Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

“For Women Who Are Difficult To Love” by Warsan Shire

You are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
forget you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?

closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.


Art: A Toast to the Health of,” 2011, oil on canvas, 90-½ x 98-¾ in., by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Maurice Merleau-Ponty writes about painting as a practice that negotiates the material and the visual. For him, the body of the painter at work demonstrates the embodied nature of all viewership; the act transcends the simple transcription of reality by acknowledging that such a thing is in fact impossible—all seeing is contingent and situated, further mediated by its material representation. Painting lays bare these processes of negotiation, manifesting irresolution, compromise, and investigation on the canvas. Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s gorgeous paintings push this line of thinking to its logical extreme, in that her portraits do not even pretend to depict objective reality in a subjective manner, which has arguably been one of the projects of figurative painting since the birth of the modern. Instead, she paints figures who are purely imagined. This centers painting as an act not of depiction but of creation; it acknowledges the inseparability of representation—and art as one of its primary vehicles—from reality. Rather than a description of material conditions of the world, then, I like to think that Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings literally create new worlds or new ways of being in this one, by giving them material form.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Willow Strip, 2017