the technique I still use today. They’re pretty religious and conservative with some things, but not with my art. They come to my shows whenever they can and collect all my press clippings. Whenever someone talks about it being too risqué or shocking I just think, “If I feel comfortable showing this to my dad, the Colonel, then what’s the problem?”

So what’s next for you?
I’m just finishing up my next show opening on April 14 at Stene Projects in Stockholm.


Congratulations! I bet the show will be filled with loads of wide-eyed fellas.

To check out more of Suzannah’s work, click here.