Pam Shields, painting by Michele Byrne from her ‘Fabric of America’ series.

‘My piece of charcoal inches along the terrain of the human body, touching the perimeter of the body landscape, feeling the weight of the fleshy folds and sagging breasts. When smooth skin resists the pressure of my charcoal, interior truths are revealed, about myself and about the world. Art is my archaeological tool, pushing and prodding, unearthing what lies below.’ Thus writes the American artist Pam Shields (sometimes Pamela Shields, sometimes Pamela Shields Roule) of her carefully-observed drawings, which sometimes shock, often inspire, older women to recognise the beauty of their naked bodies.

Based in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, Pam Shields is a self-taught figurative artist, who created mostly portraits and landscapes until she turned sixty and recognised that her most important mission was to explore the too-often-hidden world of older female sexuality. She works mainly in charcoal on watercolour paper, slowly applying layer upon layer of charcoal, to create dense, weighty images. After completing the masturbation series One Body in 2014, she decided to extend her practice to include other women.

Pam Shields exhibits regularly at the not-for-profit feminist gallery Ceres in New York, whose website you will find here. A powerful image she recently created and exhibited at Ceres is a large drawing titled ‘Still Standing – Still Here’, which speaks to the invisibility of women as they age. As she explains, ‘It is a self-portrait showing folds of skin and sagging breasts. While I am no longer young, I am still here on this planet and I still have things to say. We are losing the very rights we fought so hard to win decades ago. The war on women is still alive and well. The struggle for women’s rights must continue. My drawing strikes a pose of defiance. We must never give up. We must continue to speak out for future generations. Don’t shut up!‘


Pam Shields’ website can be found here.

Example illustration