Wednesday, March 17, 2010


Thanks so much to everyone who came to Talk20 last night at 1708 gallery!  I had a great time, and I loved seeing each and every one of you there, especially if I knew you were there ; ) !

We had tons of people there - it was standing room only - maybe 175 people.  There were 8 artists who spoke for about 4 1/2 minutes each then took time to answer questions if there were any.  It was fascinating hearing what each artist/designer was working on and what he/she was thinking during the process.  People are doing such cool stuff.  Brian Korte showed us the picture he made out of Legos which is now in the Guiness Book of World Records!  Tiffany Glass talked about geocaching "real small art" all around Richmond and about giving away small canvases as a way to make someone's day.  Shelia Gray paints bodies and creates costumes just for the heck of it, and gardens and house and pet sits out of the goodness of her heart.  Gordon Stettinius has done a series of photographs of himself with all different kinds of hair and in different styles of dress.  They are fascinating!  It's hard to recognize him in all of them.  There were two designers there who talked about their process of figuring out how to decorate a building - there's so much more thought that goes into it than I ever knew.  And an artist who does prints of maps of places friends and family live.  All so interesting! 

As the fourth presenter, I spoke about my fascination with the human form for the last ten years, beginning with pregnant nudes, continuing on to scars, then naked men, and now the female form.  I showed primarily pictures from this new series and talked about how blessed I am by my models and their generosity in allowing me to paint them, their authenticity, their vulnerability, and their power and grace.  Slash Coleman at the end asked me a question I'm so grateful for.  He asked what the experience tends to be like for the models.  I answered that in many cases it has brought about healing, helping the models feel more comfortable in their own skin and helping them see how beautiful they truly are.  I was so glad to be able to bring that into the talk.  That, the healing, is the primary reason I do this work.  I would so love it if my work influenced people to think about their common perceptions of the body and to perhaps consider if they are logical/reasonable/rational or not.

Why do we believe that it's not OK to be naked?  When do we start to feel ashamed of or embarassed by our bodies?  What causes that to happen?  Society has very, very strong messages about being naked and about how the body should look.  What makes us believe those messages?  When do we start to take them on?  What can we do about it?

I think becoming aware of the messages is the first step.  I hope that when people look at my art, they will begin to think about the body.  Perhaps they will feel uncomfortable.  I'm OK with that.  Maybe they'll go a little bit deeper and start to ask themselves what is wrong with the painting?  Why are they uncomfortable?  What seems so wrong about it?  There is so much to be learned from the questions.

I have a student who thinks I'm OK with all this weirdness because I lived in Europe.  That may have contributed to my acceptance that I have a body, and it's not perfect, and that's OK.  But I think what has brought me to this place is rather that I have continued to paint the nude and to look at all these bodies.  How could I help but recognize the vulnerability and humanity of each and every person - each person is doing her best to be her best self, to live a good life, to get along in the world with as little pain as possible.  I treasure their trust and authenticity and openness with me.  I find each woman I've painted to be indescribably beautiful and powerful.  It's not about their bodies.  It's about their souls.  It's really the essence I try to paint, but I have to describe it using paint and by re-creating an image of their body surrounded by their skin.  But hopefully it's the soul that shines though.  And those are sublime.

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