"Thanksgiving Turkey" Joan Brown: an artistic meal


Joan Brown created “Thanksgiving Turkey” in 1959 during the height of the contemporary art period. Today, the painting is available for viewing at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

Joan Brown created work during the height of the Contemporary Art period. Courtesy of huffingtonpost.com

Brown was born February 13, 1938, in San Francisco, California. She received her master’s degree in fine arts in 1962 at the San Francisco Art Institute. Later, in 1974, Brown joined the art department as a professor, all according to The New York Times.
In 1964, Brown shifted her focus from painting more abstract scenes to depicting personal and spiritual themes. Then, in the 1980s, Brown changed her style once again, creating sculptures with mosaic tiles of non-Western subjects, all according to www.sfmoma.org
The contemporary art period contains works by current artists, which comments and reflects on a societal issue, or society in general. This period emphasizes “artistic pluralism,” the acceptance of differing artistic meanings and styles. Therefore, contemporary art comes in all different forms, materials, and sizes, all according to www.getty.edu.
Brown’s oil painting, “Thanksgiving Turkey,” is 47 inches wide and 47 inches long, according to www.moma.orgThe background contains a mix of light and dark greens, with the bottom left of the painting covered in one black matte, creating the form of a table. In the center of the painting is a large, multi-colored turkey. The heavily painted meat includes different shades of red, brown, yellow, and blue, giving the painting a sense of texture and alluding to the decadence of turkey as a traditional Thanksgiving meal.
Joan Brown created “Thanksgiving Turkey” with oil paints. Courtesy of moma.org.

In her piece, Brown demonstrates her own individualized form of abstract expressionism. Brown takes a turkey and transforms it into a personal and abstract image. “Thanksgiving Turkey” is only one example of her countless works that portray everyday objects using impasto technique. 
To create texture in the work, Brown used palette knives, and spatulas to implement the effects of layering and oily pigmentation, all according to “The Not-So-Still Life,” written by American antiwar activist and former United States Congressional staffer Susan Landauer, American art historian and Professor Emeritus of Art History at the City University of New York (CUNY) William H. Gerdts, and American art specialist Patricia Trenton.
Through this piece, Brown hoped to create a new version of the birds in French-Russian Painter Chaim Soutine’s series of works entitled “Hanging Turkey” without the brutality and gruesome nature typically characteristic of Russian expressionism, according to “The Not-So-Still-Life.”
-Elisabeth Hall, Managing Editor and Nina Rosenblum, Opinions and Podcast Editor