Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Frustrations of a Figurative Artist

Recently when I was putting together a show of figurative work, I kept running into snafus that were rather frustrating.  I kept a tally of them thinking I would one day write an article about them.  I notice that society tends to have a problem with naked people.  These problems become especially apparent when showing said naked people in public!

For the next few days I thought I'd blog about some of the interesting problems I've run into since I started painting naked people.  If you have any stories to add to these, please be sure to post comments!

My first intimation that drawing naked people was not fully accepted by society came from my own children who were 12, 10, and 8 when I first started drawing my series of pregnant nudes.  Their shrieks of "Ewwww, gross, Mom!" clued me in to the feelings they were having.  They definitely did NOT want to know whose breast it was that the baby was sucking on, much less who the baby was!  I think they were touched by the picture I drew called "Thirty Seconds Old" which is of my youngest and me in the seconds after he was born.  But still there's the squeamishness.

Each year on their birthdays, I try to tell them the story of their births.  My oldest was born in the hospital, the other two at home.  I nursed them til they quit on their own.  I was into attachment parenting.  We're very close, but they really don't want to hear about their births.  They begin singing, "La-de-dah-de-dah" loudly and insistently until they drown out the lovingly remembered moments of pain and anguish as I pushed them into this world, out of the other blissful environment.  I thought about writing my daughter's story on her Facebook page this year for her birthday present but realized that she would de-friend me immediately if I ever did such a thing!  I guess I'll have to wait until they're ready to have kids themselves or become curious for other reasons.  Til then I'll have to content myself with drawing loving re-creations of those times we loved and which other friends have been so gracious as to share with me as well.


  1. Susan
    I enjoy reading your blog, although not daily. I usually play catch up every few weeks and read through your reading a diary. I love your work as you well know.
    The post on the application process is educational and helpful. Thank you for sharing that along with your art.
    And yes, unfortunately, I've discovered even a number of well-informed and open-minded artists I know either have difficulty with nudes or make fun of nudes that are less than perfect. Thank goodness for artists such as you who may hear their discomfort, but won't let it discourage.

  2. Thanks, Adele, for your comments. I often think of you when I write, knowing that you read my blog at times.

    I think when people disparage my work or other paintings of nudes, it says more about their feelings about their own bodies than about the person in the paintings. I do my work in order to help people recognize their feelings about bodies and to perhaps be able to shift them with that greater awareness. I don't think we WANT to make fun of other people - I think our discomfort gives us no other choice sometimes.

    When someone expresses large feelings about my canvases, I know I've done what I set out to do - rattle their cage - not a bad thing at all!