Betty tompkins began painting large scale, photorealistic airbrush paintings of penetrations and masturbations in 1969.
Beside the feminist content of her work, her intention from the start was to have two distinct elements which would allow the abstract and the sexual content to coexists equally in the work. She achieved this by cropping the images in such a way that only the explicit sexual parts remain, without heads or other body parts.
After some group shows in the early 1970’s, her work remained widely overlooked by the critics and art market due to its subject matter. In 1973, two of her works were held and confiscated by French customs for censorship reasons.
In 2003, Tompkins was invited by the New York curator Bob Nickas to take part in the 7th Biennale de Lyon which brought extraordinary attention to her work. After that, the Centre Georges Pompidou acquired 'Fuck Painting #1' (one of the two paintings that had been censored in 1973) for its permanent collection.
Since the late 1960’s, Betty Tompkins has been painting her Fuck, Cunt or Kiss Paintings, studying different mediums going from airbrush to stamps, graphite powder or fingerprints. She imposes a distance with her explicit subjects, or as she says : « I see something intimate made monumental - we see a visual we don’t usually see in a medium we don’t expect. »