Since the 1970s, Joan Semmel has centered her practice around issues of the body and sexuality. More recently, this engagement with her nude form has led to representation of the aging female body. In Leg Up (2020), Semmel celebrates color and flesh while highlighting the aging process through the accurate portrayal of her own body. “We all have some difficulty in confronting our aging physical selves,” Semmel says, “so when you are painting yourself in that position, it really means that you have to say, ‘I’m doing this and I’m not going to make it pretty. I’m not going to hide it, disguise it, no face-lifts. It’s going to be really the way I see it.’ This is not a disease that’s happening. It’s the natural evolution of a person.” As in her early Sex Paintings and Erotic Series, the abstract use of color in Leg Up serves for the artist as a means of distinguishing her nude figures from the realm of pornography. Here, the lower portion of Semmel’s body fills the frame, mimicking her own vantage point by intimately cropping the figure above the shoulders. Semmel’s unparalleled command of color and form is demonstrated in Leg Up as pale lavender and vivid pink pigments are used to render flesh in a way that distorts the viewer’s perception by blurring the lines between abstraction and figuration, while nearly monochromatic slabs of darker blue and clay tones contrast these voluptuous forms. Working across five decades, Semmel considers the unifying element throughout her oeuvre “a single perspective: being inside the experience of femaleness and taking possession of it culturally.” Her work over the last half century firmly situates the female body as a place for autonomy and a vehicle to challenge the objectification and fetishization of female sexuality.