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
requires introspection.
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.


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.