American painter Elizabeth Peyton is fascinated with pretty boys. Her current exhibit, “Live Forever: Elizabeth Peyton” at New York’s New Museum, features her delicate portraits of mostly boys who look like girls. Covering two floors, the exhibit is a survey of her work over the past fifteen years, the first such exhibit in her native country.

Peyton’s portraits of her subjects—a mix of popular cultural figures, her friends and lovers—are mostly small oil paintings on canvas and wood board.  All the faces look eerily similar and female, with their cat-like eyes and salon-fresh eyebrows shaped in a perfect arch.

Peyton first attracted attention in the mid-90s’ with her portraits of Kurt Cobain, painted shortly after his death in 1994. These paintings are like little love letters, beautifully rendered in an impressionistic style, as if a young girl painted them to hang on her bedroom wall.

images2Her subjects are either famous or intense objects of affection. The exhibit features several portraits of Kurt Cobain of Nirvana, Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, Patti Smith and Keith Richards.  All of these works were painted from photographs in sensuous colors.  She also has a self-portrait in the exhibit, and the similarities between Peyton and her subjects are obvious. She has the same androgynous look—the same beautiful but almost blank face. She looks relaxed and confident.

In 2004, Peyton began painting live models and these paintings stand out from her previous works. The colors are more muted and washed out, and there seems to be more movement to the paintings.  Her most recent paintings are still lifes of flowers and album covers and lively New York street scenes.

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