Thursday, July 12, 2007
Observations of a Female Artist depicting the Feminine Nude
As an artist and a woman rendering nude studies, I find myself to be the subject of much curiosity, some of which has been a challenge both personally and professionally while subjecting me to questionable moral speculation. Not all cases have been received negatively. The moments I have been heralded have offered more encouragement than possibly is warranted. These instances have been received with profound emotion as I have a deep respect and admiration for the human body for various reasons. However, the occasions in which I have been maligned for rendering nudes are perhaps felt more intensely than the praise I have received as my character is most often insulted.
The feeling I find most common is that women are often discredited for not having the proper appreciation of the feminine form. Therefore the question arises of how they could possibly render a female nude to the full satisfaction of artistic capacity? This amazes me and more often than not challenges me to create in different ways. Mostly such an insinuation further perpetuates my passions to prove otherwise for woman inhabits the feminine body and therefore is intimately aware of its subtle variations.
However, I understand that rendering figures as art is generally inconceivable to the common mind as largely our society has been polluted by pornography, stripping the general public of classical artistic esthetics otherwise appreciated for centuries. Therefore a woman depicting nude figures in art is often regarded as exploiting her own sex. While heralded by some in a perverse sense, she is commonly denounced by others for lacking morals. As such, I was ever so pleased when I read that Ruth Bernhard said:
If I have chosen the female form in particular, it is because beauty has been debased and exploited in our sensual 20th century. Woman has been the subject of much that is sordid and cheap, especially in photography. To raise, to elevate, to endorse with timeless reverence the image of woman has been my mission.
The exploits Bernhard speaks of did not stop with photography, they have expanded over time and have ravaged the art world as well as all other artistic expressions. As such, I have not always found the courage to paint nudes, sometimes abandoning them for years at a time. Although an appreciation for beauty is always in my heart, bravery has often fled because of accusations depriving me of decency and artistic ethics. Bernhard’s ideals, as stated, have always been a part of my artistic goal, even before discovering her work, or her statement.
Not only that, I feel deeply indebted to a sense of preservation of feminine figurative art for as a woman I understand most profoundly that creation of life, through the womb, is a miracle in of itself. These bodies we live in are more than machines, or bags of flesh that encase our souls, they are art – living and moving in form. It is a fascination with the body that begins like a seed and blossoms into a bud, which then blooms to the full height of it’s glory like the most exotic of flowers, before fading quite suddenly and returning to the earth from which it sprung that I wish to capture for beauty is fleeting. All bodies eventually fade like perennials in a garden, or wilt like flowers left unattended and forgotten in a vase.
As a society, we feel free to look at a floral display, but yet we’ve been told there is only one way to look at the body and that is in a sexual sense. This is not true, it is okay to admire loveliness, to elevate it, and appreciate it for what it is while it lasts. My only goal is to promote that which is exquisite in a state of innocence so that it remains timeless and becomes immortal through art to our period of history. These days we live in will not last, just as we will not, but hopefully through art, our splendor will not be forgotten. It is the obligation of the artist to preserve radiance in its purist state.
All the thoughts which diminish, rather than preserve, the female form in art can be attributed to the affects of society throughout history. I feel many of our greatest artists have been moved by such challenges, and perhaps painted as an anointment to aid in healing. I firmly believe Gauguin saw and experienced this in the society he lived in, however to the opposite extreme, in which puritanical ways stripped cultured civilizations of passion by undermining women in their emotional gifts to perpetuate life through an expression of love. He lived in a time when woman were bartered and sold into marriage, or for pleasure, to such an extent that even more than a century later, we are still confused in our healing as we try to find balance in romance. As such, Gauguin sought to “become a savage,” I think, to preserve innocence and truth through art as the quintessence of purity at the time was mistaken for savagery. Therefore, the purist reason I paint nudes is to protect that innocence, to find that balance between points in history, which allows us to truly love and create life as a result.
We are art, in all that we do, as a collective whole manifested in our thoughts that announce what is acceptable and what is not. Our art is a consciousness presiding over our culture and should be preserved as such to either depict society as it is, or to heal the distortions that dominate and mutilate it. Therefore, I always find the courage some how to return to paint that which I cherish: the human form from the feminine perspective and all its rights to freedom and expression of love. As Jean Dubuffet said:
I would like people to see my work as a rehabilitation of scorned values and, in any case, a work of ardent celebration.