‘The Great Offender’? A discussion about the unwarranted criticism of Caroline Coon

Caroline Coon is a woman of many of talents, an artist, an activist, and a journalist. But the thing that sets her apart from the crowd is her standpoint as a feminist. Coon’s work is one that has retained integrity throughout her career, depicting her social and moral beliefs unwavering in the onslaught of slander and criticism for her ‘offending’ paintings and views. One of the influential figures in the 1970’s Punk scene, it is her uninhibited, frank style that gives her work such emotive power and reflects our current climate as well as resonating with the time of its inception.

‘Caroline Coon: The Great Offender’ is Coon’s first ever solo exhibition at The Gallery in Liverpool. Set up in honour of it being 100 years of women’s right to vote, this exhibit embodies both the harsh reality of womanhood, while celebrating the female form and disregarding the social restrictions imposed on it. It is part of a series curated by Martin Green and James Lawler called the ‘Perpetual Provocateurs’. This title really embodies the work of Coon who has set a precedent for many women showing what a modern woman can be and what she can achieve when she chooses to put her mind to it. Coon as an artist has shown us that the ‘patriarchal pressures’ of being a woman can be dismissed with the aid of strong will, determination and motivation. Focusing on our own personal goals and setting aside the expectations of what women are expected to achieve.

The work of Coon is extremely touching in so many ways, particularly to us as women in the struggle to make our voices heard and to see our work as valuable despite not conforming. To see that this exhibition is her FIRST solo display of her work is astounding and highlights how being brave regardless of the field you are in as well as being bold in your choices is key to making your own mark in the world. Despite all the adversities faced by Coon in gaining exposure to her work and not being censored by those that deem sexuality and honesty as unacceptable, there is a sense of hope and we believe that the unapologetic nature of her work is what inspired us to write this. Coon has said that “since I was a teenager, I was fully aware that the way I purposefully positioned myself as a women and artist would not be rewarded or popular in the present”. We feel that now is the time for women to stop apologizing for being strong and innovative and to gain self-worth in each choice that they make, much like Coon has shown throughout her career.

Some of the paintings that struck us the most were: The Family (1996) which presents Coon’s own family with an unusual twist. Prostitutes, Stone The Hypocrites! (2002) is a painting depicting a reversal of the stoning of the immoral. Finally, one of the most poignant paintings to us was Self with Delphinium (2016), a self-portrait of Caroline standing with flowers. The self-portrait really struck us as it dismisses the concept of a sell-by date for women whilst focusing also on ageism and sexism being overcome by self-love.


The Family (1996)


The Self With Delphinium, Age 70 (2016)


Prostitutes, Stone the Hypocrites! (2002)

While the social and moral implications of her work are clearly evident, its aesthetic value is also remarkable, with her distinct style and her lucid perception of gender within her subjects providing different interpretations with each glance of her work. For people such as ourselves, who don’t have an academic background in art and who often feel disassociated from modern art, this exhibition has strongly resonated with us, evoking all the fears and joys of being a woman but most of all being valued as a person. This is why we want to spread the word about Caroline amongst young people, so Caroline receives the credit, which we believe, is long overdue.

By Kalyani Pandya and Natalie Woodford


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