Female nudes pervade art history
from ancient fertility icons to the “masters,”
imposing ideals of beauty.
And now time’s up.
Making an image of a female nude today
How do we want to see ourselves?
The journey to this piece began
when I found this sliver of a tree
and knew one day it had to fly.
I brushed on resin to preserve it
and waited a year before I knew
it would be a vessel.
It would have blues to reach the sky
propelled by a tail of fire colors.
A woman would ascend in it
like emerging from a shell.
NOT LIKE THIS!
Of course, sensuality can be joyful.
I made this painting “Wind at Her Back”
long ago in a simpler time.
Then in 2005 I painted this one.
The title “Not Yet Out of the Woods”
refers to the figure embedded in the panel
(see the wood grain becoming her form).
It also meant I was not yet out of the woods
after spine surgery, unable to get out of bed,
not yet free.
And what now?
What body image befits a real woman
about to soar on a giant blue frond?
The clay model (seen pinned to a wall)
is not conventionally beautiful
with heavy breasts, pot belly,
saggy butt, a stringy neck.
Painted in acrylic to match the blue
and bend to the curve.
This detail shows her power.
Here is the beauty that answers
how we want to see ourselves.
Then I realized she couldn’t just be on the wing;
she has to be of it, embedded…
So I cut off her feet.
Now she emerges from the wood…
…unpretty and powerful, about to rise.